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National security policy: some suggestions

September 08, 2013

THIS is apropos of Air Cdre (Retd) Khayyam Durrani’s letter regarding some suggestions for national security policy wherein he has suggested deputing intelligence agencies to formulate National Security Policy (Aug 30).

With due respect, I differ to say that these agencies are designed to provide input, but the formulation of national security policy is beyond their prowess. Their role will be pivotal in the implementation of physical security by using intelligence services to detect and defeat or avoid threats and espionage, and to protect classified information and counterintelligence to protect the nation from internal threats.

National Security is much more than “security” as narrowly referred to physical security of life and property (territory).

During the recent meeting of Defence Committee of the Cabinet, the prime minister had reorganised and renamed the said committee as Cabinet Committee on National Security by excluding the minister of information. It reflects better comprehension of the concept by the Chief Executive, notwithstanding the inadequacy of the organisational aspect of the new Committee.

The concept of national security has evolved since World War II with the United States taking the lead.

The urge to think of security beyond military defence has led to the inclusion of multidimensional threats like economic, political, diplomatic, social and military.

Recently common threats to most of humanity have also emerged like food, water and energy shortage, diseases, cyber warfare, and transnational crimes, especially trade in narcotics.

Therefore, the concept, definition and framework of national security must be grasped before undertaking such a herculean task.

The National Defence University has been the only forum where national security as a concept was taught, and the civil and military senior bureaucracy was trained to formulate national security policy and strategy.

Lt Gen Javed Hassan must be saluted for his contribution towards restructuring the syllabi of National Defence (now Security) course thereby bringing clarity on the subject. He introduced a condensed form of the curriculum at the National Policy School. Later, everyone on its faculty contributed towards improvement of the curriculum.

I cannot avoid mentioning Air Vice Marshal Faiz Amir who as First Commandant of National Security School introduced structured exercises to inculcate a methodical thought process in the formulation of national security policy and major departmental policies (foreign, economic, interior, media and defence).

I as a student contacted the ministry of the interior for any guidelines on interior policy. But, unfortunately, there was nothing like interior policy.

When on the faculty of the NDU, being sponsor of the “National Security Policy and Strategy Formulation Process”, I used to plead for the formulation of an indigenous definition of National Security. However, not much headway was made because of certain perceptual biases. Anyway, I defined national security in simple terms as “the ability of a nation to preserve itself against all kinds of internal and external threats”.

The process of policy formulation has to start with a strategic appraisal of the environment which will lead to an understanding of threats. In our case, economic, social, political, diplomatic and military would emerge as the main threats. The list may be long to include energy and food shortage, corruption, poverty, illiteracy, terrorism, sectarianism, regionalism, lack of social justice, narcotics, cyber crime and so on. But a deeper understanding of the factors mentioned earlier would group all these under one factor or another.