National security

Published October 26, 2022
The writer is a retired ambassador, president of the Lahore Council for World Affairs and author of Pakistan and a World in Disorder — A Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century.
The writer is a retired ambassador, president of the Lahore Council for World Affairs and author of Pakistan and a World in Disorder — A Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century.

THE edifice of national security stands on the four pillars of political stability, economic and technological strength, military power and proactive diplomacy. The weakness of any of these pillars adversely affects the overall strength and durability of the structure of national security. It is imperative, therefore, that our leaders pay due attention to the strengthening of all pillars of national security while maintaining the right balance among them as overemphasis on one pillar at the expense of the others can lead to disastrous results.

Unfortunately, Pakistan’s leadership has historically neglected these basic principles, causing damage to our national security with predictably unfortunate consequences. To begin with, our military leaders, who ruled over the country directly for almost half of its life and tried to control national policies indirectly the rest of the time, have demonstrated a scant understanding of the critical importance of political stability and what it takes to strengthen this pillar of national security. Repeated military takeovers and meddling in political affairs undermined the sanctity of the Constitution and the rule of law, weakened the democratic institutions — thereby suppressing the people’s voice and preventing due accountability of our rulers through fair elections — and encouraged arbitrariness and corruption in the government’s decision-making processes.

Read: Redefining national security

The net result of such manoeuvres has left us with a politically destabilised country with all the attendant adverse consequences mentioned above. In addition, there is a widespread feeling of gloom among the people who think that their destiny is not in their hands or in the hands of their elected representatives, but is, instead, controlled by unelected institutions of the state who, it would appear, are accountable to none.

Such a feeling of helplessness inevitably creates despondency among the people and in extreme cases can cause them to take the law in their own hands by resorting to violence for the redress of their grievances. Foreign enemy powers often find in such public discontent a fertile ground for fomenting armed insurgencies aimed at the political disintegration of the country. The arrest of Kulbhushan Jadhav in Balochistan in March 2016 on the charge of fomenting terrorism in the country was a clear indication of India’s nefarious designs to destabilise and weaken Pakistan politically by taking advantage of such public discontent.

Political meddling has weakened democratic institutions.

The dominant role of the security establishment in our polity, besides weakening the political system in the country, also sucked in vast resources which arguably could have been put to much better use for accelerating economic development in the country. This was the case not only because of narrow institutional considerations but also because of an inadequate appreciation of the importance of economic and technological importance in the national security architecture.

It is worth underscoring that in any long-term contest of nations in the modern world, the ultimate outcome is determined by the balance of economic and technological power as pointed out by Paul Kennedy in his seminal work The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. While in the face of an adversary, the need to maintain a credible security deterrent at any time cannot be denied, the neglect of the imperative of economic and technological strength can lead a nation to a security disaster in the long run. It is, therefore, a matter of deep concern that India, which poses an enduring threat to our national security, is growing economically at a much faster pace than Pakistan. If this trend continues for a sufficiently long time, it will pose a serious threat to Pakistan’s national security.

While Pakistan is reasonably well placed in terms of maintaining a credible security deterrent, the country’s foreign policy establishment suffers from two main drawbacks: its overemphasis on the tactical at the expense of strategic considerations, and its focus on the short-term to the neglect of long-term foreign policy goals and concerns. Our earlier Kashmir and Afghanistan policies, whose adverse effects continue to haunt us, are prime examples of these drawbacks.

Pakistan is in dire need of a grand strategy which should bring into a coherent whole the country’s political, economic, military and diplomatic policies based on a sound analysis of the evolving global and regional ground realities. Our failure to do so will pose an existential threat to the country’s security and economic well-being.

The writer is a retired ambassador, president of the Lahore Council for World Affairs and author of Pakistan and a World in Disorder — A Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century.

Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2022

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