New national security policy

Pakistan is complex country with complex problems but at times complex problems have simple solutions

Kamran Yousaf January 03, 2022
This writer is a senior foreign affairs correspondent at The Express Tribune

Last week the federal cabinet approved, what the government claims, Pakistan’s first-ever national security policy. The policy has yet to be made public but is believed to have covered all internal and external aspects. National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yusuf is the man behind the new national security policy. He must have given a true assessment of the situation and suggested a way forward on the current precipice given the fact that before taking up the government job, Moeed used to say all the right things through his writing and opinions. In fact, his views were not different from those who are often branded as anti-state or traitors.

Pakistan is complex country with complex problems but at times complex problems have simple solutions. The authors of the new security policy must have burnt the proverbial midnight oil to come up with news suggestions and ideas given the multiple problems facing the country. The new policy may have been spread over hundreds of pages but if we are to pull the country out of the current quagmire perhaps a one-page document would do the job. The key issue we need to figure out first and foremost is whether Pakistan is a security state or welfare state. Certainly, the founders of Pakistan wanted to see it as a welfare state but because of our internal follies and external factors the country has for decades been seen as a security state.

In the new policy we must strive for getting rid of this tag. How that can be achieved? The state has to do course correction. Rule of law and adherence to the Constitution by all state institutions and its functionaries is a perquisite. Every individual, no matter how powerful, has to be answerable. No holy cows. Political stability is paramount for any sustained economic growth and reforms. No matter what type of a policy is drafted, nothing will change unless we stop manipulating election results and conspiring against elected governments. Use of religion for the purposes of advancing political goals is another disease that has wreaked havoc in our society. The policy of relying on non-state actors and religious groups to pursue strategic objectives has cost us dear. This fact has been admitted not only by our civilian leaders but also those in uniform.

In the new security policy there has been a greater emphasis on human security. The policy seeks transformation in Pakistan’s role from being a geo-strategic to geo-economic hub. But for that, some key decisions have to be made. The crucial question of course is: can we do trade with India without resolving the longstanding dispute over Kashmir? For the last seven decades, Pakistan has consistently maintained that trade and commercial ties could only happen when the issue of Kashmir is settled. Governments in the past tried to bring a shift in that approach but were unsuccessful. Those who staunchly opposed trade ties with India believe that if Pakistan starts trading with India like any other country that would weaken Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir. But the counter view is that increased trade and commercial ties may create inter-dependencies, perhaps leading to the resolution of disputes. Proponents of that approach cite the example of India-China rivalry. The two countries are engaged in territorial disputes over which there have been bloody exchanges at the border in the last couple of years, yet the bilateral trade figure between them is astonishing, having touched a record $114 billion this year. This burgeoning trade between the two Asian countries will prevent an all-out war since the stakes are too high.

Can Pakistan also think on these lines? Certainly, it is not going to be an easy proposition but that’s what the new security policy must focus on — finding answers to difficult questions. Else, it will be an exercise in futility.


Published in The Express Tribune, January 03, 2022.

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