FeaturedNationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 39

Pakistan’s security and economic challenges

Successive governments in Pakistan have failed to address the issues of the people. They blame their predecessors and state institutions for their poor performance, while it is a fact that no institution has ever stopped or can stop them from working for the welfare of the people. Has any institution barred the present government, or the past PTI government, from reforming education, health, justice system or other sectors? It is obvious that they are not their priority areas and their main focus is their short-term political gains, rather than long-term national interests.

It took Pakistan seven years to draft its first-ever national security policy last year, which is people-centric with economic security at its core. It included consultation with hundreds of relevant people from all walks of life. However, 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.

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 were consulted to make the policy process inclusive. A draft of the policy was also shared with the Parliamentary Committee on National Security.

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.

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.