Pak­istan’s Pri­or­i­ties

Pak­istan’s se­cu­rity re­volves around ad­e­quate ex­ter­nal and in­ter­nal de­fence of the coun­try as well as the econ­omy, the peo­ple’s qual­ity of life and other ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties.

Southasia - - MALÉ - By Dr. Moo­nis Ah­mar

The Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil (NSC) which is the high­est civilmil­i­tary co­or­di­na­tion fo­rum meets pe­ri­od­i­cally to re­view is­sues im­pact­ing Pak­istan’s for­eign, do­mes­tic and se­cu­rity mat­ters. Headed by the Prime Min­is­ter and com­posed of Chair­man Joint Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee, Chiefs of Army, Air Force and Navy, and For­eign, Fi­nance, De­fence and In­te­rior Min­is­ters, the NSC is per­ceived as a body which is heav­ily in­flu­enced by the men in uni­form.

Is NSC a vi­able fo­rum to deal with is­sues re­lated to na­tional se­cu­rity or it is used by the mil­i­tary to ex­ert pres­sure on the civil­ian govern­ment to take ac­tion against those per­ceived to be a se­cu­rity risk for the coun­try? Why has the fragility of democ­racy in Pak­istan be­come ob­vi­ous be­cause of weak po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions? Can the supremacy of the par­lia­ment and the civil­ian in­sti­tu­tions be achieved in the years to come?

The term na­tional se­cu­rity is a source of enor­mous con­tro­versy. Tra­di­tional se­cu­rity par­a­digms fo­cus on mil­i­tary se­cu­rity and de­fencere­lated threats whereas, in the post­cold war era, the whole gamut of


se­cu­rity has un­der­gone a sea change. Se­cu­rity is pri­mar­ily a zero sum game un­less hu­man and com­pre­hen­sive se­cu­rity also ac­count for a core pol­icy on na­tional se­cu­rity.

A fo­rum deal­ing with se­cu­rity is­sues is not some­thing strange. Many coun­tries, in­clud­ing the United States, have an in­sti­tu­tional ar­range­ment like the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil (NSC). In the White House, there is a room called the ‘sit­u­a­tion room’ where the NSC meets in the event of a grave cri­sis threat­en­ing Amer­i­can se­cu­rity. But Pak­istan’s predica­ment is fragility of civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions be­cause, in 71 years of the coun­try’s his­tory, the mil­i­tary was at the helm of af­fairs for more than three decades. Weak po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions pro­vided enor­mous space to the mil­i­tary which as­serts its po­si­tion and dic­tates so­called civil­ian gov­ern­ments. No po­lit­i­cal party in Pak­istan can claim that it did not re­ceive pa­tron­age from the se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment.

Inse­cu­rity of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers and their weak cre­den­tials means they lack the courage to take a stand on is­sues where in­ter­fer­ence from non-po­lit­i­cal forces is quite vis­i­ble. The Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil in Pak­istan, although headed by the Prime Min­is­ter, does not re­flect the supremacy of civil­ian rule be­cause of two main rea­sons. First, when the is­sue of Dawn leaks tested the author­ity of the Prime Min­is­ter to with­stand the pres­sure of the mil­i­tary to take ac­tion against those high ups of his govern­ment who were blamed for com­pro­mis­ing on na­tional se­cu­rity pol­icy by leak­ing the pro­ceed­ings of the NSC meet­ing, Nawaz Sharif re­lieved the Fed­eral In­for­ma­tion Min­is­ter Pervez Rashid and Ad­viser on For­eign Af­fairs, Am­bas­sador Tariq Fatemi. Sec­ond, re­cently when an in­ter­view of the for­mer Prime Min­is­ter, which he gave in Mul­tan and was pub­lished in Dawn, led to a sharp re­ac­tion from In­ter Ser­vices Pub­lic Re­la­tions (ISPR) and a meet­ing of NSC on the de­mand of the mil­i­tary was called. Nawaz Sharif in his in­ter­view had talked about ter­ror­ists sent to Mum­bai from Pak­istan which led to the blood­bath in the In­dian city on Novem­ber 26, 2008 thus earn­ing a bad name for Pak­istan at the in­ter­na­tional level. The SC meet­ing, which was chaired by the Prime Min­is­ter on the in­sis­tence of the mil­i­tary par­tic­i­pants, con­demned the in­ter­view. Af­ter the meet­ing was over and Shahid Khaqqan Ab­basi left, he did not ut­ter a sin­gle word against Nawaz Sharif de­spite the fact that he was widely crit­i­cized by al­most all the po­lit­i­cal par­ties. They said Nawaz Sharif had com­pro­mised on na­tional se­cu­rity by sub­scrib­ing to New Delhi’s con­tention about the in­volve­ment of Pak­istan’s se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment in Mum­bai’s ter­ror­ist at­tacks in 2008.

Log­i­cally speak­ing, the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil can be a use­ful fo­rum com­posed of civil and mil­i­tary per­son­nel to en­gage in brain­storm­ing ses­sions con­cern­ing is­sues which are per­ceived to be a threat to the coun­try’s na­tional se­cu­rity. It all de­pends on the strength and author­ity of the civil­ian govern­ment that how it presents the case and how it is able to as­sert its po­si­tion. Un­for­tu­nately, in the case of Pak­istan when many po­lit­i­cal par­ties and their lead­ers got their pa­tron­age from the mil­i­tary and the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, how one can ex­pect them to take an in­de­pen­dent po­si­tions on vi­tal is­sues? Sadly, in the meet­ings of the NSC the real is­sues of na­tional se­cu­rity per­tain­ing to en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion, acute wa­ter shortage, eco­nomic cri­sis, low qual­ity of life of the peo­ple and poor ed­u­ca­tional and health fa­cil­i­ties rarely get any at­ten­tion from the par­tic­i­pants. NSC meet­ings usu­ally fo­cus on ex­ter­nal se­cu­rity mat­ters con­cern­ing In­dia, Afghanistan

and in­ter­nal se­cu­rity threats em­a­nat­ing from ex­trem­ism, vi­o­lence, ter­ror­ism in Balochis­tan, FATA and other dis­turbed parts of the coun­try.

Hu­man and com­pre­hen­sive se­cu­rity is­sues which should have been the pri­or­ity of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil have failed to get the at­ten­tion of com­mit­tee mem­bers. At least, four se­cu­rity is­sues re­quire the im­me­di­ate dis­cus­sion of the NSC. First, se­vere shortage of wa­ter as Pak­istan is now the third wa­ter-de­fi­cient coun­try in the world and if im­me­di­ate steps are not taken to build wa­ter reser­voirs and wa­ter is not saved be­fore flow­ing into the sea, Pak­istan will plunge into a se­ri­ous wa­ter cri­sis. Par­tic­u­larly, Karachi a mega city of more than 20 mil­lion peo­ple, will face a sit­u­a­tion like Cape Town like where zero hour has reached and the res­i­dents of the city now have strict ra­tioning of wa­ter.

Sec­ond is en­vi­ron­ment which is like a time bomb as the rise in the burn­ing of fos­sil fuel and de­for­esta­tion will cause a fur­ther rise in tem­per­a­tures and their lethal im­pli­ca­tions on 200 mil­lion peo­ple of Pak­istan. It is pre­dicted that if Pak­istan is un­able to en­hance its for­est area from ex­ist­ing 2.5% to 20%, and con­trol the use of fos­sil fuel, it will face an en­vi­ron­men­tal catas­tro­phe. It is a crit­i­cal is­sue of na­tional se­cu­rity which should have been se­ri­ously ex­am­ined and in de­tail by the NSC.

Third, is­sues like the low qual­ity of life of the peo­ple, lack of ac­cess to clean and safe drink­ing wa­ter, poor health fa­cil­i­ties, frus­tra­tion among the youth be­cause of the sub-stan­dard ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem and mea­gre em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties should have been a mat­ter of dis­cus­sion by the mem­bers of the NSC but per­haps, for them these are pe­riph­eral is­sues and do not fall into the realm of main­stream na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues. If proper in­vest­ment for the up­lift­ing and em­pow­er­ment of the youth is not done, it would mean jeop­ar­diz­ing the fu­ture of Pak­istan be­cause youths con­sti­tute around 65% of the pop­u­la­tion of the coun­try.

In­dif­fer­ence and ap­a­thy on the part of the elite sec­tions to deal with is­sues which con­sti­tute a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity of Pak­istan is a fun­da­men­tal rea­son for po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic back­ward­ness of the coun­try. The lack of own­er­ship and mis­use of na­tional se­cu­rity on the part of the rul­ing elite is re­spon­si­ble for putting Pak­istan at num­ber 144 in the hu­man de­vel­op­ment in­dex.

Fi­nally, while the NSC gives some pref­er­ence to deal with the eco­nomic predica­ment of Pak­istan, it is cer­tainly not fo­cus­ing on how to en­hance ex­ports and for­eign ex­change re­serves of the coun­try. The dan­ger­ous level of for­eign and do­mes­tic debt, which is now equal to the GDP of Pak­istan, should have been the pri­or­ity of the NSC but its meet­ings are de­void of ex­am­in­ing such is­sues as the grave im­pend­ing eco­nomic cri­sis.

The mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment must re­de­fine na­tional se­cu­rity pri­or­i­ties. This would re­quire a change in the mind­set of not only the mil­i­tary but also the bu­reau­cratic and po­lit­i­cal elite. They need to re­al­ize that na­tional se­cu­rity is not just about the coun­try’s de­fence and en­hanc­ing the con­ven­tional and nu­clear arse­nal but also about im­prov­ing the state of hu­man se­cu­rity in the coun­try. As long as peo­ple re­main in­se­cure be­cause of the low qual­ity of life and in­ad­e­quate ac­cess to ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties of life, Pak­istan will re­main an in­se­cure coun­try.

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