National Security

Internal Security & Counterintelligence

By Rana Athar Javed

In recent decade, as the issues of internal security confronting Pakistan have become increasingly complex, reaching beyond the instability in Afghanistan, the militant networks in partnership with illegal foreign intelligence entities has grown greatly and dangerously. Attacks on Pakistan Air force’s bases located in major Pakistani cities including Karachi and Peshawar are cases in point, as are the killing of paramedics who were involved in a polio vaccination campaign under the auspices of the UN.

On the core issues of internal security is the weapnization of Pakistani society, the sources of which still remain smuggling of weapons from Afghanistan and, illegal weapons factories in the border areas. However, the fundamental belief of general masses and political leadership is that their people and country are being targeted, and it could not have happened without the considerable operational and financial support of major intelligence agencies of the world. Cultural, ethnic and religious differences further accentuate the “enemy’s objectives” of planning an offensive intelligence operations including sabotage and target killings of professionals, especially of the Shia community has exacerbated the ongoing problem of internal security.

For unity reasons, the protection of minorities and national intellectual assets should be managed at permanent basis because great deal of success of Pakistani society has been possible due to excellent contribution of every community. Hence, coordinating at least in terms of improved collaboration among the military, the political government and the people would enable respective authorities to realize the conceptual turnaround in this extraordinary security situation.

A further problem of internal security can be mentioned in terms of targeting crucial capacity of healthcare personnel, and thereby engulfing the internal social conflict with additional burden. Strong opinions about difference in beliefs and practices are being expressed in shape of killing, a trend that needs to be tackled through attention to “soft power” and countering militant prism. Marshaling ideologies with narrow interpretation of religion hardly defends the true spirit behind coexistence of different faiths and sects in historically Pakistani context. It is the weakness of civil society and religious- political quarters that they fail to provide with “fresh” perspective on tackling the issue of a balance social behavior and national character of a Pakistani.

Military forces and other law enforcement agencies have been at the forefront of internal security crises, but based on the ground reality, a political ownership after a military operation is the only possible way to sustain effectiveness of a military operation. Since the current war on terror has greatly stressed the regular intelligence assessment procedures, it is highly important that the basic approach should now become a worst-case approach. From the internal security viewpoint, this means more planning, intra-agency cooperation and scientific approach to make serious inroads into strategic terrain of formulating impact analysis.

Consequently, any renewed confrontation with terrorists and counterintelligence operations would provide a better and comprehensive forward approach and better result sheet for future thinking. Conversely, the political echelon often attend security meetings as they are coming for a visit, and therefore risk their credibility as true public leaders. Thus, speaking of a “partnership” between the political and military quarters too can play an important role, while chairing strategic dialogues with the United States, China and other countries.

It is however entirely difficult to build similar capacity or understanding at every level of bureaucracy and diplomacy because vague approach of different political parties present extreme challenges for the incumbent governments to present realistic policy assessments.

Prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Afghan war, it was impossible to imagine that Pakistan would become the sole target of terror, although it advocates peace and stability program with India and other regional powers. In practice, the manufacturing of Pakistan’s image by its opponents holds insufficient evidence to support a conclusion that Pakistan is part of the problem. Whether it is fighting or reconciliation with the Taliban, Pakistan conversely has been very functional, and thereby fully substantiates the “collective peace” dimension in the post-2014 period.

On the other hand, the planning and appropriation of excessive tactical resources to subvert political and economic progress in Pakistan also demonstrates an intolerable level of interference of hostile forces in Pakistan.  Hence, it is entirely crucial to strengthen the counterintelligence branch of Pakistan’s security services.

Allocation of resources is needed to implement modern operational methods and approach to deactivate cells of terrorists. Despite mounting economic difficulties, preventing subversion and sabotage must become an important policy element of national security because mushroom growth of hardline approaches in dealing with every mundane social issue can hardly be expected to last for a long time, and hence the harming the broader project of national security. Ostensibly, “experts”, who regularly examine the pattern of violence and its grey shades, realize that only focusing Afghanistan’s stability may well compound the complexities, rather would put more constraints on Pak-military and its security services. There is a strong belief, and has even become a legitimate criticism that there are not enough financial resources to install better and more modern team of experts to tackle the issue of internal security and capacity building.

To be concluded, in order for Pakistan to sustain the future expectations of the US and NATO allies, it is crucial that major powers, especially the US accept the strategic importance of a stable Pakistan. A recent report, which is sent to the US Congress under the National Defence Authorization Act, states that “Pakistan’s centrality to US interests is evidenced by its status as a nuclear power, its shared border with Afghanistan and India, its integral role in the fight against Al Qaeda, and its potential role in promoting stability in Afghanistan,” the Pentagon tells Congress”.