Lt Gen Raza M Khan (Retd)
WHAT is our national aim and what are the national interests of Pakistan; who determines them and do our policies flow out logically from these??? Though fundamental, such questions rarely echo in our parliament, are ambiguously raised by the media and sporadically by the academia. The constitution of Pakistan provides the following clues on the matter. Pakistan’s national aim is embedded in the preamble to our constitution: ‘—— prosper and attain (a) rightful and honoured place amongst the nations of the world —-‘ : Article 40 of the Constitution stipulates : ‘The State shall endeavour to preserve and strengthen fraternal relations among Muslim countries, promote international peace and security, foster goodwill and friendly relations among all nations and encourage settlement of international disputes by peaceful means’.
These are clear directions for our foreign policy, which must be based on the premise that we have no perpetual allies or permanent enemies and that our interstate relations should be guided primarily by our interests. Other, references to national interests in the constitution includes sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being, economic/ financial stability of Pakistan and the glory of Islam. Article 257 mentions the possibility of a favourable resolution of the Kashmir dispute. These clauses provide guide lines for most of our policies. As derived from the preceding, our national security interests could include prevention, deterrence and reduction of the threats of all forms of aggression; supporting an international system from which we can benefit economically and preventing the emergence of hostile powers or failed states (read: Afghanistan) on our borders.
It must be kept in view that major policies based on these interests must be supported with adequate power, failing which, their pursuance could be held in abeyance, until economic interests, create conducive environments for their achievement. Presently, success of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC) has emerged as a unanimous and key economic interest of Pakistan that needs to be protected and promoted. But economic policies are dependent on the internal policies that primarily aim at ensuring domestic stability, peace and harmony, essentially required for attainment of other policy objectives.
Pakistan’s enemies have declared their intentions at the uppermost level, to undermine the CPEC, as it runs contrary to their interests. They have brazenly admitted the exploitation of our vulnerabilities, such as ethnic and sectarian divisions, political polarization and real or perceived, relative economic deprivation of some segments of our population. Because of this phenomenon and obtaining milieu in south asia, our internal policies have assumed a dominant role in Pakistan.
The National Internal Security Policy (NISP) and the National Action Plan(NAP)are expected to counter these challenges, however, no additional budget has been catered or new taxes imposed for the implementation of the NISP or NAP, at any level of the government. Full observance of the ‘principles of —— equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam’, have also been mandated in the constitution, but none of the 19 ministries of the current federal cabinet, has been assigned this responsibility.
So what should be done to ensure that our policies can permanently serve our interests? First; our law makers and senior bureaucrats who run the country, must read and deeply reflect on the constitutional clauses that pronounce our interests. Two; all politicians, across the political divide, must unanimously support the national interests outlined in the constitution. Three; these interests must constantly be kept above personal or party interests and anything to the contrary must be viewed as treachery. Four; A unanimously agreed list of the national interests, that is based on the constitutional and other considerations should be made public after a thorough debate in the parliament and by the media.
The final list of the national interests should be prioritised as vital, important and peripheral, to act as the foundation of all our actions and policies. Five; Budget allocations should be made and taxes levied on the basis and priorities dictated by national interests and not political expediencies. Protection of vital interests and dominant policies must be allocated greater share of money so that they can make a visible difference. These processes will ensure optimal utilization of scarce resources, through sustainable policies, that have the backing of all political factions and every segment of our society.
Finally, pursuit of national interests must be viewed secondary to all other considerations, except morality. It is the obligation of the state to determine, carefully justify and declare our vital interests. This is an onerous responsibility, which cannot be ignored any longer. It is time that we stop groping in the dark and shun some of our current laissez-faire policies. If politics is the art of the possible, so is policy-making, which must guarantee achievement of our national aspirations, goals of prosperity, security and attainment of a rightful and honoured place for our people, among the nations of the world.
— The writer is former president of National Defence University, Islamabad.