The Mystery of the National Security Policy

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Sehar Kamran

This “citizen-centric” policy comes at a time when inflation is hitting double digits.

“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” – Patrick Henry
Amid much uproar and confusion, the Government announced the country’s first National Security Policy(NSP) in the last week of December 2021. The National Security Advisor called it “a truly historic achievement,” and referred to it as a “citizen-centric policy with economic security at the core.”
The draft of the NSP was presented in the Parliament when the opposition had boycotted the session due to the non-participation of Prime Minister Khan. It was passed by the National Security Council (NSC) and then presented to the federal cabinet who approved it into law on December 28, 2021. The PTI government has passed this important piece of legislation in a peculiar and hush-hush manner, which has raised more questions than answers. Needless to say that the NSP should have been adopted unanimously by all political parties after being presented in the Parliament, but once again due to the political immaturity of the ruling party, this policy has unfortunately already been deemed controversial. The lack of knowledge or debate in the Parliament regarding the NSP is a worrisome matter because it undermines the democratic process. We have witnessed time and again that whenever any policy has been adopted without due diligence, it has only cost the country as a whole.
This “citizen-centric” policy comes at a time when inflation is hitting double digits. Where hikes in the prices of daily-life commodities are at an all-time high. In November 2021, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), inflation increased to its highest level in 20 months at 11.5 per cent from 9.2 per cent. Regionally, Pakistan saw the most increase in inflation.
Today, food security has become an issue in the country. According to the Global Hunger Index (GHI) in the year 2021, Pakistan was ranked 92nd out of 116 nations. The country has a level of hunger that is categorized as “serious,” with a score of 24.7. According to the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement, 16.4 out of every 100 households surveyed during the fiscal year 2019-20 reported moderate to severe food insecurity. Moreover, the World Food Programme has estimated that approximately 43 per cent of Pakistanis are food insecure. Owing to the incumbent government’s current policies, it is assumed that the situation can further worsen in the coming years.
The government officials have labelled the NSP as a policy with “economic security at its core,” but the ground reality is completely different. Pakistan’s currency has become one of the worst-performing currencies. The rupee devaluation is historically at its highest level. Only in 2021, the Pakistani rupee lost over 10 per cent of its total value. Since 2018 when the PTI government took office, the Pakistani rupee has lost 48 per cent of its value.
How can a government be believed when they speak about ensuring economic security while the country is at the mercy of the International Monetary Fund? When the status of the State Bank of Pakistan under the controversial “State Bank of Pakistan Amendment Bill” is unclear, and its autonomy is being questioned? These steps by the government seem like an attempt to appease the IMF, but it puts the country’s sovereignty especially of the State Bank of Pakistan, at stake.
The NSP comes at a time when the government made deal with the previously proscribed Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan after they conducted deadly protests which resulted in the martyrdom of many police officers, thereby setting a dangerous precedent. Other proscribed organisations have already started demanding relief from the state after this decision, citing that they should also be unbanned and not discriminated against, and have threatened to protest against the government.
How can the NSP be believed to be credible when on November 9, 2021, a complete ceasefire between the government of Pakistan and the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was announced. It was said that negotiations were going on but they failed as the TTP declared an end to a ceasefire. Since then the attacks on Pakistan’s security forces have increased manifold.
Instead of answering these burning questions, the government is trying to silence the enquirers. Why there is so much secrecy and what are the policymakers hiding? The people deserve to know.
Moreover, every government in power announces its version of national security policies. We have seen it in the form of National Internal Security Policy 2014-18, National Action Plan and National Internal Security Policy 2018-23. The security policies are announced with much hoopla but their implementation process is uneven at best. The results of these policies rarely show up on the ground.
National security essentially means the protection of the state from all threats, whether real or perceived, for the preservation of national interests. National Cohesion, Economy, Diplomacy and Defense/Traditional Security are the four principal dimensions to Pakistan’s national security compulsions. They entail both traditional and non-traditional threats on both internal and external fronts.
For any “citizen-centric” policy to succeed, it is significant that the internal structure of the state is strengthened. Governance be improved and democratic ethos be adopted. No policy can be successful if the government or state fails to establish the trust of the masses in its institutions and the rule of law. Transparency is the need of the hour.

The writer is a prominent politician, academician, and practitioner in the areas of regional, international defence, and strategic studies. She tweets @SeharKamran.