Debating the Concept of National Security in Pakistan

Article Image

In the second half of the twentieth century, human progress in terms of technological advancement reached a point where the military technologies were capable enough to destroy entire human civilization. The threat of nuclear annihilation was so severe that Bernard Brodie, an American military strategist, had to write this famous phrase “Thus far the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on its chief purpose must be to avert them. It can have almost no other useful purpose.” The world was fortunate that it did not face again the horrors of nuclear attacks. Nuclear deterrence and mutually assured destruction dissuaded states from targeting any country with nuclear capability. This nuclear deterrence created a deceitful sense of security in nuclear weapons states that they are invincible. But all these beliefs in nuclear deterrence were shattered with the dawn of the 21st century.

When on September 11, 2001, the most power full state in the world was targeted by terrorists with great effects. The 9/11 incident demonstrates the fact that the nuclear weapons states are no longer invulnerable. They could be targeted directly even by non-state actors. The United States is not the only nuclear-weapon state that faced threats from terrorists. The nuclear weapons state that is most affected in this war against terror was Pakistan. Despite the fact that it had secured itself from aggressive Indian policies by introducing nuclear deterrence. The war on terror cost Pakistan the life of more than 80 thousand people including five thousand military personals and the economic cost was worth $126 billion even though it was successful in defeating this menace of terrorism. This war on terror created a new debate to find the implications of nontraditional threats for the security of a state.

To explain all these phenomena’s first we have to explain the basic concept of security. While sticking to the Westphalian model and considering the state as the primary actor in world politics Security has two basic variants, traditional and nontraditional security. Traditional that was generally stressed throughout history can be simply defined as “Protection of the sovereignty of states from external military threats”. Its historical importance in international politics was highlighted by Kenneth Waltz in the following phrase “Since Thucydides in Greece and Kutaliya in India the use of force and the possibility of controlling it has been the preoccupation of international political studies.” Non Traditional security is simply defined as “Challenges to the survival and well-being of peoples and states that arise primarily out of nonmilitary sources, such as climate change, cross border environmental degradation and resource depletion, infectious disease, natural disasters, irregular migration, food shortages, people smuggling, drug trafficking and other forms of transnational crimes”. Thus the question that came into our mind ‘are these nontraditional threats capable enough to damage the national security of a state?

To explain this question we take here two case studies. The first is the Covid -19 and the second is cybersecurity. The year 2020 once more exposed the countries that were concentrating on traditional security and ignoring non-traditional security threats.  Covid 19 has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and affected millions of people around the globe. More than 10 thousand people died in Pakistan also due to Covid 19. It severely affected the education, health, the economy of many states in the world. States were not prepared to deal with this new kind of challenge. Likewise, Cybersecurity is also challenging the security of states in the contemporary world. Now a malicious code could easily damage a critical infrastructure that is used for both civilian and military purposes. These cyber-attacks could originate from both states and non-state bases including individuals. Moreover, they are not targeted only against military infrastructure, but they also have civilian targets. For example, cyber-attack industrial control systems, like online banking, electric grids, and dams could have serious repercussions for the security of a state. We have already seen cyber-attacks on the critical infrastructure of Iran and Estonia. In Iran, a nuclear reactor was damaged by using malicious code while in Estonia online banking system was clogged due to cyber intrusions. Both of these attacks are classic real-world examples of how nontraditional security threats could easily damage the national security of Pakistan.

Despite this, especially in third world countries, attention is given to only traditional security measures and Pakistan is no exception. Nontraditional security threats were not given due importance in the national security debate.  Lack of research in the field of nontraditional security makes the policy planners believe that these threats do not exist in the real world. As Long ago Noblest Thomas C. Schelling famously said “There is a tendency in our planning to confuse the unfamiliar with the improbable. The contingency we have not considered looks strange; what looks strange is thought improbable; what is improbable need not be taken seriously”.

Therefore, nontraditional security threats in the words of Copenhagen school  “needed to be securitized” in Pakistan to deal with them “immediately and with extraordinary measures”. Because until the threats were not recognized at the national level (even if they are presenting an objective reality) they would not be taken seriously. Eventually, that could have serious ramifications for the security of Pakistan.

There is hope though, recently Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning Moeed Yousuf stated that “Pakistan is going to have a coherent national security policy by the end of this year”. SAPM Moeed Yousuf called it a “Paradigm shift” and promised to include all sectors including “health, economic and human security” in the national security domain.

In a nutshell, the idea to redefine the concept of national security is the need of the hour. But this is not an easy task to do. First of all, we need to change our mindset.  A proper discourse should be generated to preach the benefits of this new policy to not only the policy planners but also to the general public. Secondly, it needs a proper institutional mechanism that needs efficient human and economic resources. The last suggestion is best explained in the word of former US president Barack Obama, as once he said “We cannot continue to rely only on our military to achieve the national security objective that we have set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that is just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded”. To make it more comprehensive, we can say that probably the nature of the threat seems more serious than it was ever before.

IIGSA Newsletter

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more