FIRST, the good news. The National Internal Security Policy has been unveiled before parliament and the government appears to have absorbed a basic, but key understanding: there are no quick fixes when it comes to internal security; patience and perseverance will be required. Welcome too is the latest attempt to turn the moribund National Counter-Terrorism Authority into the coordinating policy body that it was envisaged to be. And while the idea of new rapid-reaction police forces in Islamabad and the provinces may not be ideal — the politicians’ penchant for reinventing the wheel instead of working to strengthen existing institutions appears to have won the day again — at least the emphasis on the capacity of the civilian security apparatus is correct. As details of the policy are parsed in the days ahead — and likely parts of the classified section leaked — its likely efficacy will become much clearer. Suffice it to say, without a focus on implementation and adaptation — even the best of plans need to be tweaked when implemented — there will be little long-term success.

Now to the less welcome news. For one, the approach the government has taken is narrow and starts at the wrong end of the policy pyramid. Internal security is not established in a vacuum and, particularly in Pakistan’s case, is linked to the overall national security strategy, which looks both internally and externally and encompasses everything from military power to foreign policy. So, while the NISP does talk of past flawed policies on Afghanistan, India and Kashmir, it spends far too little time connecting the dots — and, perhaps most problematically, appears to assume that the past has been left behind and that all institutions today understand and accept what went wrong and are determined not to repeat the same mistakes. If only. Even if it were accepted that there really has been a fundamental change in institutional thinking, the reality of institutions and decades-old security policies is that change will not come through words alone.

Consider just two small examples of the problem with the overall approach. Yesterday, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan referred to a war that is 13 years old — implying that it began with the latest war in Afghanistan and so ignoring that the militancy in Pakistan has older roots. If the diagnosis itself is wrong, can the prescription work? Secondly, can militancy and terrorism be selectively eliminated after years of cross-pollination and cooperation between various groups and organisations? Every group that has turned its war on Pakistan itself was at one time considered an ally or asset. Are there still some non-state allies and assets today?

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