Distributive policy

Pakistan’s National Security Policy: An Ambitious Plan Needing Sustained Implementation

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan recently launched the country’s first-ever National Security Policy (NSP) for the five-year period 2022-26. Although only a condensed version has been made public, it is enough to outline the outline of the framework that the country’s policymakers intend to adopt for the next five years. Ongoing since 2014, the NSP was prepared by the National Security Division (NSD) in consultation with multiple government departments, academic experts, think tanks and members of civil society.

The public version of the NSP is a compact document including an outline of all major policy areas under the national security umbrella. After devoting the first two sections to the conceptual framework and the institutional thinking that underpins it, the NSP then addresses six broad thematic areas of national security. These range from the traditional aspects of security, ie territorial integrity, internal security and foreign policy to economic and human security, and one chapter deals with the idea of ​​national cohesion.

For the good of the people

The NSP would be Pakistan’s “first” security policy of its kind. It is indeed the first in the sense that, for the first time, the umbrella of national security is expanded to include economic and human security. It adopts a citizen-centric approach emphasizing population growth, environment, health, food and water, and gender as major human security areas for policy guidance. .

There is abundant literature and a general consensus among development policy experts that the true national security of any state lies in the comprehensive and multifaceted security of its people. It is very encouraging to note that policy makers in Pakistan have realized this and that the relationship between traditional, economic and human security is aptly explored and articulated in this comprehensive and inclusive policy document.

Recognizing the crucial and overriding role that economic security plays in ensuring both traditional and human security, the NSP offers clear guidelines to alleviate the country’s economic difficulties. It aims to alleviate the growing currency and trade imbalance by focusing on value-added exports and a future-ready workforce.

Another positive policy development highlighted in the NSP is the renewed interest in geoeconomics. Expressing an interest in improving relations with neighboring states, including India, to focus on regional connectivity will go a long way towards realizing the region’s true economic potential. This will also allow Pakistan to reap the benefits of its optimal location.

All is not well

The NSP and its supporters make a point of highlighting the stakeholder consultations that were undertaken during the process of its formulation. However, the most important stakeholder in implementation, the legislature, has been left out of the process. The lack of parliamentary involvement and oversight is a major challenge that the NSP will need to overcome if it is to progress to the implementation stage.

The NSP talks about economic and social inequalities existing at many levels in society, but does not list direct and coherent policy recommendations in this regard. The expansion of the national resource pie is likely to lead to the rich getting richer if the fair and just distribution of wealth is not ensured. Economic policies must move away from the reactive approach and go beyond ad hoc social protection actions to aim for sustainable economic growth that directly benefits the middle and working classes and not just industrialists and landowners.

The climate policy outlined in the PSN also leaves much to be desired. Climate change is such a global existential crisis that it affects all facets of national security, whether traditional or non-traditional. Tying climate policy to water management and limiting its approach to just a few aspects threatens to undermine the real scale of the problem and the massive, multi-level action needed to combat it.

Although the inclusion of the human security dimension into the broader national security paradigm is a very positive development, there are other universally recognized aspects of the inclusion of human security that could have been made more inclusive. . The 1994 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Program identifies community and political security as an essential element without which comprehensive human security remains unachievable.

A step in the right direction

The NSP is based on a solid theoretical framework but policy is only as strong as its implementation and implementation will be the real test of this ambitious document. It is necessary to build a broad national consensus between all stakeholders, including political actors and civil society. This will also ensure that its progress is not disrupted by political changes.

For a sustainable and impactful implementation, the NSP must be flexible and able to adapt to the different variables that will change over time. In this regard, the annual review mechanism will be useful, but it still needs to be streamlined. The NSD should be given formal autonomy to monitor its progress and make changes if necessary. There should be specific, quantified objectives and deliverables for each policy area to be consistently tracked and publicly verified.

In conclusion, the NSP is presented as an important step for a streamlined policy approach to many of the burning issues facing the country. It is indeed a groundbreaking initiative in the field of civilian-led, citizen-centered policymaking. However, closer examination reveals widespread generalizations and implementation challenges that can impede its progress if not addressed properly.

The author is a development professional with a keen interest in non-traditional security challenges, particularly climate change and associated risks, who currently works as a program officer with the German political foundation Hanns Seidel Foundation Pakistan (HSF ). He tweets at https://twitter.com/mianbilal628.