Pakistan’s National Security Policy: What Can Be Done?

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Context
More than a decade in to the war against terror, Pakistan’s confusion persists. It has been unable to define if the enemy is internal or external, or if the battle it’s waging is its own. Faced with a trembling economy, the conflict appears more a necessity where the nation does not appear to have a choice to part with it.

It took more than 13 years to hear the country needs a policy and a strategy on how to combat the menace it is confronted with, which has eaten in to the very fabric of its existence, and its by no way final yet. To make matter worse, the not so fresh political leadership entrusted with formulating the new approach, are part of the revolving door that in one way or the other has lead to the present paralysis. And, it is relying on the same security apparatus that seems to have quietly handed over the initiative to the enemy.

The hardest conflicts to fight are the internal ones, where no army crosses the border to attack, no war is ever declared, and it may be lost without anyone knowing. It just took one Pearl Harbor and 9/11 for US to declare war and take the battle to the enemy. The state of affairs is so appalling in Pakistan that it’s not the bad guys on the run, but the police, the military, and the people that are struggling to protect themselves.

What good is ‘foolproof security’ when the adversary can breach it at will? And, when by chance the culprits are arrested, their comrades can launch humiliating assaults to free them. In this kind of conflict, the enemy wins when it takes away the confidence of an average citizen that the state can ensure the security of his/her life and property.

At the same time, procrastination and complacency can be the worse thing under the circumstances. As the saying goes, extraordinary situation require similar measures. New institutions and strategies only work when they are backed by ironclad will, resources, and capacity. The starting point is a clear assessment of what the threat really is, and it is quite dynamic. Incremental steps or muddling through is unlikely to work under the grave security situation.

Analysis

Two Fronts; Economic and Security

Yes, Pakistan is facing a two front war; an economic and a security one, and they are both are intertwined. It the security situation does not improve, the fiscal situation is not going to get any better. If the economics does not improve, dependence on aid will continue and so will the problem with owning the war.

At the same time, procrastination and complacency can be the worse thing under the circumstances. As the saying goes, extraordinary situation require similar measures. New institutions and strategies only work when they are backed by ironclad will, resources, and capacity. The starting point is a clear assessment of what the threat really is, and it is quite dynamic. Incremental steps or muddling through is unlikely to work under the grave security situation.

What Can Be Done?

As occurs in the business world, consistent failure to meet goals results in a complete overhaul with replacement of top executives with fresh blood. The new leadership then is tasked to take the harsh steps that the entrenched administration is unlikely to undertake: leading to a lot of firing, hiring, insecurity and golden handshakes. This causes the rest of the workforce to shape up to the new realities. In essence, urgency is created to shake things up and change the business as usual routine. This is exactly the recipe for Pakistan’s present predicament.

The question is where will the experienced replacements come from. Pakistan’s best-trained and equipped institution is its army, which wants to stay behind the scenes and was not trained for fighting insurgencies. Nonetheless, the military will have to spearhead this effort to organize and train a force capable of dealing with the emergent threats. As in other western countries, Pakistan’s private defense sector could have assisted immensely in this area i.e., if it was not so weak. In addition to strengthening science and technology sector, the private defense sector needs to be bolstered to provide the badly needed insights, ideas, and impetus.

After Mumbai Attack, India completely reorganized its security apparatus and capabilities. It is working closely with US and Israel on acquiring training and developing technologies to counter emerging risks. In case of US, after 9/11 the Department of Homeland security was created after to coordinate intelligence amongst many different arms. Pakistan similarly needs to continually assess its institutional and intellectual weaknesses and start implementing what it has, as oppose to perpetually waiting to devise a onetime perfect policy.

The End State And Leadership

Accompanied by these steps is a clear understanding of what the end state looks like. One cannot be in a consistent mode of war; the state of emergency can only be maintained for a short period of time.

While the solution to deal with extremists may be a political and a negotiated one; the state would have to first gain the initiative. Then there is the differentiation between groups that can be negotiated with and those that will have to be dealt with force. Thirdly, the political and security leadership would have to present a genuine public appraisal of the present condition, and a convincing case for why a certain direction or decision will be needed. Silence or confusion is the worst thing a government can convey at this juncture. Of course, a prerequisite to this is a credible leadership – and this is a problem in itself.

Credibility is earned by resolute action and transparency. If the government indicates these values, people will provide the backing, as they did during the Swat operation. Lofty claims of better relations with India barely gain any traction at the ground when there is minimal public buy in. There was hardly a battle in history that was won without galvanizing the public, or worse, by fooling them.

A fundamental change is taking place in the region with the planned US withdrawal from Afghanistan next year, and India simply cannot allow Pakistan to benefit from it. India is increasingly threatened that in the haste of leaving Afghanistan, US may tilt heavily in favor of Pakistan, which it assesses to be a bad omen for its long-term interests. If saner minds do not prevail, India may decide to act when it can and prevent history from repeating itself.

 

 

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