Our security challenges & unmatching political culture | By Naseem Akhtar Khan


Our security challenges & unmatching political culture

EVERY year on 23 March, we celebrate and this year too, we witnessed a grand show of national unity and military might, as a befitting eye-opener to our adversaries.

However, this year we could also feel some sort of despondency which we had not felt before.

A group of so-called political pundits kept themselves aloof and remained busy to destabilize the incumbent political set-up and discredit the national institutions through an engineered agitational politics, with ulterior motives and foreign support.

Most of the readers may call this “a very loose statement” but a small panama type leak can expose each one of them, in no time.

Exploitation of religion with foreign funding, not only threaten our national interests, but it is harming the religion itself.

Ideal geo-strategic location at crossroads of Asia, providing an outlet to Central Asian Republics, China, and Russia to the Arabian Sea for their easterly and westerly connections, has made Pakistan a playground for all the stakeholders in the region.

Although, we were able to successfully meet most of the challenges that we confronted, especially, the menace of terrorism/extremism, yet we continue to face a complex security landscape.

Some of these challenges are the consequence of country’s past policies while, others have resulted from structural causes of the current regional/international developments.

Complexity of these security challenges include military, political, societal, economic and information/communication technology, all having internal as well as external linkages in one way or the other.

Military threat to Pakistan rapidly expanded during the last two decade, from the state-centric Indian conventional threat at the eastern borders to a trans-border asymmetric threat from the western front, altering the dynamics of our national security paradigm.

Mistrust, hatred & animosity coupled with Indian rising stature and global relevance, has hardened her stance on Kashmir and other teething issues with Pakistan.

Recent signs of her rapprochement to develop working relationship with Pakistan, also seems to be a gimmick to calm down up-rising in Khalistan Movement, curb down separatist tendencies in some other parts of the country and consolidate her soft space with the US.

Indian involvement in Baluchistan, Tribal Belt (former FATA) and Northern Areas, to promote sub nationalism/proxy war, continues unabated.

Growing importance of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) in the global power politics and presence of stronger Indian maritime forces in the neighbourhood, are also a matter of concern.

Afghanistan in collaboration with India, presents another serious security challenge to tackle.

Deployment of a series of Indian Consulates all along Pak-Afghan and Pak-Iran borders, facilitating RAW’s operations in Pakistan, aggravates the seriousness of the situation.

A successful completion of Afghan transition and improved bilateral relationship shall be a great challenge.

Bigger powers always have a comprehensive long-term strategy, prepared for each region/state, which is executed according to a time frame. It is only at tactical level that these plans are altered to meet the contingencies.

Unfortunately, the US has always used Pakistan as an instrument to support their strategic/tactical manoeuvres, often ignoring the interests of Pakistan, itself.

Pragmatic policy in balancing relations with major powers like USA, China, Russia and other regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, will be a challenging task.

In the context of a comprehensive approach to security, domestic conflicts also become a major challenge to national security.

Internally, un-matching political culture, corrupt leadership, weak governance, sectarian/ethnic divide, provincialism/regionalism, fragile government institutions and weak economy, have been our major fault lines. Foreign players have virtually become a rider clause in each case.

Pakistan has been through an age of turbulence, mainly due to poor governance vis-a-vis unmatching political culture, which produces the people with power to put plans and actions into effects.

Political parties lack internal democracy and rely on patron-client networks and their politics resolves around inheritance/family patterns.

The political system controlled by feudalists and industrialists, is a complete elite capture, converting our Parliament into a farce with parliamentarians acting as power brokers rather than the law makers.

Our education system has lost its meaning and relevance. Religion/sect/ethnicity are used to exploit the emotions of the people.

Government institutions are politicized, corrupted and divided. Unfortunately, our judicial system also falls much short of the proclamations of equal justice for all.

Exploiting loopholes in our internal realm, our foreign adversaries have developed strong in-roads amongst various segments of our society to expand their agenda. Resultantly, we have a two front war scenario at hand.

While we have a huge number of foreign adversaries to counter, we have brigades of enemies within, to contain.

Treacherous and negative use of information media, ranging from cultural derailing to faulty perception management, is spreading despondency in the society.

Military diplomacy has become an international norm, perhaps as important as the geopolitical diplomacy.

Resultantly, the armies of today, have an important supporting role to play in country’s decision making, particularly, in security arena.

Management of civil military relations has however, been a persistent challenge in Pakistani politics, mainly due to misconceptions/lack of trust.

It may be recalled that a Chief of Army Staff was forced to resign by the then Prime Minister, for discussing the role of National Security Council at an event at Pakistan Naval Staff College.

It is encouraging to note that lately, the leaders from both sides seem to have developed meaningful understanding and consensus on result-oriented security policies with potent input from military diplomatic efforts.

This positive vibe, despite enormous challenges, has the potential for altering the course of the history.

The negative forces, however, are trying to prevent that from happening through a well-thought-out blame game.

The existing form of governance does not provide a sustainable platform to confront our national and international challenges.

It needs to shift towards a system that is found in more consonance with our political culture.

We all need to understand that democracy is more than just a set of government institutions and identical practices.

Rather, it is based on a well- understood set of norms, values, mindset, and practices. However, their interpretation may differ amongst diverse traditions/civilizations.

Disharmony between our political culture with the system in place, has created an atmosphere of frustration amongst the various tiers of the governance.

Most of our democratically elected leaders often choose to become dictators after being elected while, the military dictators preferred to become a democrat after they took over and, in the process, both lost their grip on the governance.

Recipe to problems is a tailor-made system, free of contradictory and undemocratic behaviours of the political elite.

The situation may appear gloomy under the prevailing environments, but we always have potential to make a comeback.

“It is always darkest just before the dawn”. More than ever before, this is time for “unity, faith and discipline”.

Together, we have always stood taller, and together, we shall prevail today, tomorrow and forever… In Sha Allah!
— The writer is Security Management Professional, based in the UAE.