Functions of a National Security Council
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.