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  • Writer's pictureSaleem Qamar Butt

Review of Pakistan’s NSP 2022

The much touted National Security Policy (NSP) of Pakistan was finally announced on 14th January 2022 under chairmanship of Prime Minister Imran Khan without any discussion or debate in both houses of the parliament or even in any of the concerned Select Committees of the parliament, though Khan termed it a consensus document defining national security in a proper way. The original 110-page NSP will however remain classified but a public version of the 62 pages report released has been read carefully and views are restricted to it rather than speculation of the confidential part.

The main themes of the NSP are national cohesion, defence and territorial integrity, securing an economic future, foreign policy, internal security and human security. Essentially it remains a ‘National Policy Paper’, termed ‘National Security Policy’ understandably due wholesome and all-encompassing meaning of the national security implied and understood in the contemporary West, i.e. ‘The National Security or national defence, which is the security and defence of a nation state, including its citizens, economy, and institutions, regarded as a duty of government’. Originally conceived as protection against military attack, National Security is now widely understood to include also wider dimensions, including the security from terrorism, minimization of crime, economic security, energy security, environmental security, food security, cyber-security etc. Similarly, national security risks include, in addition to the actions of other nation states, action by violent non-state actors, by narcotic cartels, and by multinational corporations, and also the effects of natural disasters. Governments rely on a range of measures, including political, economic, and military power, as well as diplomacy, to safeguard the security of a nation-state. They may also act to build the conditions of security regionally and internationally by reducing transnational causes of insecurity, such as climate change, economic inequality, political exclusion, and nuclear proliferation.

All national policies are prepared and pursued for the attainment of ‘National Interest’, which is ‘a rationality of governing referring to a sovereign state's goals and ambitions, be they economic, military, cultural, or otherwise’. The simplest definition of national interest describes national interest as, “The security and well-being of people of a state.” Therefore, NSP’s unfolding of detailed themes could have preferably been preceded by first defining the ‘National Interest’ followed by stipulating goals or objectives to be achieved; NSA and his team may like to incorporate that for better focus and subsequent ease of implementation by the concerned ministries and departments. As for implementation, while the ‘National Security Committee’ (NSC) remains the apex body; however, for issuance of subsequent instructions from the Prime Minister (PM) or NSC meetings, seeking progress, coordination aspects and compilation of reports, the National Security Division (NSD) shall continue to play a role lest bureaucratic grudges come into play and shoot down the NSA for trying to grow bigger than the given shoe size.

The incumbent NSA Moeed Yusuf confessed that, “unwritten security policy was wish-driven, everyone in the past was pursuing the policy as one desired to do so.” The NSA said, “We have a bitter history of civil-military ties but we have witnessed a consensus in formulation of the NSP as all the state organs have contributed to the formulation of the policy”. The NSA’s assertions regarding China-USA rivalry viz-a-viz Pakistan’s position—‘set a policy goal of not being a part of camp-politics’; about extremists and proscribed terrorists,-- ‘Segregate between reconcilable and irreconcilable elements before reaching finality’ and removal of misperception about India and IIOJ&K-- as ‘the document highlights Hindutva, disinformation, and the use of aggression for domestic political gains as key threats from India’ are worth appreciation. NSA stated that the new policy places the Jammu and Kashmir issue as the core of the bilateral relationship. He also expressed his firm belief that institutions related to implementation of policy have had capacity issues in the past but we need to work it out. The question remains, has the capacity issues related to the legislature, executive and judiciary been overcome and all the real or misperceived differences in civil-military perceptions resolved by just praying and wishing away; while there remains so much political, administrative, judicial and economic mayhem in the country. PM Khan stated in his address, “Our armed forces are our pride and glue the nation together. Given the threats we face in the region, and the growing threat of hybrid warfare, they will continue to receive even greater support and importance.” Nevertheless, it is opined that the crippled economy, insurmountable foreign and domestic debts, rampant corruption and mafias gaging the law and judiciary and ever multiplying external and internal hybrid threats are prone to make the NSP look like putting the cart before the horse, unless much delayed reform committees are formed forthwith, and restructurings initiated in next few months as amply highlighted in a number of previous posts. Since all reforms shall need enormous funds, how would the current state of Pakistan’s crippled economy under total IMF’s shackles allow that? Therefore, the sceptics may ask, ‘Aren’t we jumping the ladder and creating false hopes without addressing the root causes for just political mileage’.

For the graduates of National Defence Course, the contents of the NSP are quite familiar as NDU Islamabad has been annually preparing and sharing with all the government ‘Pakistan Policy Paper’ and ‘Pakistan National Security Policy Paper’ for decades and more relevantly in the last two decades without much attention ever paid to it by the successive governments for a host of reasons. Therefore, the credit goes to the current and previous NSA and teams for finally making it see the daylight, which had always been kept aside by the ruling elite with disdain and unknown fears. However, the real test lies in tasting the pudding. Since the released policy statements sound academic and euphoric rhetoric that had mostly been highlighted by the intelligentsia for decades, the real challenge remains in the implementation strategy and actual realisation of the long wish list in all the stated realms. Since the “sensitive and prone-to-misinterpretation points are kept classified”, and the opposition has not been taken on board, the big question remains attached to the ownership and implementation of NSP by the successive governments.

In my well-considered view, a meaningful and real change in a society and a country like Pakistan faced with existential external and even greater internal threats, top-down approach tends to remain cosmetic. The grass-roots level bottom up approach though arduous and stretched, has to be adopted as discussed in recently published articles, “ State versus Bigots”, “ Dwindling Institutions” and “An Ideal Political System for Pakistan”. Lastly, the implementation of NSP should not become a reason for extended service tenures or extensions for anyone; none being indispensable. Let new leadership emerge in their due turn and play their own role as a natural course of human and societal progression rather than creating stagnant ponds.

15 January 2022

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