July 23, 2020

Pakistan Needs a National Security Strategy

By Fazal Wahab

After the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in December 2019, the priorities of the world have been changing continuously and almost all the countries across the globe have adopted the policy of isolation and protection of their people by focusing on enhancing and strengthening the health system while ignoring all other aspects of the life for now. The pandemic has disrupted the common life, especially in Global South. While on the other hand those having strong economy and planning, for instance, the deadly hit China, Italy and Spain, have almost controlled the spread of the virus, whereas, Pakistan is still fighting an invisible war against the pandemic while facing several other challenges ranging from traditional – both internal and external – to non-traditional, hard to soft and political to economic challenges and so on.

To fight and overcome these challenges the government administration must have long-term security strategy as all the western governments are obliged to have a National Security Strategy, for instance, since 1986, the USA government must have at least one National Security Strategy to articulate governments’ goals and priorities.

Pakistan doesn’t have one grand National Security Strategy, though, we have defence, foreign, and economic policies patchwork of internal law and order response, that’s why, I believe, among others, it is one reason that Pakistan is still struggling against the Covid-19 as the administration is not clear on their priorities. While the aim of the national security strategy that to make it clear, align and overarch the priorities and policies of different departments under the broad umbrella of national security.

Let’s accept – as we did for some – that some of our past unintended policies and approach to security had harmed and still harming Pakistan, but now we should have a clear vision and target for the uplifting the motherland from traditional and non-traditional crises and threats. In past, the security approaches and policies were more military-centric and let’s assume it was need of time, though there is a lot of disagreement in it. However, in this new era of globalisation, rapid technological growth, facilities, and free movement of the people and ideas, Pakistan needs to adopt a holistic and “whole-of-government approach” to the national security without ignoring any aspect of life (both traditional and non-traditional) and keep aside political interests/disagreements to deal with multidimensional challenges.

The problem of acknowledging the need for national security strategies remain in theories and could not come to the practical and working strategy. There is no national forum on which the think tanks and policymakers coordinate and give a comprehensive shape to the strategy. It is now the time to establish an institute which brings civil and military policymakers, and academic experts to a common page to formulate and implement a strategy keeping in mind the “whole of government” approach.

The security strategy can be divided into three main chapters based on the level of challenges and threat to national security such as critical, midlevel and potential threats and challenges. Firstly, the critical challenges, at present, are the health system against the Covid-19 and sustaining the economic growth, which is, unfortunately, contracted by minus 0.38 per cent in the on-going fiscal year 2019-20. These two are the most critical challenges of the year 2020, which should be addressed on emergency bases. Secondly, the midlevel challenges include the reopening of the educational institutes or how to maintain and improve the quality of the online classes and assessments. Finally, the potential one is to protect and strengthen the critical infrastructure at the national level.

Therefore, it is time that the government should take this seriously and make the best use of the lockdown and quarantine and formulate a national security strategy. This will allow the government to set targets for a long-term prosperous and strong Pakistan. Otherwise, the country is in the stage if we don’t attend the national cohesion political and economic stability, we will soon become under the debt of IMF and World Bank worse than ever, which will not only give an opportunity to aggressive India to interfere in the internal affairs, as she is doing since long but also to take lead in the economic race in the region.

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