National Security Policy of
A Paradigm Shift in Strategic Vision
Despite the self-evident significance of a National Security Policy (NSP), it is a matter of concern that Pakistan has been pursuing its national interests without any national document that can improve interoperability and coordination among different state institutions by providing clear-cut directions. Nevertheless, the approval of the first-ever National Security Policy, first by the National Security Committee and then by the federal cabinet on December 28, 2021, is a historic milestone and does warrant attention. A public version of the policy document was also unveiled on January 14, 2022, the salient features of this vital policy document compiled by Pakistan’s National Security Adviser, Dr Moeed Yousaf, have been discussed below.
First and foremost, this is a comprehensive national policy framework. There is a difference between national policy and comprehensive national policy; the former exclusively deals with the protection of national sovereignty and territorial integrity (traditional security) whereas the latter deals with traditional and non-traditional security threats. The protection of state institutions and their governing ability from non-traditional security threats (climate change, water insecurity, cyber insecurity, etc.) is called non-traditional security. In other words, comprehensive national security is a combination of traditional and non-traditional forms of security. CNSP entails mobilization, consolidation and operationalization of a full spectrum of tools, structures, and capabilities for the attainment of national security imperatives.
Economic security is another important aspect of the NSP of Pakistan. In the words of Dr Moeed Yousaf, “[A] citizen-centric comprehensive National Security Policy with economic security at the core will now be pursued in earnest. This umbrella document will, overtime, help guide sectoral policies for the fulfilment of our national security objectives.”
There is no denying that the economy plays a decisive role in the realization of national security objectives. A robust, well-functioning and dynamic economy is vital for the fulfilment of other pillars of national security. Loss of economic security, economic backwardness and failure to create jobs, particularly in a country that is passing through the demographic transition, is a recipe for political instability and social chaos that eventually leads to the erosion of national security and integrity. The NSP has enlisted external imbalance, horizontal and vertical inequalities as the challenges to the economic security of Pakistan. Apart from addressing these challenges, the NSP has also discussed the way forward. In this regard, technological development; large corporations; air-, road-, internet- and railway-based connectivity; a surplus of essential (energy, ports and ships) and fiscal security would be dealt with on a priority basis. Dr Yousaf has also revealed that it is the first time the education sector will be part of economic security. A comprehensive maritime policy will be developed to tap the potential of the blue economy, dedicated efforts would be made concentrating on transshipment, ship construction, ports infrastructure, fishing, off-shore exploration, coastal tourism and other maritime industries.
The role of education in the promotion of national cohesion and de-radicalization is well-documented, but education does play an equally important role in securing economic security also by the development of human resource. To increase the pace of technological innovation and adaptation, commensurate with the contemporary requirements, the government would build the capacity of public and private sectors by assisting R&D in AI, facilitating start-ups and joint ventures. The upskilling of manpower in Pakistan would also be undertaken to boost manpower exports so as to have a robust, vibrant and proactive Pakistani diaspora, as well as to expand remittances. Hence, it is a welcome development that education is being made an instrumental tool in the realization of economic development and growth.
Human security is the third element of NSP. This is essentially a liberalistic addition to the realistic conception of national security. World-famous Pakistani economist, Dr Mahbub-ul-Haq introduced the concept of human security in the United Nations Development Program’s report of 1994. Human security has many dimensions, including, but not exclusive to, water security, food security, community security, health security, environmental security, and so forth. Community security is the protection of vulnerable groups like women, religious and ethnic minorities from the threats of sectarian and communal violence, economic exploitation and psychological manipulation. It also entails the enactment of safeguards to protect their unique traditional cultural, linguistic and religious values and practices. The ongoing Covid-19 and its variants-led medico-economic devastation have made sure that health security, that is minimum protection from diseases and unhealthy lifestyle, has far-reaching implications for economic security and, by extension, for national security. The NSP will deal with all these dimensions simultaneously. The population explosion and ensuing insecurities of various kinds, particularly of food and water, do warrant necessary interventions like facilitation to provide essential birth-control measures, and design and implementation of long-term population planning to tap Pakistan’s demographic dividend.
Gender development or gender security has also been added to dimension of the human security pillar of NSP. The very addition of liberalistic proposition to the strategic culture of Pakistan, which has been a realist since the country’s independence, reflects a shift from a state-centric security paradigm to people- and citizen-centric understanding of security. That is a major departure from the past and is certainly a right step in the right direction.
Peace in the neighbourhood and beyond is the fifth pillar of the NSP. The world is, at present, undergoing a profound transformation. The policies of containment are sowing the seeds of another cold war. The non-traditional security threats are fast becoming transnational and are beyond the capacity of the state to handle. Emerging technologies are being weaponized and frontiers are being pushed to the domains of space, outer space, cyberspace and artificial intelligence. The populist and far-rightist leaders are threatening regional peace and international order. Particularly, Pakistan sits in a volcano-like situation. On its east, the RSS-BJP regime is mobilizing state machinery to realize its long-held dream of a Hindutva state. On its west, the Taliban are struggling to prevent the total collapse of the state of Afghanistan. These extremely fluid regional and global dynamics present both opportunities and challenges. To seize upon these opportunities, Pakistan has come up with this document that places special significance on constructively engaging the world. Through this, Pakistan aspires to become a hub for regional trade, transit and connectivity, and converging point of otherwise competing interests. Pakistan has also embraced the concept of cooperative security that advocates peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation for all states.
‘Unity in diversity’ would now be the stated approach of the state of Pakistan to promote national cohesion and unity. Indigenous culture and religio-linguistic values of minorities would be preserved while remaining within the framework of Islam. In other words, the cultural, social, religious and linguistic diversity of Pakistan would be preserved and no top-down effort would be launched to create a homogenous national culture. It is a significant departure from earlier policies that attempted to impose a uniform way of life across the country.
Traditional security would be another dimension of Pakistan’s security, but territorial integrity and sovereignty would not be compromised at any cost. In this regard, full-spectrum deterrence within the precincts of minimum credible nuclear deterrence would be the guiding principle of Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine, and all available resources would be mobilized to maintain strategic stability in South Asia. Kashmir would continue to occupy a prominent position on the agenda of Islamabad’s foreign policy. In terms of traditional security, the great-power competition between China and the United States, gross violations of international law and norms, volatile political and security situation in Afghanistan and the rapidly-unfolding humanitarian crisis there, Iran’s international isolation, the advent of modern technologies and artificial intelligence and the ever-present likelihood of cyberattack on vital communication and information infrastructure are some major areas of concern that the NSP is set to deal with. The policy enlists hybrid, information and cyber warfare, maritime competition, militarization of space and growing disparity in regional strategic environment as special areas of concerns for hard security of Pakistan. As far as internal security is concerned, the NSP has mentioned terrorism, violent ethno-nationalism, extremism and organized crimes as serious threats. It has also offered policy prescription to tackle these threats through socio-economic empowerment of isolated communities and areas, application of rule of law, effective border management and pluralistic narrative to de-radicalize the extremist elements of society.
No matter how comprehensive the policy is, it is an undeniable reality that if the policy document does not see practical steps for its implementation, it remains an exercise in futility. So, given the administrative constraints that Pakistan suffers, NSP has come up with an implementation mechanism as well. Dr Yousaf, while giving an in-camera briefing to Senate Defence Committee, assured the participants that NSP has put in place an implementation arrangement that would ensure hiccup-free and smooth adoption of the policy by various ministries and departments. The policy calls for an annual review, or whenever a new government is formed, to ensure continuity and flexibility on national security issues. In addition, National Security Committee has taken ownership of the implementation. NSC is the highest decision-making body comprising PM, Federal Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Defence, Information and Broadcasting, Interior, Finance and Human Rights, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, all Services Chiefs, National Security Advisor, and senior civil and military officers. PM Imran Khan has also instructed National Security Division to update NSC every month regarding the implementation status of NSP, lacunas and hurdles and recommendations to remove impediments.
The adoption of NSP carries far-reaching consequences for Pakistan. It would be a grand national strategy that would be an umbrella document as an ultimate guiding source. It is not the solution to specific issues, rather a vision that helps other departments and ministries to draft long-term sectoral strategies and policies and short-term operational plans. The overarching nature of the documents provides coherence to a diverse set of food, cyber, water, economic, defense, information, and internal security frameworks, thereby binding different elements of power for the furtherance of long-term objectives. NSP will help promote common understanding between Parliament and the executive branch, thereby protecting some core political, economic and strategic values. Dr Yousaf has even suggested that political parties can incorporate the Charter of Democracy and Charter of Economy into the document and help prevent persistent threats of derailment of democracy and politically-expedient economic policies. Another advantage of NSP is that it would help bring consistency in the national policies for strategic sectors like economy, foreign policy, internal security management. The consistency would end unpredictability that raises its head with the democratic transition of every government and international financial institutions and foreign governments would be confident that the next government would not deviate from the trodden path. The resultant adherence to the same course of action for a considerable period would provide enough space for governments in power to execute NSP-directed programs of strategic importance without losing their political capital.
The role of the military in the implementation of NSP is vital because it has huge stakes in national security. In a tweet, DG ISPR has termed the approval of NSP as an important milestone and a symbiotic relationship among different policies imperative for strengthening national security. DG ISPR tweeted: “#NSP is an important milestone in strengthening national security. The comprehensive framework recognizes interlinkages among various strands of national security, imperative to meet emerging challenges in evolving global environment through a whole of government effort. Pakistan Armed Forces will play their due part in achieving the vision laid out in the policy.” NSP is the product of joint civil-military effort and the pledged military support to the document that de-emphasizes decade-old state-centric conception of security is certainly a big development. It also reflects the profound transformation that is going on in the top decision-making process. Now that powers that be seem ready to extend full support to NSP, one can hope that this strategically important document would see its practical implementation in letter and spirit.
The writer is a graduate of the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. He writes on national and international affairs.