OVER few years, pendulum of national security has swung repeatedly and dramatically. To some eyes, with CPEC and success of Zarb-i-Azb, now it hangs favourably for Pakistan. To some critics, it is precariously placed. It may aggravate further if we do not switch lanes. Pakistan has a hostile India in east who can cause escalation on boarders if it considers necessary to grind own axe. On west we have an estranged Afghanistan where India has found foothold to unleash anti Pakistan schemes in collaboration with them or alone under tacit approval of US. The runaway terrorist groups of Pakistani origin in Afghanistan hands them a big leverage. US seems to continue its enough presence in Afghanistan. It spends over $23b yearly there. It is not out of benevolence for Afghan people.
It is primarily aimed to cause chokehold on access to China and Russia in the region. In reality our relationship with US is of adversarial nature. At best, a transactional relationship. In North China whose interest in Pakistan has increased manifold with CPEC. Their political/diplomatic support to Pakistan seems guaranteed. Rest depends on their centrality of interests. On west Iran whose relationship with Pakistan oscillates between good and bad. At the moment relations are strained. With our participation in Saudi led Alliance, these are likely to remain unpredictable. In a nutshell, situation around us is grim, making Pakistan a sandwich between its two long boarders. It places extra premium on our national security.
National security has two parts; external power and internal strength however, it essentially depends on internal strength. Even diplomacy begins at home. Its tangibles include military power, economy, state institutions and critical infrastructure. The intangibles are ideology, leadership and domestic cohesion. Pakistan maintains effective Armed Forces and credible nuclear deterrent to safeguard its ideological and territorial integrity against external and internal threats. They are in good stud. Their resounding success during Zarb-i-Azb is its latest manifestation however, national security is not exclusive to Armed Forces alone. It is an undertaking of whole nation. Other components of national power need to feed on them to remain current. The breaks and digressions, take the toll of its own.
Economy of a country is a keystone in its arc of national security. Indirectly it contributes greatly by generating resources to that end. Besides, self-sustained economy keeps country free of foreign dictates. Notwithstanding claim of government; economy in up gear, it stands angularly on crutches of debt. It is so huge and insupportable that people have started talking about debt trap being laid for Pakistan. Unwittingly or unwittingly we continue to slide in uninterruptedly. When a debt exceeds beyond repayment capacity of a country, its sovereignty is compromised and so as national security. In economics, GDP grows only when something extra is produced. We produce nothing special. Our exports are declining and imports are climbing with huge gap in between. Our economy shoots or sinks on mere whispering because it rests on speculations. This is reason that no trickledown effect has ever been seen. We promenade with hat in our hand before doorsteps of international financial institutions to secure lifesaving tranche and favourable endorsement.
Often their generosity correspondingly depends on whims and fancy of big powers who virtually control them. Nations get loans but to spend with maximum effectiveness to break shackles of backwardness. We squander them in corruption and grandiose construction projects of far lesser priority but instant glorification. Vehicles can move on poorly built road but no electricity could be produced from poorly commissioned power plants. Nadipur and Quaid-i-Azam solar plant are its cruel examples. Probably this is reason of love for construction projects. Our course of development accentuates our woes instead of alleviating them. It overburdens our economy because expenditure outweighs its returns. Our economy is in serious danger of collapsing under its crushing weight. This is a major worry particularly, when dangers around us are looming large.
National institutions are warps and weft of the state. Our institutions are in state of paralysis because of political appointments, ineptitude, corruption, indifference, apathy and neglect. National Action Plan has nearly become a causality at their hands. Instead of supplementing a national undertaking, they act as a drag. The critical infrastructure is also in disarray i.e. emergency services, energy sector, logistic means and public healthcare etc. State of intangible is also equally alarming. Ideological appeal is a major stimulus of national power. Since recent past, ideology is being marginalized on the name of liberalism and moderation. Extremism and violence have created deep fissures in national polity. Their centres continue to pedal hate and divide. Law and order in the country is fragile because of threat of terrorism and organized crimes. Blind luck favors those who keep their guard up, not those who remain under sloth and stagnation. Presently we are inanely willing to rest content on a roller coaster to disaster.
In 1971, with dismemberment of country, Pakistan was half and a sandwich as it is now. India took Pakistan down and out but here was the leadership; Zulifikar Ali Bhutto. He was prepared to fight for thousand years. He vowed to eat grass if necessary to make atom bomb. He did not fail the nation. Soon Pakistan was out of the quagmire. Leadership at today is diametrically opposed to what Bhutto had; intellect, fire and resolve. They have come into power, riding on buggy of Charter of Democracy, signed under US’s auspices. The country could only go downhill under their watch if past is the guide. Government ought to lead national security but they have gleefully outsourced it to Army. Foreign policy is first line of defence against external aggression. This is too with them. It is a wilful abdication of responsibility. Ironically they have time for mass visas to American, Memogate scandal, Dawn leak and backdoor diplomacy. These have certainly diluted national security.
— The writer, retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.