Experts speaking at a webinar on Sunday expressed the opinion that Pakistan is on the verge of more unconventional security threats than physical attacks as the new cold war in the region is being fuelled up. The emerging geopolitical and economic situation in Afghanistan could pose an influx of migration to Pakistan.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects could also face the brunt of aggressive US-India collaboration against the economic rise of China. A civil war in Afghanistan and an unstable government in that country would also have a trickle-down effect on Pakistan.
Pakistan needs to fully prepare its institutions and citizens to combat the impacts of changing climate, especially on borders in the areas facing extreme weather. Cyber security for financial institutions and defence installations will be more pertinent to ensure strong defence against cyber-attacks.
The webinar was organised by the Development Communications Network (Devcom Pakistan) and DTN on the subject ‘Emerging Human Security Challenges for Pakistan and the Way Forward’ in connection with Defence Day.
The guest speakers included Senate Standing Committee on Defence Chairman Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, geopolitical expert retired Lt General Haroon Aslam, senior journalist and geopolitical analyst Mazhar Abbas, former additional director general Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Cyber Security Expert Ammar Jafri, senior journalist Fauzia Shahid and Devcom-Pakistan Executive Director Munir Ahmed.
Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said collective institutional decision making has been absent in the national life of Pakistan as its institutions have never been on the same page as they were in 1965. "We need the same spirit now as the country is facing many challenges on its borders as well as internally.
Poverty, health, population, climate change and disasters are some of the unconventional security threats that need to be dealt with on war-footing," he added
He maintained that the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan is a blessing for Pakistan as 66 Indian terrorist camps working against Pakistan have been made dysfunctional.
The senator hoped that now the countries in the region would be able to decide their fate. He also criticised the lack of an inclusive counter-terrorism strategy.
Lt General (retd) Haroon Aslam said war is a national effort and this effort was seen at its best in 1965 where all segments of society were united to fight against the enemy. "Now is the era of hybrid wars which are fought on many fronts simultaneously, including cyberspace, propaganda strategies and fake news. We have to take care of all these fronts with vigorous and integrated strategies," he added.
He maintained that the concept of the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) has failed and we need to win the public trust once again based on transparent and cohesive strategies. Different types of threats are emerging around our borders which need to be dealt with unitedly, he stressed.
"Parliament, the public and the media have to play their role on the national strategic goals. A vibrant intel-defence system and strong economy will help build Pakistan’s defense at all levels," he added.
Former bureaucrat Tariq Mustafa said Afghanistan is a burning point for Pakistan where an unstable government and a weak economy would result in the migration of its people to Pakistan and bring further stress on our food security.
"We have to try to support Afghanistan for a viable, strong and inclusive government. Taliban have learnt a lot from past mistakes during the last 20 years. Hopefully, they would have a regime addressing the contemporary needs of their society and the neighbourhood," he hoped.
Mazhar Abbas said we never had independent think tanks to guide us about our engagement policies with each other. Media is one of the components misused every time without taking notice of the actual weaknesses in the system, he lamented.
"The commercialisation of media has adversely affected the actual objectives. All governments and institutions mould it according to their need but never take care of the public and national interest which lies in the learned and independent media," he maintained.
Moreover, Ammar Jafri said the cyber security bill was prepared eight years back and presented in the parliament. It is pending since while cybercrimes have risen with the recent attack on the FBR’s websites and databases has shown once again the importance of cyber security laws which should be in place sooner than later," he added.
Fauzia Shahid urged the government to take all the media workers and journalists associations in confidence to launch the media reform agenda. It is unwise to wrap up existing legislation to enforce dictatorial laws to influence and pressurise the media to bow down, she said, adding that it would have severe consequences.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2021.
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