Navigating Pak internal national security challenges | By Huma Baqai
By News desk -January 9, 2022


BERKOWITZ and Bock have defined national security as, “the ability of a nation to protect its internal values from external threats”.

The starting point of the debate on security is a Nation’s internal value system.Historian Paul Kennedy identified nine pivotal states whose future evolution would not only determine the fate of the South Asian region but would also affect international stability, Pakistan was one of them.

Jinnah in 1948 while commenting on the foreign policy of Pakistan said: ‘America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America … Pakistan is the pivot of the world, as we are placed [on] the frontier on which the future position of the world revolves.

’ This rings true more today than ever before.Pakistan’s consequential geography has a huge contribution to its pivot status add to that a population of two hundred and twenty million people making it the 5th largest in the world.

64% of Pakistanis are under 34 years of age, it is also the world’s sole Muslim nuclear state.All of this makes the security matrix of the country both complicated and complex.

However, there is huge skepticism present about Pakistan, some voice it in public while others voice it in private.

The rising trends of extremism and violence in the polity of Pakistan are a source of concern both internally and externally.

Pakistan for way too long and for good reason has had a consistent focus on the traditional security aspects, which resulted in sheer neglect of issues of internal security.

The synergy required between the two was also missing.The post 9/11 period had posed challenges to the internal security of Pakistan, that brought about a paradigm shift in Pakistan’s threat perception.

It became more focused on internal challenges and comparatively less India-centric, this becomes more obvious in retrospect.

The new literature on national security, also identifies internal factors as equally if not more important than the traditional factors.

There seems to be a refocus on it for some years now, the first ever National Security Policy 2021-26 seems to be a culmination of the same.

The NSP has both a people-centric and a geo-economic thrust.The highlight is that it’s pro-people and the consumer of security, as per the salient features of the document, are people and not the state, thus perhaps a huge paradigm shift since the seventies.

Pakistan is once again moving away from being an entirely ‘geo-strategic’ and a ‘security’ state to a ‘developmental’ state with a due focus on traditional security also.

Pakistan now has a clearly spelled out security vision as a reference point and clear guidelines for foreign, defence and economic policies.

It should aid in better decision-making.The featuring of non-traditional security threats along with traditional security threats and the thrust towards widening of the security paradigm, if not entirely deepening of it where people’s security surpasses all, is encouraging and a step in the right direction.

Ignoring internal security and non-traditional threats to security are a folly.They are both a source of real strength for any country, which has a direct impact on all other aspects be it defence, foreign policy or economy.

The sovereign space a state has cannot be sustained unless both are factored in.History is replete with examples of internal vulnerabilities resulting in disintegration.

A definitional reference point for internal security could be “preservation of unity and integrity of the state from disruptive and anti-national forces.

” As per the National Internal Security Policy 2014-18 the internal security environment of Pakistan is dominated by non-traditional security threats of extremism, sectarianism, terrorism and militancy.

The internal security apparatus is inadequately equipped and enormously strained to tackle these threats.

This elucidates the dire need for a comprehensive and inclusive response plan, as no single state agency is capable of dealing with such threats on its own.

Pakistan did stand up to the challenge and became the only Muslim State in the world to fight terrorism on its land through its own means and capabilities.

Pakistani forces conducted 12 operations in various parts of the country to address the situation.

Terror attacks in the country had declined up to 80%, since the deadliest attack on Army Public School, Peshawar.

Violence-related casualties in Pakistan had also declined at a steady rate since 2015.They remained unchanged in 2020 but accelerated dramatically in 2021 with roughly a 42% increase.

Except Islamabad and Gilgit-Baltistan the country suffered an exponential shrug in violence with Balochistan accounting for a net 80% increase as reported by the Annual Security Report 2021 by Centre for Research and Security Studies.

The underlying root causes are more than obvious and a direct ramification of strategic confusion when it comes to the internal security construct.

Those responsible for this up-shrug as per this report are Afghan Taliban, Tehreek Labaik Pakistan through mob violence and Tehreek Taliban Pakistan.

Both TLP and TTP target security personnel, both are responsible for and trigger trends that lead to extremism, sectarianism, terrorism, and militancy in the society.

Both are disruptive and anti-national.Issues of internal security cannot be addressed and the shift towards pro-people and geo-economics policy thrust cannot be achieved unless Pakistan once for all moves beyond characteristic strategic confusion vis-a-vis its security construct.

TLP and TTP have a very violent narrative and a disruptive ideology.They thrive on religio-emotive sentiments which are on the rise because of an educational system and cultural norms which instead of critical thinking endorse blind belief and following.

The huge population and its directionless youth bulge are a fertile ground for new recruits.They are ready to take to the streets and create security situation for the state at the drop of a hat.

The state response is that of appeasement with a complete lack of comprehension as to how toxic this appeasement is.

It promotes and cultivates all that the security policies pledge to counter and control.What’s happening in Pakistan needs serious retrospect.

The recent hype about geo-economics and pro-people policy thrusts will ring hollow if Pakistan continues to invest in the disruptive and divisive policies of allowing entities that largely work against the constitutional framework of Pakistan to thrive. This is delusional, self-deceiving and self-defeating.

—The author is an Associate Professor of Social Sciences and Liberal Arts at the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi.