The PTI government has launched a National Security Policy (NSP), a document intended to outline how a state aims to ensure the security of its people. A national security policy provides an overall “national” vision for a country’s strategic direction and seeks a “collective” understanding of threats and risks as well as values and principles intended to guide the nation forward. This therefore requires employing a ‘whole of the nation’ approach – bringing together all stakeholders, especially critical voices within a regime, forging consensus and giving due ownership to all segments of society.
Unfortunately, unlike the National Action Plan (NAP), the National Internal Security Policies (2014 and 2018) and the Vision 2025 formulated by the PML-N government, the NSP failed to achieve this goal. Neither parliament nor opposition parties were consulted during the policy formulation process. Even the provinces, which have the most stakes and responsibilities in the area of internal security, were not duly consulted. The policy does not even adhere to the “whole of government” principle for implementation, what about the “whole nation” principle that is essential to defending against fifth generation war threats. Yet the NSP claims to be the “first” national security policy and, even more ridiculously, the “first” to introduce the notions of “economic security” and “citizen-centric security”.
The obsession with being called “the first” must have stemmed from Prime Minister Imran Khan’s narcissistic attitude. Because if anyone read Pakistan Vision 2025 developed in 2014 which offered a holistic framework for economic security and national cohesion, they would not be making such sweeping claims on tenuous ground. For example, Vision 2025 specified national security as a key enabler to achieving our goals. It stated: “without an environment of peace and security, economic development cannot be meaningful or sustainable”. Not to mention that, unlike the NSP which has become partisan, Vision 2025 has been officially endorsed by all major political parties, including our worst critics (the PTI).
The fact is that the PML-N government started the process of codifying security policies in Pakistan soon after forming the government in 2013. At the time, Pakistan was overwhelmed by existential security threats emanating from terrorism and extremism. The number of terrorist incidents peaked at 1,806 in 2013-2014, culminating in the most grotesque of all tragedies, the attack on the APS.
The PML-N government has not flinched in the face of such serious security crises. In its first year, the government developed the country’s National Internal Security Policy (2014) and complemented it with the development of the National Action Plan in the same year. The government has done everything possible to build consensus on this sensitive issue. All political parties as well as state institutions at the federal and provincial levels were consulted. The ownership and support thus generated gave the real impetus to the suggested policy actions ranging from soft to hard measures to reduce this threat.
In 2018, the number of terrorist attacks had decreased by more than 70%. In order to consolidate the gains made in the fight against terrorism and achieve a lasting peace, a comprehensive security framework focusing on non-kinetic interventions and reforms has been developed in the form of the National Internal Security Policy (NISP) 2018 which aimed to address the structural sources of insecurity in the country and provide a broader vision for establishing a positive peace. Unfortunately, rather than adopting NISP 2018, the PTI government wasted three and a half precious years rehashing Vision 2025, NAP and PML-N NISP 1 & 2 in NSP. As terrorism resurfaces, the government must be held accountable for wasting time and losing momentum in the national fight against terrorism and extremism.
Even after more than three years, the government’s grand vision is nothing more than a cut and paste of the PML-N strategy, as I will demonstrate below. This might still have been acceptable, if the government also followed said policy prescriptions. The fact is that in practice, the government’s actions are completely opposite to what the policies of the PML-N and its own NSP suggest. This shows a complete lack of leadership, vision and capacity to understand and solve the complex challenges facing the country.
The NSP suggests that a strong economy is essential for traditional and human security and advocates pro-growth economic policies. In reality, the PTI has destroyed the economy through its mismanagement and incompetence. It has pursued fiscally irresponsible policies that have shrunk the size of the economy from $315 billion in 2018 to $280 billion in 2021. PML-N, on the other hand, has increased the size of the economic pie and doubled tax revenue, resulting in a record increase in spending. in the social sector, infrastructure development and the defense budget.
The NSP suggests redistribution to address grievances and the push factors that drive people down violent paths. One of the six pillars of the NISP 2018 was redistribution. Similarly, a focus on national cohesion through “unity in diversity”, recognition of minority communities and gender mainstreaming were also key dimensions of the NISP 2018. The pursuit of reconciliation with armed groups wherever possible and the pursuit of regional peace were also two of the six pillars of the NISP. 2018 which have been reproduced in NSP using the same language.
The NSP emphasizes geoeconomics, another idea taken directly from the NISP 2018 and Vision 2025. While the PML-N has put this into practice through the CPEC, the PTI government has in practice blocked the progress in this direction. The NSP advocates not joining geostrategic camps and maintaining cordial relations with China and the United States. The fact is that under the PTI, Pakistan’s relations have deteriorated with the two world powers. During the PML-N government, as our relationship with China rose even higher under CPEC, we also launched the US-Pakistan Knowledge Corridor with $1,000 annual PhD scholarships for ten years to promote the cooperation with the United States in higher education. The PML-N government has expanded the size of the Fulbright scholarship program by becoming the first country to make a matching contribution. Today, the American president is not even interested in talking on the phone with our prime minister.
Take any aspect of the NSP and you’ll find the vision and demonstrable performance of the PML-N. Compare the same with the PTI approach and you will see actions completely in the opposite direction.
Besides the similarities to the PML-N vision, there are four key aspects on which the NSP remains silent. First and second, it does not include any commitment to democratic consolidation and the guarantee of fundamental freedoms, in particular freedom of expression in the country. This is unsurprising given the party’s record of hounding opposition parties through sham and politically motivated cases and attacks on the lives and livelihoods of journalists and other voices. dissidents. This reveals the truly authoritarian and fascist face of the PTI, which did not even consider it worthy to pay lip service to these issues in its so-called “historical” national document.
Third, despite its lofty pre-election demands, the PTI simply dropped the institutional reforms needed to effectively implement any national policy. The first R of the NISP (2018), Reorient, proposed a complete overhaul of the state security apparatus, in particular much-needed reforms in the justice and law enforcement sectors to achieve the desired results. During his tenure, the PML-N has largely focused on evolving a model of community policing and using technology, such as Safe City projects, to bring much-needed efficiency. Model police stations and modern facilitation centers have been created to improve interactions between the police and citizens. A comprehensive strategy to improve investigations and prosecutions has been developed. The PTI, on the contrary, has blocked progress in this direction. Its modus operandi has been to operate unnecessary transfers and postings of senior officials on a whimsical basis, demoralizing key institutions such as the police and the bureaucracy.
Internal security threats are the real challenges that Pakistan faces in securing the peace and stability necessary for economic development. The homeland security chapter is vague and nowhere. Extremism and bigotry have been dealt with in a small paragraph, which even a high school student can write better. The political orientations contained in the document do not provide any vision or framework. Readers are encouraged to review NISP-2018 and judge for themselves.
Fourth, technology is rapidly changing the security paradigm in all its dimensions. The NSP is silent and makes a superficial reference at best. Advances in technology make it unthinkable to calculate military strength by counting soldiers, tanks and planes. Advanced electronics and robots can already make a conventional defensive army more effective than a larger offensive army in terms of sheer firepower. Intelligent robotic weapons can spot and destroy enemy tanks, planes and military concentrations.
Superior electronic warfare can allow forces to block enemy communications while preventing them from jamming ours. Likewise, computer-aided management of combat information allows very targeted military actions. Likewise, innovation in artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing, automation and robotics, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and space technology are reshaping the landscape of the future economy and security.
The NSP is a resounding vindication of the PML-N’s national security vision, strategy and approach and a damning condemnation of the PTI’s capability, practices and performance, proving that the PML-N is the only political party that has the ability and commitment to deliver real results on issues of critical national security importance.
The author is a deputy and former Minister of the Interior, Planning, Development and Reforms. He tweets @betterpakistan and can be reached at: email@example.com