Security Affairs

The Emerging National Security Challenges for Pakistan

The geopolitical situation around Pakistan has rapidly changed over the past few years, and may continue to change at a more rapid rate in the coming years. Most of the developments in the South Asian region, mainly Afghanistan and India, have created malign effects on our security. Similarly, collapse of several states in the Middle East and raging fires of sectarian and proxy civil wars present difficult choices for the country. It is not for the first time that Pakistan is facing the effects of conflicts in other countries and Indian aggressiveness. This time around however, the security situation internally and externally appears to be relatively more complex than in the previous decades. How and why the emerging security environment presents dangers? What visible or invisible threats can we face or might face in the coming months and years? Are there any connections between the internal elements engaged in conflicts and foreign powers? How these threats are different from the past? What are the options for Pakistan to effectively deal with the security threats? These are some of the questions that I would like to address.


Externally, there are three sets of threats that may imperil Pakistan’s security though in varying degrees. We may also divide them into three rough categories — traditional, unconventional and radical. India as a state presents a traditional threat chiefly in the old mold — a state directly threatening the state through the use or threat of using military force. At the moment, prospects for a dialogue or even some talks to restart the dialogue are virtually dead. Our efforts to get India in the negotiation process have continuously failed. Neither our bilateral persuasion nor gentle influence of common Western friends has worked. Rather, the Indians have become belligerent in posture, language and diplomatic actions. The Indians continue to violate the ceasefire agreement for the past two years. Routinely they fire into the villages that has resulted into regular loss of human life and property. The civilian as well as the security establishment of India has been consistently talking about ‘limited war’, ‘teaching Pakistan a lesson’ and that they have prepared to move forces to the border rapidly. It is nothing but warmongering. Realistically, no nation, let alone Pakistan that has faced Indian aggression thrice, can take such statement, posturing and language of war so lightly.


Pakistan has adequately prepared to defeat the Indian aggressive doctrine of ‘Cold Start’. The first lesson of strategy is to know what the adversary can possibly do, what are its targets and what are to be its likely means. No other country can understand the Indian mind in this respect better than Pakistan, as the country has been the focus of our security calculations, military planning and strategic vision. In case of India, there should be no room for any confusion about how to achieve peace, security and stability. In this traditional equation, military power and means must form the core of everything from deterrence to war fighting capability. Any slackness in this respect will increase the chances of Indian aggressiveness. Why is India so aggressive today? Why the hope of peace and stability in the wake of nuclear weapons capability has faded? I have three sets of explanations. First, the Indian security establishment finds itself in a quandary, mainly because of delusionary thinking. They cannot digest the reality of a nuclear weapon Pakistan. Not only it responded bang by bang but with more sophisticated one. To rub salt into their psychological wounds, it is now able to declare and effectuate a full-spectrum deterrence. They are thinking of ways and means of how to inflict considerable damage on Pakistan by conventional military means without provoking a nuclear conflict. Well, India is not in a position to control or dominate the escalatory ladders in any perceived or real conflict. Actually, war always takes unpredictable paths. But one thing that should be effectively conveyed to the Indian side is that Pakistan will use every weapon, resource and instrument to defeat Indian aggression.


The second set or reasons of Indian aggressiveness relates to the character of the present BJP government and its leader Mr. Modi. Their political socialization lies in anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim sentiments. They have grown with hatred for Pakistan. That is only one side of their political creed. The other equally dangerous thing is megalomaniac vision of India — a great power. Negatively, their greatness rests on bringing the region, the countries around them into their influence. Pakistan has stood out firm and strong for independence and equality. Only on these principles would Pakistan develop any relations with India. The Modi Sarkar pushed the agenda of peace and reconciliation as far as it could. And the signs are that it would continue to create troubles on the borders and beyond unless saner elements within India gain influence to push the BJP off this dangerous path. Third, the BJP government sees Pakistan finally coming out of the internal security problems that have badly damaged Pakistan for the past eight years. Pakistan has fought two insurgencies in Balochistan and FATA simultaneously and have finally taken on the forces of political militancy and violence in Karachi. Practically these forces have been defeated, defanged or forced to disintegrate. All of them have had some connection with the Indian efforts to keep Pakistan unstable. In assessing the Indian mind, we should pose this question — does it want our attention diverted to the borders, and a war, hoping that its proxies will get time and energy to regroup and pose the same challenges?


The Indian proxies pose essentially an internal threat, unconventional in the form of terrorism, militancy and insurgency. Enemies always exploit internal failings and vulnerabilities, and India, for decades, has made connections with internal elements that had cultivated a narrative of grievances. Some of them have entered the legitimate arena of popular, democratic politics, and now claim public support. The mainstream political parties in their own number-game to form government have been aligned with some of them. It is no secret anymore how they have used the agency of power to create wider and deeper space for the Indian agents to ignite ethnic, religious and sectarian conflict. Pakistan will have to address the Indian dimensions of our internal security as an urgent matter with full force of law, institutions and the state to get them out of the deadly business. No state can expect to stay peaceful or stable with such elements at work to destabilize a country.


Deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan poses yet another external threat to the security of Pakistan. Most of the troubles that we face in FATA and beyond are fallout of perpetual warfare in this country for the last 37 years. Pakistan has been greatly damaged by the Afghan wars from Soviet-era Mujahideen war to the present episode of external intervention that one part of Afghanistan loves and admires as international assistance for state and nation-building, while the other part resists and fights against it. It is repetition of the same divisions we witnessed during the Soviet intervention — one Afghanistan invited the Soviets in, stood with them to the end, while the other Afghanistan waged a holy war to defeat them. These are serious fault-lines of Afghanistan that prevent any meaningful negotiations and settlement. The danger is that Afghanistan may deteriorate into the warlordism resulting into the collapse of the state and civil war. Pakistan on its part must try its best to help Afghanistan come out of the war, staying peaceful, unified and coherent and independent enough to deny its space to any of its neighbours to play mini ‘great games’. The internal challenges to Pakistan’s security may roughly be classified as sectarian extremism, Taliban insurgency, Baloch separatism and political violence. The trouble is that all of these challenges Pakistan must confront at the same time. Some of these violent elements have been active for decades. Sectarian conflict has old historical roots but in the present form its resurgence and lethality is consequence and more appropriately extension of the sectarian divide in the Middle East and Iran-Saudi rivalry. Many other Arab states within the region have also been funding these organizations. As a state and society we have been slow, unfocused and inconsistent in eliminating sectarian terrorism. Under the renewed consensus and energy behind the National Action Plan we see great progress made against the sectarian organizations and their leaders. For the first time we see a steely resolve in the security institutions to defeat them. There is much to be done from reforming school curriculum, and madrassa education to improving police capacity and intelligence to thwart the designs of the sectarian militants.


The Baloch insurgency has many internal and external forces that feed into it. Even some of our traditional friends in the Arab region are reported to have given assistance to some of the Baloch insurgents with the purpose of disrupting work on the Gwadar Port. The grand vision of the port as futuristic and rival to ports across the Gulf and its role in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has generated an unfounded fear of competition. Some of the powers, like India, have pursued a consistent strategy of destabilizing this region where they have found some elements willing to align and do their job. Against many odds, Pakistan has succeeded in developing a sense of political ownership among the Baloch. We have a popularly elected government in Balochistan, headed by the dominant section of the nationalists. They have and are being integrated into the mainstream of Pakistan’s power structure. They see a great benefit in the mega development projects for the province and the Baloch people. In the meantime, the security forces have succeeded in eliminating the terror networks. A three-pronged strategy is required in Balochistan that may include development and ownership of that development by the Baloch. It means putting their leaders in the driving seat. Second, political dialogue and reconciliation with every group that has taken up arms with persuasive logic of ownership, resolutions of issues to the satisfaction of all sides and amnesty for giving up arms struggle. This may also include compensation for the losses. Third, minimal use of force when it is unavoidable. Balochistan is changing for the good with more youth coming into educational network and opportunities for job, training and business opening up. More good is to happen as some of the CPEC projects begin to take off. The key word is inclusion and ownership of the Baloch in turning the fortunes of the region around.


Lastly, the unending and multi-front wars of the Middle East with too many diverse forces both internal to the region and external involved in them present dangers to Pakistan’s security. We took a good decision of not being a part of the Arab coalition in its war in Yemen. This has been our consistent policy to stay neutral in wars between or among Muslim states. The danger however is that sectarian divide of the Middle East and rival patronage of it by Iran and Saudi Arabia that have formed their rival camps may get extended to Pakistan. We should make every effort that it is not. The first step was that as a state we don’t get into it. The next step is that we deny our social, political and religious space to them to play their power games here.

The writer is an eminent defence/political analyst who regularly contributes for print and electronic media. Presently he is on the faculty of LUMS. [email protected]

The word Hindutva first appeared in a 1923 pamphlet, "Who Is a Hindu? written by independence activist Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. But it has really achieved prominence in the last decade with the opening up of the Indian economy, whose social effects have allowed the so-called Sangh (family of Hindu organizations) to flourish. They include the RSS, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), and the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or World Hindu Council). But the RSS, founded in 1925, is the mother organization, a vast and, in some sense, informal, volunteer-driven self-help corps. Chauthaiwale, the molecular biologist, explained that the RSS provided a "true Hindu voice lost by the pro-Muslim tilt of the Congress Party. Muslims invaded in earlier centuries. They conquered," he said. "We lost. The British conquered. We lost. We were a defeated society. We needed to come together as Hindus." In the minds of its followers the RSS performed the heroic task of saving many Hindus in Pakistan during the partition in 1947. It was banned after Gandhi was assassinated the next year by a Hindu nationalist, Nathuram Godse, who was linked to the RSS. But in the 1960s, the RSS began to stage a resurgence, entering student movements and, in particular, getting involved in social betterment programs, much like the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East. It initiated humanitarian projects in the Hindu tribal areas, and sought to eliminate untouchability, so as to make Hindus more equal among themselves. As the prestige of the Congress Party waned in the 1970s, that of the RSS grew. The BJP was formed to promote RSS ideals at the national political level. All the human rights groups with which I visited in Gujarat, both Hindu and Muslim, called the RSS a fascist organization, which, behind its veneer of humanitarian assistance to fellow Hindus, has a "cultural nationalist" agenda. After the 2001 earthquake here, the RSS reportedly provided relief to Hindu families only.

The throbbing heart of the RSS is the pracharaks '(propagators, or propagandists). They spread the word of the RSS. They are usually un-married, and give up their lives to the organization, living sparely, inspiring hundreds of workers while trying to remain faceless themselves, in a deliberate attempt to eliminate their own egos. They are like a priesthood, except that the average pracharak serves only two or three years before marrying and resuming a normal life. Narendra Modi is unusual. Born in Gujarat in 1950 into a middle-level caste, he was a pracharak for almost a decade before becoming chief minister in late 2001. Modi is unmarried and lives alone. His has been a life devoted to the RSS.

(Robert D. Kaplan, Monsoon, The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power, p 104-105)

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