The document claims that there was a broad-based consultation with the stakeholders, including federal and provincial governments, security experts, thematic specialists, civil society organisations and the youth from public and private educational institutions
The government of Pakistan led by Prime Minister Imran Khan has publicised an abridged version of the first-ever National Security Policy (NSP). For the first time in the country’s history, a civil-military consensus was forged to pepper traditional military security with human welfare and a focus on economic security. This seems to be a paradigm shift from traditional notions of security to a much broader and wholesome approach focusing on economic, human and military security to be achieved by unleashing the untapped geo-economics at the crossroads of South and Central Asia. It places economic security at the core of the comprehensive security and contemplates the roles of geo-politics and economics. It also focuses on the fact that a stronger economy can afford robust security by sparing more resources for national security and defence.
The NSP document claims that there was a broad-based consultation with the stakeholders, including federal and provincial governments, security experts, thematic specialists, civil society organizations and the youth from public and private educational institutions. After the NSP was presented to the parliamentary committee on national security, opposition parties called the consultation inadequate and incomplete to the extent that parliamentarians and their political parties represent their constituencies. In a tweet, Ahsan Iqbal, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz general secretary, said the NSP had vindicated the PML-N’s policies on defence, economy, foreign relations and internal security. According to the prime minister, this is a root and branch reinvention of the country’s security paradigm requiring proper and adequate consultation with the parliamentary as well as non-parliamentary political parties. In an interview with Aljazeera TV, Dr Moeed Yousaf, the national security advisor, stated that the NSP went through a rigorous consultation process with key stakeholders. He refuted the opposition parties’ claims in this regard.
Security and foreign policy experts argue that achieving the NSP goals in turbulent economic and regional political times appears to be an uphill and challenging task for the current as well as the coming governments. The country is facing skyrocketing food inflation, increasing external debt and a balance of payments crisis, leaving no option but to again approach the international financial institutions to bail out the country. Given the resource constraints coupled with the Taliban government in Afghanistan, increased Tehreek-i-Taliban attacks on Pakistani soil and increased Hindutva in India would likely keep the paradigm within the traditional security domain. The economic situation will worsen if the country hosts more migrants coming from Afghanistan in case of an economic collapse there. Moreover, the eastern flank is exhibiting the behaviour that supports Hindu extremism and repealed status of Kashmir. These developments do not augur well for a move in the right direction, pushing the traditional security focused agenda in Pakistan.
The claim that the NSP has a citizen-centric approach, and is about “making public services responsive to peoples’ needs” is little more than political rhetoric in the given governance framework. After the 18th Amendment, the devolution to the local governments only happened after the directions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Even after the end of terms in KP, Sindh and Balochistan and termination in the Punjab, no provincial government has held local government elections. More recently, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has directed the provincial governments to hold the elections. A strategic balance of political and financial powers between the provinces and districts has not yet been created and maintained for citizen-centric service delivery. Robust citizen-centric local government systems can also help the country achieve the 17 United Nations Development Goals addressing the human and economic security. The NSP has rightly identified the youth as the country’s future, but millions of illiterate and semi-literate young people without useful skills will serve no economic purpose.
Given the country’s regional political and economic situation, it would be a challenge to create a balance between defence and social spending, focusing on ensuring territorial security and/ or human security. However, the NSP promises that increased resource allocation will help strengthen and modernise the country’s security. Dr Moeed Yousaf said the NSP was a living document and open to critique. He said civil society organisations, CVE/ PVE experts, journalists, political parties and specialists could make suggestions to improve upon the document. I see this invitation as a step in the right direction. There is a pressing need for discussion on issues like the rule of law, gender equality, national cohesion, sectarianism and the justice system’s responsiveness. A document prepared and owned by the military establishment, providing space to accommodate traditional security as well as popular concerns should be welcome.
The writer, the CEO of Analytics Lab and, is a freelance development consultant working on issues related to terrorism, democracy, peace-building and local governance.