Friday May 24, 2024

NSP: what’s new?

By Dr Murad Ali
January 25, 2022

The launch of the National Security Policy (NSP) by the PTI-led regime has generated a healthy debate. Critics have argued that the document lacks an inclusive approach and has been prepared sans any consultative or interactive process with parliament and other relevant stakeholders. Proponents assert that the policy is a remarkable paradigm shift from the narrow traditional concept of security, and encompasses not just state security but a multidimensional notion of human security as well.

The document concedes at the outset that there is a “symbiotic relationship between economic, human, and traditional security”. As per the document, it took the National Security Division (NSD) seven long years and numerous rounds of consultations with diverse stakeholders from public and private sectors to come up with this comprehensive NSP. In a country of over 220 million people, consultation with 120 experts and 500 professionals from diverse backgrounds may not sell as an inclusive policy formulation process.

To be honest, the only distinctive feature of the NSP, as claimed in the document, is that “Pakistan has lacked a comprehensive security policy that brings traditional and non-traditional strands of security under one umbrella document to provide overarching direction and guidance”. There is nothing new except that all facets of national or state security have been brought together and the government deserves credit for realising the significance of human security for long-term national security. Will the future governments own this NSP? Will they exhibit the same spirit of enthusiasm to this or other NSPs and will they pursue the stated objectives with the same vigor? If history is any guide, the answer is a big no.

While PM Khan was all praises for his team that cobbled the policy document, it must be stated that Pakistan has been consistently articulating long-term policies since the early 1950s. However, almost all strategies have miserably flopped in achieving the avowed ends. Since the early years of the country’s history, Pakistan has been regularly preparing comprehensive development policies in the form of Five Year Plans.

Beginning in 1955, Pakistan implemented three Five Year Plans between 1955 and 1970. This practice was interrupted twice. First, as a result of the India-Pakistan War of 1971 that resulted in the dismemberment of the country and the creation of Bangladesh. Because of this, the government could not formulate a Five Year Plan between 1971 and 1978. The process was resumed with the launch of the Fifth Five Year Plan 1978-83 and continued until the Eighth Five Year Plan 1993-98. This exercise was disrupted again after Pakistan went nuclear in May 1998. After this, new medium- and long-term policy documents replaced the traditional five year plans.

Like its predecessor plans prepared by the Planning Commission, it was the Ministry of Finance that started preparing long-term socio-economic policies for the country. For example, the first Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) titled ‘Accelerating Economic Growth and Reducing Poverty: The Road Ahead’ was published in 2003, covering the period from 2001 to 2006. It was prepared in a participatory process involving a wide range of stakeholders consisting of elected representatives, line departments, civil society and a number of development partners (donors). Through the Rural Support Programmes Network (RSPN), 121 community consultation dialogues in 49 districts across the country were held to identify key reasons for poverty and get feedback from communities regarding effective strategies for poverty alleviation.

In 2010, the government launched the second generation PRSP. The PRSP-II covered the period 2008-09 to 2010-11 but the government claimed that the document provided a policy framework that was relevant and applicable beyond this timeframe. A number of key areas related to poverty reduction and human security were prioritised and identified in the plan.

There were 17 pro-poor sectors, which come under five main themes: i) market access and community services; ii) human development; (iii) rural development; (iv) safety nets; and (v) governance. These sectors comprise: (i) roads, highways and buildings; (ii) water supply and sanitation under the market services; (iii) education; (iv) health; (v) population planning; (vi) natural calamities under human development; (viii) agriculture; (ix) land reclamation; (x) rural development; (xi) rural electrification under rural development; (xi) subsidies; (xii) social security and welfare; (xiii) food support programme; (xiv) Peoples’ Works Programme; (xv) low-cost housing in the category of safety nets while governance includes (xvi) administration of justice; and (xvii) law and order.

In line with the aims and objectives of PRSPs, a new long-term plan ‘Pakistan in the 21st Century: Vision 2030’, a 153-pages long document was launched in 2007 by the Musharraf-led regime. The principal mission and target of this plan was a “developed, industrialized, just and prosperous Pakistan through rapid and sustainable development in a resource constrained economy by deploying knowledge inputs”. The document was prepared focusing on six thematic areas, encompassing the 17 pro-poor sectors identified earlier in the PRSP-II.

Vision 2030 came into existence after the accumulation and incorporation of papers and reports by several experts in their respective fields from across the country, followed by detailed sessions and consultations of other relevant stakeholders, and feedback and contribution of provincial governments and relevant line ministries. The long-term plan emphasised the commitment of the government to remain focused on areas such as macroeconomic stability, poverty reduction, infrastructure development, human resource development and energy growth.

Ironically, the Vision 2030 stated that “this is a national document, drawn up after receiving contributions from some of our best minds and hearts in the country…Being a national document, it does not belong to any group or personality. Neither is it restricted in time. Even with change of government and personalities, continuity of policies presented in this document will insha’Allah be there to guide us to the future we desire and deserve”. However, once the military rule of General Musharraf came to an end, it was also the death of this policy document. No policymakers or officials bother to cite or mention this long-term policy and how it could be executed. The efforts, time and inputs of numerous people and organisations were all gone.

How could the Nawaz Sharif regime tolerate to see the face of Musharraf and his team in official documents and policy plans? Hence, his team formulated ‘Pakistan 2025: One nation, one vision’, approved by the National Economic Council on May 29, 2014; it replaced Vision 2030. In Vision 2025, the government underlined the importance of an enabling environment for achieving the seven pillars identified in this policy document. Calling the model a “5+7 framework for economic growth and development”, the document specified five key enablers for accomplishing the seven central pillars by 2025. These five enablers are “a Shared National Vision, Political Stability, Peace and Security, Rule of Law and Social Justice”.

What the NSP offers with a different nomenclature and taxonomy has since long remained a part and parcel of our national policies. There is nothing new, but the NSP has only combined all these strands in one paper.

The writer holds a PhD from Massey University, New Zealand. He teaches at the University of Malakand.He can be reached