Sunday May 28, 2023

The security roadmap

January 26, 2022

The writer heads the Sustainable Development Policy Institute.

The challenges that Pakistan faces are diverse and both chronic as well as acute. But no matter the nature and type of these challenges, there seems to be one common strand among them: most of them have their origins in the policies that Pakistan has pursued over the last many decades.

In other words, these challenges are ‘policy led’ and can be avoided – provided the right sets of policies and actions are adopted and followed. On the face of it, the ‘right set of policies and actions’ looks like a cliche. But in research literature on human development, broad parameters for such policies do exist; for instance: “to follow a paradigm of people-centric development which should increase human security.”

Dr Mehboobul Haq introduced ‘human security’ to the United Nation’s discourse in the 1994 Human Development Report, which offered a vision of security in the twenty-first century – one focused on individuals and groups rather than states. However, it took the UN system more than two decades to agree on comprehensive Sustainable Development Goals’ that could help catalyze the transition to human security in the UN member-states.

There are four interconnected, mutually non-exclusive and indistinct levels of security: individual security (human security), state security, regional security and global security. Their interconnectedness makes it challenging to address any particular security if security at one of the other levels has been compromised.

Global security is a worldwide concern. This usually falls under the purview of the United Nations and is generally based on traditional ‘state security’ assumptions. Pakistan always joins the international community in tackling any issue that may jeopardise global peace and security. It has played an essential role in maintaining the peace and security of the larger region it is a part of (regional security). It has always supported a peaceful transition in Afghanistan, tried to dilute the tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and remained neutral during the last ‘diplomatic tug of war’ among the Gulf States. Likewise, Pakistan has proved to be capable of giving a befitting response against any external aggression/invasion (state security).

That brings us to individual or human security, which to me is the foundation of the state, regional and global securities. As envisaged in the constitution of Pakistan, the state is supposed to take care of the human (individual) security of its citizens. However, due to various systemic and structural reasons (including but not limited to elite capture, presence and acceptance of socio-economic inequalities, and prolonged non-democratic rule in the past), individual security kept getting compromised.

One can argue that compromised individual security (prevalence of various forms of poverty, perception of individual marginalisation and social exclusion) weakened Pakistan’s state security. Let me explain:

Insecure individuals, in any form of collective identity – be it ethnicity, creed, gender, class, or regional– would rightly identify themselves as ‘have-nots’, compared to a group of ‘haves’ with a collective identity different to them. The potential tension between the two groups over scarce resources leads to social instability. This tension can even erode the basic societal fabric if it turns violent. There is clear evidence now that our external enemies were exploiting this factor to promote ethnic-based violence in Karachi a few decades ago. Acts of terrorism by militant nationalist movements of Balochistan can also be explained through the same argument.

The manifestation of neglect of human security in this manner was worrisome for the civil and military leadership and led to a gradual shift in the security paradigm, with more attention given to non-traditional security threats.

In this context, the good news is that the government has officially adopted a citizen-centric ‘comprehensive national security framework’, which has made addressing non-conventional insecurities (read: individual insecurities) a formal part of Pakistan’s national security policy (NSP). The vision statement of the NSP, “a country is as secure as its most vulnerable citizen. The safety, security, dignity, and prosperity of citizens will remain the ultimate purpose of Pakistan’s national security,” is music to one’s ears.

The transdisciplinary approach in the policy attempts to address the transdisciplinary challenges facing our country. The umbrella policy aims to achieve national security by ensuring economic security, internal security, human security, national cohesion, defence and territorial integrity, and refocused foreign policy.

While focusing on macroeconomic growth (increasing the size of the national resource pie), economic security recognises the need to address socioeconomic inequalities and geographic disparities between the developed and under-developed regions of Pakistan through sustainable and inclusive growth. A judicious redistribution of resources, along with cherishing our diversity (ethnic, religious, cultural, and linguistic), would bridge the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ and improve our national cohesion.

Realising that economic security cannot be achieved without globally competitive human resources, the policy emphasises ensuring access to affordable quality education for all. Mindful of the fact that compromised economic sovereignty may impact our foreign policy, the NSP highlights the need to reduce the external imbalance.

Although there is no specific mention of renewable energy, yet recognising the severity of the energy circular debt and Pakistan’s dependence on imported fuel, the policy aims to move towards a market-based energy sector and prioritise indigenous energy resource development.

On internal security, the NSP aims that all citizens should enjoy their constitutional privileges and be protected against violence, extremism, and crime. To deliver on this huge commitment, the NSP realises the importance of ensuring the writ of the state across the country; pursuing a policy of zero-tolerance towards terrorism, extremism, and violent sub- nationalisms; curbing organised crime; and developing a responsive, citizen-focused justice system that preserves all rights guaranteed by the constitution.

The section on human security in the NSP recognises the importance of youth, women, and transgender empowerment; population management; transforming rural economies; mainstreaming climate adaptation and strengthening disaster risk reduction. The policy aims to improve preventive healthcare and improve disease surveillance and pandemic/epidemic response mechanisms. It also addresses efforts to ensure food and water security through initiatives to increase cultivable land, adopting climate resilient agriculture, legislating against illegal market practices, improving storage capacity, sustainable water management, and protecting transboundary water rights.

On the diplomatic front, the NSP suggests using political and economic diplomacy to secure Pakistan’s interests and position among the global community. Rejecting the impression that Pakistan is inclined to a particular block amidst a renewed cold war between global economic powers, it talks of broader relationships based on shared convergence on strategic and economic interests. Without compromising its principled stance for a just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir issue in accordance with UNSC resolutions, it seeks regional peace through normalisation of relations in the immediate neighbourhood, based on mutual respect and sovereign equality.

Finally, the NSP ensures the defence and territorial integrity of Pakistan in all their manifestations at all costs. It aims to deter war through full-spectrum deterrence (both nuclear deterrence and conventional military capabilities) and combat hybrid warfare through enhanced information and cyber security while confronting disinformation and other hybrid warfare tools.

Credit should be given to Dr Moeed Yousaf for formally bringing individual securities under the broader umbrella of the NSP, and for chalking out a pragmatic implementation plan that follows a whole-of-government approach so that everyone concerned works collectively to achieve policy goals.

We should keep in mind that the NSP is not a reflection of where we were or are today. It is a roadmap for where we want to be. The journey to achieve human-centric development in the quest for the right sets of policies and actions is long, difficult and will face much resistance from the beneficiaries of the status-quo. However, achieving this goal assures us all kinds of security.

Twitter: @abidsuleri