Time to review our national security policy

We need to review our national purpose away from ‘hatred of India’ to something like ‘peace at home and peace abroad’.


Fasih Bokhari May 31, 2011

It is time to begin a debate to evolve a new national security policy (NSP) to lead our people to a better future. Did we ever have a consensual NSP? Most of us don’t even know what an NSP is. Since the 1950s we incrementally became an Islamic republic. Although there are no sanctions in Islam, Judaism, or Christianity for a clergy; becoming an Islamic Republic empowered our Muslim clergy. Over the years, it has become clear that the clergy use religion as a means of livelihood paid for by their congregation. The violence in the world today is in large measure due to the clergy of these three religions and the influence they have over their respective societies.

Since the 1970s, Pakistan, as a state policy, has empowered the Gulf Cooperation Council/American-backed sects with consequences that are becoming unmanageable. Was there a consensus for this in Pakistan? Was it a valid interest to acquire strategic depth in Afghanistan through the militant groups that these sects nurtured? Also, while this happened we got money thrown into our begging bowl that never reached the masses, widening the social divide.

Strategic depth does not lie in expansion of territory; it lies in the expansion of the economy. Territorial strategic depth has a cost that can be measured in terms of the economy and the violent blowback on the security of every citizen. Our soldiers and citizens are paying that price with precious Pakistani lives. How would we like to become the strategic depth of another country by force? We would probably react violently too.

So what is a country’s national security policy? It has to do with ‘security’ — the latter defined as ‘absence of threats’. In today’s world of competing nation-states all aspects of our individual lives can come under threat. Security is not therefore just a military sector concern. The NSP addresses all sectors of governance or instruments of statecraft (IOSC) and must be evolved by the nation and not just by the military.

The starting point in reviewing the NSP is national identity. Who is a Pakistani? We chose to be an Islamic Republic. That choice of identity was not, however, granted to our religious minorities who were effectively told that they are not equal citizens. In any case, over the years 70 per cent of our minority population has left. There were two national anthems. The West Pakistani anthem highlighted religious identity. The East Pakistani anthem highlighted golden Bengal, green Punjab and the grey sands of Balochistan. We never paid attention to this difference in the perception of national identity. National identity needs to be reviewed for wider consensus and social cohesion.

The next step is to review our national purpose. Why Pakistan? A state cannot define its purpose through hatred of another state. We need to review our national purpose to take it away from ‘hatred of India’ (rationale for seeking strategic depth) to something like ‘peace at home and peace abroad’.

After this, we should identify and prioritise our vital national interests (VNI). What do we want? We need to debate whether we truly believe that the security of the state lies in an increasingly unsupportable military machine; or whether it lies in a robust, educated and empowered citizenry, at peace with its neighbours. Should we change the highest priority in our VNI from ‘defence security’ to ‘economic security?’.

After reviewing our NSP and arriving at a consensus we need to disseminate it and educate the nation on national identity (who), purpose (why) and vital interests (what) so that every citizen and IOSC owns and believes them. The affirmation of this belief is where the real challenge for our media and education sector will begin.

Just because NSP has the word ‘security’ in it, most people will again leave it to the military to review. No military in the world (like the clergy) would willingly want to reduce its empire. We need to wake up and start the hard work of reviewing our national security policy.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2011.

COMMENTS (20)

David Salmon | 10 years ago | Reply @nadeem and @Syed Nadir El-Edroos But the US very much has a national identity. Our pluralism exists within it. E pluribus unam, one from many, is the national motto. We all subscribe to a certain identity, part ideal and part history, engrained in all of us despite our highly disparate origins. One certainly can be a Pakistani who supports minority human rights and legal equality without inconsistency, I hope.
qaisera | 10 years ago | Reply agreed, Sir
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