National Security

Pakistan’s National Security Policy

By Rana Athar  Javed

Our nation is the strongest when we comprehend the value of life, rule of law and respect for other beliefs. The sponsors of hate and bigotry therefore must be informed of the dire consequences if they continue to defy the writ of the state. Ostensibly, the principles of popular support and political dispensation are the keys to terminate home-grown and foreign sponsored terrorist networks.

In the case of Pakistan, the current narratives of negotiation and use of force against the TTP militants has raised more controversies than urgency in formulating a national consensus about how to form a comprehensive security policy.

The national discourse on terrorism too is suffering due to socioeconomic fragmentation and energy crisis – not to mention the role of wrong-headed ideological manipulation of the militant leadership. The desire to control over the next assembly line of youth ideologues and policy dynamics characterizes broad structural weaknesses of comprehending this national crisis, thereby indicating that only capturing the attention of Pakistani youth will not diminish the threats that terrorism is posing.

On the other hand, the Pashtun population on both sides of boarder (i.e. Afghanistan & Pakistan) also needs a space to resolve their own internal problems, hence a more prominent role for the tribal leaders to dissolve the longstanding issues of radicalization and militancy within their respective tribes. This initiative too will add to the proud structure of Pashtun civilization, thereby saving their next generation from national embarrassment of being tagged as potential recruits for terrorists.

The argument does not automatically warrant that other ethnic identities including Punjabis and Urdu speakers are immune to this phenomenon; therefore it is mandatory that provincial and national political leadership and, civil society should contribute to positive perception building of their forthcoming generations.

Just over a month after the PML N’s return to power, the stress of dealing with the outreach of militant outfits has further complicated this debate, and very serious challenges of making a viable and practical policy to deal with the syndicate of terrorists in Pakistan. A sizeable majority of politicians, media persons and ideologues completely reject the use of force, just because it would attract further retaliation and revenge attacks on minorities, especially Shia community (i.e. Hazaras in Baluchistan).

The argument does not necessarily fall within the clear purview of a specific governmental institution, thereby requires “joint mechanism” to gain control over the deteriorating security situation in the entire country.

This reflection includes serious intra-institutional dialogue between civil-military law enforcement agencies including intelligence services, the sole purpose of which should be to strengthen the intelligence and resources sharing system.

On the political front, the JUI (F), PML Q and PTI are seeking an extensive negotiation process, the advantages of which to the TTP and militants are not yet being assessed, although the security situation in KPK and Baluchistan demands a serious and a more realistic security plan.

Implementing a straightforward negotiation process will be detrimental to wider counter terror strategy, thereby raising the risks of instability to the newly democratic government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. It is vital to adopt a result oriented approach when a new security policy to curb the ingress of militants will be discussed on July 12, 2013.

I shall argue that one of the formal sources of authority is the long-term risk assessment method in critical decision-making process because capacity and performance of an institution depends upon the grounds on the basis of which these decisions are being implemented.

However, by default, a political coalition can hardly produce a unanimously agreed national security policy as its decision-making mechanism suits partisan politics, vested interests and in some cases “hidden agenda” of their external sponsors. An inherent consequence of such dichotomy generates many controversial decisions and an overall politicization of entire decision-making process.

While formulating a comprehensive national security policy is the principal requirement of Pakistan’s stability, the government of PML N should avoid any policy duplication – because political brinkmanship may have advantages of prestige and overcoming the opponents, but efficiency ultimately demands professionalism and understanding of critical security issues.

By all accounts, micromanaging details of national security issues can best be handled by dissolving controversial points of engagement and grant responsibility to politicians and institutional heads. Without involving the cabinet ministers as stakeholders, the limited utility of decision-making will prevail, hence policy implications both for intelligence community and military leadership.

This assessment in no form and shape demands the comprehensive operational understanding of military operations by the politicians, especially the cabinet ministers, but, insufficient knowledge about the best sources available may undermine the significance of contemporary national security compulsions.

Pakistan’s immediate requirement to implement comprehensive national security policy provides an excellent opportunity to settle the issue of less civil-military cooperation. Due to the history between the two quarters, it may appear intricate, but dispossessing from earlier stances may well save the overall format of Pakistan’s national agenda, and hence, preparing a roadmap to share the national burden. Typically, restructuring of policy-making can at times yield positive result. It is this conviction that needs to be incorporated in the strategic thinking of our civil-military leadership.

To be concluded, the emerging nature of asymmetrical warfare requires a comprehensive strategy to counter extremism and terrorism that encompasses all elements of national power – components of the counter-terrorist efforts and cross-government support, including that from provinces.

To serve this purpose, the PML N government should succeed in convincing all stakeholders, in order to formulate a National Counter Extremism and Terrorism Strategy, which must be comprehensive, and should not carry any personalized and ideological effects. Failure is not an option!