FeaturedNationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 11

National security policy challenges

Pakistan’s first-ever national security policy is people-centric with economic security at its core. It took the country seven years to draft and included consultation with hundreds of relevant people from all walks of life. It is really a great moment to rejoice but strict implementation of the policy will be a real challenge. In fact, all national institutions and the whole nation will have to transform themselves to improve the national economy which is impossible without ensuring merit and rule of law and elimination of corruption.

It is a fact that Pakistan must not have been facing serious challenges of governance, health, education and the provision of basic rights to its citizens if its economy would have been better than what it is today. In other words, Pakistan’s economy would have been better if it had concentrated more to improve governance, health, education and provided basic rights to its citizens.

As economic stability is the core of the national security policy, it also requires support from all political parties, including the opposition. The five-year policy, covering the period 2022-26, is the first-ever strategy paper of its kind that sets out the state’s national security vision and guidelines for attainment of the goals. It will guide the government’s foreign, defence and economic policies and decision-making. It seeks to leverage the symbiotic linkages among human security, economic security and military security with safety and prosperity of citizens being at the centre of the government approach. It covers both traditional and untraditional security challenges, including the economy, food, water, military security, terrorism, population growth and dealings with the external world, especially major powers. It attaches special emphasis on economic diplomacy as the focus of Pakistan’s foreign policy aimed at avoiding being sucked into bloc politics in a world order under transition.

Prime Minister Khan hailed the preparation and approval of the national security policy as a historic step. He directed government agencies to make a coordinated strategy for an effective implementation of the policy and asked National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf to submit a monthly report on the progress made towards putting it into practice.

Several rounds of feedback consultations on multiple drafts were held with all state institutions, including provincial governments and the governments of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Over 600 academics, analysts, civil society members and students across Pakistan have been consulted to make the policy process inclusive. A draft of the policy was also shared with the Parliamentary Committee on National Security. The meeting was, however, boycotted by the opposition parties.

The national security policy is expected to be a dynamic document which will be reviewed each year and on the transition of the government to help keep it abreast with its policy priorities in a fast-changing global environment. Work on the policy began in 2014.

National Security Adviser (NSA) Moeed Yusuf tweeted, “It is a truly historic achievement; a citizen-centric comprehensive national security policy with economic security at the core will now be pursued in earnest. The policy will help guide sectoral policies for the fulfillment of the country’s national security objectives,” the adviser said. He thanked the civil and military leadership for their support and input, adding that the policy would “never have come to light without Prime Minister Imran Khan’s constant leadership and encouragement. The success of the policy will lie in its implementation for which a plan has been developed,” the NSA added.

Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director-General Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar said the policy was an important milestone in strengthening Pakistan’s national security. “The comprehensive framework recognises interlinkages between various strands of national security, imperative to meet emerging challenges in the evolving global environment through a whole of government effort. Pakistan’s armed forces will play their due part in achieving the vision laid out in the policy,” the ISPR director-general said.

Experts say all other sectors, especially the justice system, health and education sectors, will have to be revamped to obtain the objectives of the national security policy. According to the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index 2021, Pakistan is among the lowest ranked countries in its adherence to the rule of law, ranking 130th out of 139 nations. Even in South Asia, Pakistan’s position is second last. Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh all performed better than Pakistan in the rule of law category whereas only Afghanistan is rated below Pakistan in the region. The report shows Pakistan doing badly in the areas of corruption, fundamental rights, order and security and regulatory enforcement. In these areas Pakistan is the second worst in the region. In the area of the criminal justice system, civil justice, open government and constraints on government powers, Pakistan is in the fourth position out of a total of six regional countries assessed. Globally, out of 139 countries Pakistan is among the three worst in respect to order and security, ranking 137 out of 139 countries assessed. In civil justice, regulatory enforcement, fundamental rights and corruption, Pakistan stands at 124th, 123rd, 126th and 123rd position, respectively. Education expenditure as a percentage of GDP is 2.9% in Pakistan. Even though it is higher than that of Bangladesh (1.3%), the literacy rate is 62.3%. The female literacy rate is even lower at 51.7%. Pakistan’s literacy rate is the lowest in South and overall Asia.

Pakistan ranks 134 in the Human Capital Index out of 157 countries. Investment in human capital and the quality of human capital is low. The development of human capital is through learning, education and training. The World Bank 2018 data shows that the level of “learning-adjusted education” (the number of years that the attained education is actually worth in terms of quality) is estimated to be around 4.8 years for the children enrolled in Pakistan, the lowest when compared to regional averages. This indicates the poor quality of education. Pakistan will have to upgrade all institutions and change their mindset to achieve the goals.