National and International Issues

National Security: Our Challenges and Prospects

The Conceptual Aspects of Security
While defining security, an immediate response one gets is a state of freedom from insecurity, danger and threat. Conceptually, security is a contested concept, having wider meanings at different levels and under different scenarios. At the social level, security is about protecting people from all forms of prevalent and perilous threats which emanate from uncertain political situations, social inequities and uncertainties, economic vulnerabilities, environmental hazards or cultural relativism.
At the state level, security is used in a wider concept where the state is concerned as well as responsible for the safety and protection of its masses from all threats, especially rival forces (competing states). It is called wider national security, which also encompasses the concept of human security. National security, at the state level, is a comprehensive security concept indeed which takes into consideration all aspects of a state. There is yet another concept of security; international security, also known as global security. The concept is broader in scope and superior in epitome. Global security refers to measures taken by states and international organizations for ensuring mutual survival, safety and security of the international society as a whole. The concept is closer to the core values of human security which means “protecting the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedom and human fulfilment.”1 It is built on those measures and progressions that accentuate people’s strengths and desires. 
Linking the State and Security 
The state is a basic unit in International Relations and the prevalent international system. Theoretically, the international system is composed of sovereign states (nation states) as its actors. The concept has its origin in the Peace of Westphalia, 1648, with the uniqueness of state’s sovereignty over its territory and its domestic affairs. Indeed, this is the binding principle of the Charter of United Nations Organization (UNO) and International Law, gaining wide-ranging international recognition upon the conclusion of World War II (WWII) and establishment of UNO in 1945.
The establishment of UNO was a well thought out phenomenon in the context that even the victors of this war were not in a state to fight another devastating war similar to WWI and WWII. Nevertheless, in order to maintain the perpetuity of wars, there appeared another format of warfare with the name of Cold War. The beginning of this exploitative natured war was between the two former allies and victors of WWII. The two dominant superpowers of this war were the United States of America and former Soviet Union. There existed political hostility between these two superpowers, and countries of their respective camps, for over forty-five years (1945-1991).
Chronological Order of Security Threats 
Cold War was mainly characterized by proxy wars; provoking insurgencies; military and nuclear threats short of a major war; well-articulated propaganda; and provocative military invasions. There were two major features of the Cold War: geopolitical influence into each other’s areas of influence and attempts to ideologically dominate and reject each other’s political philosophy. During the entire Cold War period, both superpowers made excessive use of the geopolitics of their allies for attaining political mileage and strategic advantages. 
Pakistan was a state whose geopolitics had great significance and strategic attraction for both superpowers. Former Soviet Union made successive attempts to reach over to warm waters through regions that now form part of Pakistan during British rule in the Indian subcontinent and even thereafter. On the other hand, as guardians of the Capitalist ideology, United States found Pakistan’s geopolitics as most suitable to counter the influence of the Communist ideology. The origin of security issues, for the state and society of Pakistan, have their roots in the Cold War conflict between the U.S. and Soviet Union. The instigation and provocation for creating various forms of instabilities within Pakistan were planned, funded and executed from outside the frontiers of Pakistan, making use of its neighborhood. 
The strategies used against Pakistan were mainly in the form of initiation of revolts and sub-nationalism, especially in the province of Balochistan.2 The process is still being continued with an enhanced number of insecurities and subversive activities, all backed and controlled by various power centres, located regionally as well as globally. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), former North-West Frontier Province, separatist movements like Pashtunistan were initiated and constantly triggered for decades.3  
Although Pakistan’s borders were very well defined at the time of partition, such movements were specifically aimed to destabilize the state of Pakistan. As a buffer state, Afghanistan became a hub for conspiracies against Pakistan, much before the decolonization of the subcontinent. Afghanistan was the first country which refused to recognize Pakistan upon its independence in 1947. In former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), hatred against the state and sub-nationalism was systematically sown among the local masses until its separation in 1971.
The foes of Pakistan did not spare the well-read and most patriotic people of urban Sindh (Karachi and Hyderabad) either. In the decade of 1980 and 1990, foreign spying networks misled the devoted youth in the metropolitan city of Karachi and Hyderabad to undertake subversive activities and vicious violence against the state, innocent masses and state institutions. Unfortunately, there has been active participation of some local political forces which were motivated, backed and funded by the same elements that sponsored militancy against the state of Pakistan in the form of violence and sub-nationalism. While enjoying the perks and privileges of the state, these political-cum-militant forces have been overtly demonstrating their allegiance to their sponsor states, whose historical animosity with Pakistan has never been a secret. 
Causative Features Challenging the Security: Confluence of Geopolitics and Ideology 
The security challenges facing the state and society of Pakistan can largely be attributed to the geopolitical location of Pakistan and its ideological basis. Indeed, Pakistan ideally fits into the Pivot State concept, which is based on the Heartland Theory of Sir Halford John Mackinder, an English geographer. As discussed above, the security challenges faced by Pakistan today have their origin in the Cold War era, where the United States and former Soviet Union used the geopolitical location of pivotal states under their influence for their respective national and strategic interests. Since Pakistan was a key ally of the United States, under various agreements and military pacts during critical stages of the Cold War, therefore the opposite camp and its allies made all efforts to destabilize Pakistan from all possible avenues of security.
Apart from the anti-U.S. Cold War alliances, which considered themselves duty-bound to exploit Pakistan’s vulnerabilities, Washington and other Western powers did not spare any opportunity to negatively affect Pakistan’s interests regionally and globally. In the disintegration of Pakistan in 1971, the U.S. played a pliant role by not supporting Pakistan militarily (the scandalous 7th Fleet), neither did they make any attempt at the political and diplomatic level. As per Pentagon’s secret cablegrams, later declassified and made public by Jack Anderson, The New York Times columnist,4 the 7th Fleet which never reached to save East Pakistan till the fall of Dhaka on December 16, 1971 was otherwise aimed to evacuate the Americans. 
On the other hand, the Pacific Fleet5 of former Soviet Union was present in the Indian Ocean to support the Indian aggression against East Pakistan on December 5, 1971. Apart from Pakistan’s geopolitics, its ideology (based on the Two-nation Theory) was the main target by all; Soviet Union, India and U.S.-led Western powers. The disintegration of East Pakistan was a well planned out mission, proposed by India and consented by other world powers to create an ideological dilemma and geopolitical setback. No Pakistani can forget the statement of Ms. Indira Gandhi, Indian Prime Minister at the time of Pakistan’s disintegration, “We have drowned the Two-nation Theory in the Bay of Bengal.” Geopolitically, everyone wanted a trimmed Pakistan, free from religious basis and weak from the security perspective, just defensive militarily, unable to manage its economic needs while remaining politically unstable and socially vulnerable for an easy external influence. 
T. V. Paul, author of the book The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World, clearly describes two opposing dimensions of the geopolitically pivotal state of Pakistan. He wrote that, on the one hand, geopolitics is a blessing for Pakistan whereas on the other it has become a curse; in fact it has simultaneously become a blessed and cursed6 state. It is a scenario similar to the Middle Eastern oil states where oil became the central reason for regional turmoil ever since its discovery. It is the Resource Curse7 Theory, which involves the substantial economic, social, security and political challenges for these states. The oil and gas rich states of Middle East and African continent are facing serious security and economic issues. Most of these states have failed to accrue the benefits of socioeconomic development rather falling prey to intra-state and inter-state conflicts on the behest of core states, which take away their resources by alluring their autocratic ruling elites. 
Unfortunately, Pakistan could not really cash the blessings of its geopolitically pivotal position in its entire history. Rather its sufferance is still continuing on account of its geopolitically position. The last allegation; a sufferance, being the Western and Indian blame game on account of Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan on August 15, 2021. This is despite playing a decisive role against the Global War on Terror for the last two decades (2001-2021), where it suffered a loss of over 80,000 human lives and USD 149 billion in economical terms. Despite the sacrifices and sufferings, Pakistan is being criticized and victimized by the U.S.-led Western international community just because of its geopolitical positioning, ideological moorings, declining to accept the U.S. and Indian dictates, and above all, its strong relationship and cooperation with China. 
The Contemporary Security Challenges 
The contemporary security challenges facing Pakistan is an extension of its past security dilemmas, predicaments and causative features as mentioned above. The Global War on Terror was a well-planned strategic offensive that was indirectly launched to target the Pakistani state, society and security institutions. The desired end result of these strategic planners was to convert Pakistan into a state similar to Iraq, Libya, Syria, or at maximum a client state. By definition, a client state is a subordinate state to some powerful state from all perspectives: politically, militarily and economically.
The American Armed Forces Journal, published by Pentagon, however, made the covert plan overt in its 2006 edition and later through a series of international conferences, lectures, drawing of maps, economic sanctions, and military, political and diplomatic exploits. In his article titled, Blood Borders: How a better Middle East would look, Colonel Ralph Peters depicted the future map of Pakistan as a country minus the provinces of Balochistan and KP. “What Afghanistan would lose to Persia in the west, it would gain in the east, as Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier tribes would be reunited with their Afghan brethren.... Pakistan, another unnatural state, would also lose its Baluch territory to Free Baluchistan. The remaining "natural" Pakistan would lie entirely east of the Indus, except for a westward spur near Karachi.”8
This, along with other strategic planning which was to be implemented, have been reversed and defeated by the bold and professional Armed Forces of Pakistan in the last two decades. Such a setback and demeaning blow to the well-planed events was never anticipated by the architects of this strategy. Indeed, they well-conceived and wargamed the dynamics of the recent wars and conflicts, and its results over Pakistan, much before putting them into practice. The more alarming aspect for them was a series of events they planned and succeeded through military campaigning and strategic planning against the Middle Eastern and African states. Today, these states; Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and many African states are suffering a great turmoil due to the geopolitical machinations by the so-called free world. 
What made the difference is the real question of this entire debate on security challenges to Pakistan. The professionalism, dedication, military experience and expertise, trust on leadership, esprit de corps and able stewardship by the professional leaders made Pakistan military’s outfit as unique, honored and successful among its peers. The peers include 150,000 highly professional military outfits of forty-eight countries including the United States and NATO, named as International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF), deployed in Afghanistan. The role of military commanders (operational and field commanders) during this entire War on Terror was more obvious, gallant, decisive and leading from the front. The number of officers martyred during the last two decades of this war compared to other ranks remained highest in the world. The military leadership demonstrated the highest quality of teamwork, integrity, persistence, bravery, curiosity, innovation, creativity and self-regulation. 
Exploitation of Domestic Fault Lines 
Failing to attain their strategic objectives, the rival powers are all set to activate elements within Pakistan that can trigger conflicts based on ethnicity, sectarianism, provincialism, sub-nationalism, misconceived religious ideologies like TTP and create social unrest at the domestic level. Domestically, there are many political forces (religiopolitical and ethnopolitical) which can act as an instrument for the foreign spying networks in a bid to achieve their political mileage against the current political set-up. The worst form of security challenge is a well-orchestrated defamation campaign against Pakistan Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which has already been launched by rival powers through their tools within and outside Pakistan.
This is an indirect strategy of targeting Pakistan’s military and its intelligence services. It has a wider and broader implication; a blame game aimed to create hatred against them and among the masses. This is the format of hybrid warfare, implemented through modern and sophisticated tools, involving media, academia, intellectuals and even members of the civil society. Indeed, the failure of U.S., NATO and India in Afghanistan, where they had their common strategic objectives to pursue, was hard to digest for all of them. After their hasty pullout from Kabul, they have resumed the old blame game against Pakistan for supporting the Taliban. As a consequence of their setbacks, they are now attacking Pakistan’s military and its premium intelligence services through media and hybrid warfare. These are the severe and perilous dimensions of security challenges faced by the state and society of Pakistan. 
The External Fronts of Security
The external security challenges include the evolving situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has just taken over the country after two decades of relentless war against foreign forces and an ineffective Kabul regime. Pakistan facilitated the peace agreement signed between U.S. and the Taliban on February 29, 2020. Until the formation of a broad-based government along with the restoration of durable peace and stability in Afghanistan, Pakistan will remain apprehensive with numerous security challenges from its Western frontiers.
For the last two decades, there has been repeated usage of Afghan soil against Pakistan where the NDS-RAW nexus has caused irreparable loss to Pakistan from the perspective of human casualties and economy. The unsettled dispute of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K) is another constant security challenge for Pakistan. After the illegal and unilateral annexation of IIOJ&K in August 2019 as union territories, the situation in the occupied state has further deteriorated. There are massive human rights violations and demographic changes being undertaken by occupying Indian forces in IIOJ&K.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a constant target of India, and also suffers negative view by the United States and other Western allies. Due to the failure to raise any legal query against this gigantic economic project, rival spying agencies of hostile countries have started attacking engineers and labourers working at various sites of CPEC. Terrorist attack against the Chinese workers in July 2021 at Dasu hydropower project and later an attack on a convoy carrying Chinese officials in Gwadar Port area in August 2021 is a clear indication of foreign terrorism in Pakistan against CPEC and its related projects. It is likely that there would be many more such types of terrorist attacks by frustrated foreign spying networks through betrayed elements within Pakistan. 
The China-U.S. rivalry has many security implications for Pakistan. In view of the rising power of China at the global level, U.S. strategic planners – along with India – are all set to take countermeasures to block the growing Chinese influence at the regional level as well as the global level. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a global project of economic connectivity and China’s worldwide influence. CPEC is the pilot project of BRI where China is pinning a lot of hope. Moreover, CPEC is a project of regional connectivity and economic prosperity for Pakistan which cannot be compromised at any cost.
A Few Thoughts on the Way Forward
Indeed, the security challenges facing Pakistan today are severe and need a comprehensive national strategy for an apt and durable resolution of these issues. In this regard, the government, political forces and state institutions need to work together in a close collusion and association. These security issues are directly concerned with the fundamental national interests of Pakistan. Indeed, there are domestic security challenges which have their direct linkages with external factors that manipulate them for their benefit, and to the disadvantage of the Pakistani state, its society and institutions.
These security challenges have their origin in socioeconomic vulnerabilities, which external forces conveniently exploit by making contact with the deprived, alienated and aggrieved communities. The government must work out a strategy to address the socioeconomic vulnerabilities of such areas and communities along with ethnically, religiously and socially alienated groups from Pakistan’s society. A stringent implementation of such measures would close the doors for foreign, as well as local exploiters, from exploiting Pakistani masses on any ground in the future.
In order to minimize the impact of hybrid war, where Pakistani military and its intelligence organization is constantly being targeted by hostile international spying networks, there is a need to launch an awareness campaign among the masses and academic institutions about the magnificent role played by these national outfits for the national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan. The sanctity of military institutions and national intelligence organizations must be maintained and respected by everyone in Pakistan.
The lawmakers and parliamentarians of Pakistan must debate all the fundamental issues of national interest and national security of Pakistan in the parliament (maybe in camera where needed). The Kashmir dispute needs a comprehensive and unyielding national policy which should be based on the UN resolutions and right to self-determination for the people of Kashmir, with the consensus of all political forces of Pakistan.
There is also need to have a consistent and workable policy for CPEC. The policy must take into consideration the national interest, regional integration of developed and underdeveloped parts of the country and an equal share of all provinces in CPEC related projects. The underdeveloped areas of Balochistan and its youth must get a large share in all CPEC and Gwadar Port development projects. In view of the evolving situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan must facilitate the formation of a broad-based government as per the aspiration of Afghan masses and stakeholders. Besides, the wider issue of national sovereignty and foreign policy of Pakistan should be well debated in the parliament and relevant institutions for developing consensus of all political forces and national institutions.


The writer is currently a Professor of Politics and International Relations at International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI).
E-mail: [email protected]


1.   Luke Johns, A Critical Evaluation of the Concept of Human Security, July 5, 2014. https://www.e-ir.info/2014/07/05/a-critical-evaluation-of-the-concept-of-human-security/
2.   Zeus Hans Mendez, Repression and Revolt in Balochistan: The Uncertainty and Survival of a People’s National Aspirations, Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs (Fall 2020), Pp 43-57. https://media.defense.gov/2020/Aug/31/2002488092/-1/-1/1/MENDEZ.PDF.
3.   Faridullah Bezhan, The Pashtunistan Issue and Politics in Afghanistan, 1947-1952, Middle East Journal, Vol. 68, No. 2 (Spring 2014), pp. 197-209. https://www.jstor.org/stable/43698155.
4.   Bernard Gwertzman, 7th Fleet Task Force Ends Patrol in the Indian Ocean, The New York Times, January 11, 1972, https://www.nytimes.com/1972/01/11/archives/7th-fleet-task-force-ends-patrol-in-the-indian-ocean-u-force.html
5.   Zorawar Daulet Singh, Calling the U.S. Bluff in 1971, The Hindu, December 19, 2019. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/calling-the-uss-bluff-in-1971/article30341831.ece.
6.   T.V Paul, The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World Paperback, Oxford University Press (New York-2014). https://books.google.com.pk/books/about/The_Warrior_State.html?id=IYBeAQAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&hl=en&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false.
7.   The Resource Curse: The Political and Economic Challenges of Natural Resource Wealth, Natural Resource Governance Institute, March 2015. https://resourcegovernance.org/sites/default/files/nrgi_Resource-Curse.pdf
8.   Blood Border: How a better Middle East would look, Armed Forces Journal, Pentagon, June 1, 2006.

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