People of Pakistan, its Armed Forces and the Law Enforcement Agencies have been able to deny success to the forces of disorder and restore order significantly. This unique feat is unparalleled in contemporary world where terrorism mostly succeeded in destroying the states, institutions, peoples and societies. This all came through paying a huge cost in men and material. Not complacency, but the success demands reinvigorated spirits and efforts to rebuild/reclaim the lost spaces. Of course, the regained security, peace and stability would not operate and succeed in isolation. A prosperous and peaceful Pakistan in the long run demands a stable economy, institutional stability and autonomy, and merit based rule of law. The security and stability of a modern day nation-state is deeply intertwined with economic stability. The sudden collapse of the erstwhile Soviet Union is a recent example where a withered economy became a major cause of the disintegration. Therefore, despite other positive indicators, any federal state needs the economic glue to keep the various federating units intact.
The decade-long War on Terror fought by Pakistan imposed a new set of costs on our economy as terrorism is designed to impose costs through economic and social disruption, frightening consumers so that they stay away from shopping districts, or destroying key parts of the financial infrastructure. Pakistan has weathered this storm in significant part because of the ballast provided by the law enforcement agencies as they foreclosed attacks from disabling the economy. However, the gains of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fassad, and emerging international and regional geopolitical power play necessitate a robust economy as well as strong security apparatus to safeguard country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It may be noted that an economy relying on ‘borrowed resources’ has direct implications on national security policy making which comes under duress.
The economy and national security should be looked at from both macroeconomic and microeconomic points of view, with the macroeconomic issues centered on the budget and deficit reduction while the microeconomic issues focusing on providing for the general well-being of the people and in supporting other components of national security. Highlighting this interplay, COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa said in a seminar organized by FPCCI and ISPR in Karachi on ‘Interplay of Economy and Security’: “It would not be wrong to say that economy is reflection of quality of our life. It reflects the wealth of a nation, but in doing so, it also indicates the nation’s health, including the strength of its institutions and the trust of its people.” Pakistan can surpass economic challenges as a nation, just as we dealt with the challenge of terrorism. Economic growth of Pakistan requires both sufficient demand on the macroeconomic level and increased productivity at the microeconomic level. Referring to emerging modern-day realities COAS also said, “All nations today are reviewing the old dilemma of “Guns versus Butter”, that is; how to achieve a balance between economic viability and national security. Countries like Pakistan never had the luxury of such a review. We live in one of the most volatile regions of the world, dealing with multiple crises since inception, but increasingly so during the last four decades. Therefore, we must be able to evolve on the way. We have to continuously ensure a viable balance between economy and security. Only then will we arrive at a future that ensures sustained peace and happiness for our people”.
In today’s Pakistan, signs of improvement in realm of security and economy are clearly visible, but we haven't reached the destination yet. It is more important than ever to coordinate economic and national security policies at both the conceptual and operational levels. A time will come that we will be among the successful nation states with our economy profusely integrated into the mainstream of the world economy by charting clear policies, enhanced institutional arrangements, bringing in fiscal discipline and ensuring continuity of viable economic policies.
We as a nation need security and economy prong complementing rather than operating in isolation for long term survival, peace and prosperity of the state.