By Rana Athar Javed
Ever since the discourse on formulating a comprehensive national security policy launched, the overwhelming political and expert response has reinforced a sense of “inability” about the national security situation. As a result, the capability to plan for the future and think about bold initiatives to counter terrorism and counter extremism remains out of practical operational design.
What should be the make-up of a national security council and how civilian decision-making style should be compatible to the military establishment are two of the most complex, but crucial questions. The most unorthodox political suggestion completely excludes the civil-military bureaucracy in the process of national security policy, and hence threatens the capacity and quality of any future national security organization.
At the government level, Pakistan has not yet developed a sophisticated or professional expertise that commensurate with the vital and immediate importance of national security issues for the nation. The process certainly is slow and at early stage, but there must be system of critical decision-making when it is really required – just because politicization of national strategies would directly harm the integrity of Pakistan thereby loss of legitimacy to govern. Therefore, all the issues relating to war on terror and national security policy in particular need no ideologically and politically charged decision-making.
A the international level, the US and other international players often fail to comprehend the national psyche of Pakistan, that is, how it survives against a regional power (India), which enjoys advanced conventional military resources, capabilities and support of Western governments. Thus, national security policy and decision-making cannot be understood without comprehending this original fear.
Sixty- six years after independence, Pakistan remains very much what I refer to as, “a resilient nation that survived almost every international conspiracy”. It can be said that virtually in every generation, Pakistanis have risen up against the annihilation plan of hostile neighbour and international players, while the expectations of superpowers continue to encroach upon the overall decision-making process.
To provide a fresh strategic assessment on such scenarios, the achievements and sacrifices of Pakistan’s state institutions in war on terror should remain the core principal of objectivity. The difficulty is not in fighting out and defeating the hard-core militants, rather than identifying structural weaknesses in the area of cooperation between civil-military establishments. The dangers of incompetency and corruption posed to almost every institution have either been ignored or dissolved in highly developed political hostility between the institutions.
This may appear the most extreme expression of deep-seated fear that if the state institutions fail to address this flaw, it would transform the threat into further destruction, and hence termination of governmental infrastructure. Fundamentally, all-out asymmetrical warfare can comprehensively impair the ability of any country to fight, if the war-strategy is not backed by judicial and political dispensation. It is important to note that the current national security policy has been predicted on the reality that Pakistan faces existential threat and, the extent and nature of war of terror has reinitiated the debate about role of religion in nation-building process.
Indeed, it has become apparent that both practitioners and military experts are facing highly complex challenge, especially in terms of converging policy and ability objectives – in several cases losing control over the process of containing internal security situation. These failures and the current slow response to develop political consensus over ownership of war on terror are particularly troubling because the post-2014 Afghanistan and consequences of Indian adventurism will foreclose opportunity to create peace and stability in South Asia. At this critical juncture, the role of regional actors including India is causing further confusion for the US peace initiative in Afghanistan.
To be concluded, a powerful political leadership can be characterized as the one which not only conducts serious policy deliberations, but also firmly demonstrates all-inclusive approach to implement an impartial security policy. This factor is not present, and that is exactly the reason that Pakistan’s current security problems are appeared to be unmanageable. Also, most of the political focus is on subjective judgement about the role of military and security institutions, which in turn has wrongly generated anti-military sentiments among a small segment of society.
The active political and religious ideologues must consider the consequences of conflict in Iraq, Egypt and Syria where generation of negative and sentiments against the national armies caused a complete destruction of state-society relations. The difficulty to manage conflict in-and-outside Pakistan is not only encountered by international and regional intervention, but also by incompetency, both in terms of decision-making and lack of situational assessment.
In fact, it is typical of political governments to show unusual degree of influence on the security policy process, because bureaucracy as the single most player holds the capability and power of framing security priorities and forward recommendations to resolve the conflict between civil-military establishments. In analysing the current national security dilemma, building up that followed by improving the intelligence systems, fighting capabilities and management of post-crisis revitalizing military and political strength.
It is a fact that Pakistan does not have a formal national security doctrine, and thus need a serious, fairly coherent and comprehensive engagement of every stakeholder, in order for them to share the national burden of conflict management. The current discourse on forming a national policy of counter terrorism and counter extremism should be included an updated laundry list of issues deemed vital in restoring harmony and peace in Pakistan. This is the only way-out of war on terror.