Func­tions of a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil

Southasia - - COVER STORY - – Ashraf Je­hangir Qazi

The rel­e­vance of a Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil needs to be con­sid­ered. Nor­mally, such a body work­ing un­der an elected Prime Min­is­ter can be use­ful as a provider of in­formed analy­ses and a co­or­di­na­tor of pol­icy in­puts from min­istries, de­part­ments and agen­cies. In Pak­istan, the idea of such a coun­cil has al­ways been suspect and con­tro­ver­sial among civil­ians. This is be­cause se­cu­rity and de­vel­op­ment have been counter-posed to each other. More­over, the mil­i­tary’s pref­er­ence for an NSA whose com­po­si­tion and agenda is not de­ter­mined by the Prime Min­is­ter is seen as de­signed to in­sti­tu­tion­al­ize and le­git­i­mate the role – many say “dom­i­nance” - of the mil­i­tary and its af­fil­i­ates in the gov­er­nance of the coun­try.

This po­lit­i­cal salience of the mil­i­tary has stymied the po­lit­i­cal growth of the coun­try. It is the pri­mary cause of “fake” democ­racy in which the de­vel­op­ment and lib­er­at­ing pri­or­i­ties of the peo­ple are ig­nored in favour of the se­cu­rity and vested in­ter­est pri­or­i­ties of the so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and power elite. This has proved to be an ab­so­lute bar­rier to na­tional in­te­gra­tion which re­quires the de­vel­op­ment of a na­tion-wide sense of com­mon in­ter­ests, in­clu­sion, par­tic­i­pa­tion and jus­tice. The end of Quaid-eAzam’s Pak­istan was due to the de­lib­er­ate de­struc­tion of all pos­si­bil­i­ties for par­tic­i­pa­tory in­clu­sive­ness. This ren­dered na­tional unity im­pos­si­ble.

Democ­racy be­comes hypocrisy since ra­tio­nal and pro­gres­sive de­ci­sion-mak­ing be­comes im­pos­si­ble. Elected po­lit­i­cal lead­ers ad­just, bend, con­form and pan­der to the pow­ers that be while pre­tend­ing to be rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies. They can never de­liver deep struc­tural re­form and trans­for­ma­tional change – the pre­req­ui­sites for any new or­der. Only em­pow­er­ing grass-roots move­ments and po­lit­i­cal strug­gle can cre­ate po­lit­i­cal space for the peo­ple of Pak­istan. The mid­dle-class in­tel­li­gentsia, by and large, hates that pos­si­bil­ity.

The mil­i­tary has to be­come a na­tional in­sti­tu­tion by de­politi­ciz­ing it­self and de­vel­op­ing an im­age that is pos­i­tive and equally shared through­out the coun­try. Ob­vi­ously, it needs to pro­vide im­por­tant in­puts for pol­icy mak­ing by the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship, not just with re­gard to the se­cu­rity and de­fence of the coun­try, but also on other pol­icy is­sues in which its point of view is nec­es­sary and rel­e­vant. But if it in­sists on shar­ing in the gov­er­nance of the coun­try it will only in­hibit its im­prove­ment.

The fact that for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons – in­clud­ing mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tions - civil­ian gov­er­nance has not yet ma­tured does not mean the mil­i­tary has the com­pe­tence to meet the com­plex de­mands of good gov­er­nance. Given gen­uine move­ment to­wards cred­i­bly demo­cratic gov­er­nance, how­ever, a NSC can be use­ful as a sub­or­di­nate body.

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