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The Main Policies of National Security of Pakistan 

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Security is a much debated but less explored concept. Scholars have attempted to explain the concept but there is no clear cut understanding of what actually security is. Its definition changes from actor to actor and from state to state. Pakistan has no exception. The country sees National Security through the lenses of its own strategic and geopolitical construct. Since its independence in 1947, Pakistan has been through different enchanting episodes of history. That’s why; the country has faced distinct insecurities at different periods. This research explores the major National Security challenges faced by Pakistan during the period from 2014 to 2019. It is a very significant period in Pakistan’s history and has witnessed many important chapters like that from a decisive war against terrorism to the recent post Pulwama skirmish with India. Therefore, it becomes vital for the students of the subject to explore in the detail this particular era.

The research has been inspired from the work of venerable scholar of security, David A. Baldwin. It follows the specifications of security discussed by the author in his article “The Concept of Security” published in Review of International Studies in 1997. The paper addresses primarily two questions. That is, what used to be the threats to National Security of Pakistan from 2014-19 and, secondly, what means the country adopted in the said period to fix those insecurities. Regarding the former question, the research explains the threats to National Security of Pakistan emanating from India, terrorism & extremism and fragile economy. The latter question then addresses the means via which the state of Pakistan has tried to overcome those challenges.

The research is done by analyzing the data collected from different primary sources. It includes going through various official documents and parliamentary debates available to public. Interviews and speeches by the relevant officials, from 2014-19, and newspapers were also accessed for the compilation of data. Moreover, the finding in this research would prove a valuable addition to the already available literature on the subject.

The Threats

Prof. David A, Baldwin has suggested in his paper “The Concept of Security” that, while discussing security, it is important to first identify the referent object of security and then to find out that from where the threats are coming. As for this research the referent object is state i.e. Pakistan, therefore it has tried to find out the sources of threats to National Security of Pakistan in particular from 2014 to 2019.

India poses a serious threat to Pakistan’s security since 1947. In recent years, the country has developed some threatening and aggressive military doctrines. In 2017, the Indian Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat publically acknowledged the idea of Cold Start Doctrine (CSD). It is a doctrine formulated by Indian Armed Forces after the 2001-2 military stand-off with Pakistan which seeks to launch a quick offensive and to capture a shallow territory of Pakistan, under the nuclear threshold, in wake of any major “terrorist” attack by the country. For a quick response, Indian military aims to raise several brigade sized Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs), each equipped with its own air and armored elements for conducting independent operations. In Dec 2018, while giving interview to the Strategic News International, Gen Rawat explained the concept of IBGs and also announced that the army will conduct first IBG exercise by nest year. The Indian Armed Forces has commenced a rapid modernization drive to materialize the concept of IBGs. In this regard, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has concluded a deal with France for 36 4+ Generation Dassault Rafale fighter jets. In addition, the IAF has also started receiving the first batch of 22 AH-54E Apache Attack Helicopters and 15 CH-47 Chinook heavy left transport helicopters. Apart from this, the IAF has issued a proposal for acquiring 114 more 4+ Generation medium multi-role fighters. The Indian Army is looking to induct 500 new T-90 Main Battle Tanks (MBT) from Russia and has already started induction of 100 K-9 Self Propelled Howitzers (SPH) from South Korea. MBTs along with SPH and fighter aircrafts form the core of IBGs. All these force developments has serious consequences for the security of Pakistan.

At non-conventional level, India is hinting a doctrinal change in the nuclear posture. The Draft Nuclear Doctrine of India, published in 1999, suggests that the country will only use nuclear weapons if her citizens are attacked with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons anywhere in the world. This reflects the No First Use (NFU) policy of India, regarding nuclear weapons. But recently, in Aug this year, the Defense Minister of India, Rajnath Singh, hinted a change in India’s NFU policy. If materialized, it will force Pakistan to invest more in nuclear program, thus causing insecurity.

India is also increasing insecurity for Pakistan by undermining the latter’s territorial sovereignty. In August this year, the Home Minister of India, Amit Shah, claimed in Lok Sabha while debating on the abrogation of Article 370 that “Pakistan occupied Kashmir” belongs to us and we will fight for that even if we have to sacrifice our lives.

These are some of the points which strengthen the argument that India is a source of threat for National Security of Pakistan.

Another threat to Pakistan’s National Security, during the period of 2014 to 2019, is the phenomenon of terrorism and extremism. In July 2019, while on visit to US, Prime Minister Imran Khan highlighted that over seventy thousands of Pakistanis have lost their lives due to terrorism and that the country has seen around 150bn USD loss to economy. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, while speaking in a seminar organized by Asia Society in Sept 2018, also termed terrorism and extremism as detrimental for National Security, economy as well as the international image of the country. Former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and the head of Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) Gen Raheel Sharif also termed terrorism as a biggest challenge of 21st Century in particular for Muslims during a speech at the inaugural meeting of IMCTC Ministers of Defence Council in November 2017. Such statements by the relevant authorities and the losses Pakistan suffered shows that terrorism and extremism are one of the imminent security challenges to the country.

Last but not the least; fragile economy is also a threat to National Security of Pakistan. Renowned economist, Dr Naeem Saddiqui, has termed economy as oxygen for national security at all spectrums. Currently, Pakistan is facing acute deficiency in exports, as compared to imports, and the county’s foreign reserves are at low. Though the government has struggled to arrest the deficit but there still has a long way to go. Stressing upon the importance of sound economic foundations, COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that there cannot be any sovereignty in the absence of economic sovereignty. The General has also quoted the example of erstwhile Soviet Union that despite being a formidable military power, the USSR disintegrated because of weak economy. He further said that:

“We have to continuously ensure a viable balance between economy and security. Only then will we arrive at a future that ensures sustained peace. ”

This shows that economy is a weak aspect of Pakistan which is detrimental for the National Security.

These were the major threats to National Security of Pakistan, primarily during the period of 2014 to 2019.

Means for Overcoming the Threats

After identifying the threats, Prof. Baldwin suggests the next thing to do is to analyze the means via which the threats could be minimized. This part of the research finds out the means adopted by Pakistan, during 2014-19, to overcome or minimize the aforementioned threats.

Regarding the military threats emanating from India, Pakistan has adopted a two way approach. First, the country is looking to enhance its own armed forces which will deter India from undertaking any misadventure. Over the years, Pakistan has made significant progress in modernizing its Armed Forces. Pakistan Army has started induction of Al-Khalid-1 MBT which is an enhanced version of Al-Khalid MBT. The country has also ordered Kornet-E Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs). This will improve Pak Army’s capability against Indian Armor and Mechanized forces. Another significant step is the recent deal of 30 advanced T-129 Attack Helicopters with Turkey. These helicopters have anti-tank capabilities and will replace the existing fleet of AH-1F/S Cobra Attack Helicopters. Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is trying to maintain its “See First and Kill First” capabilities against IAF. For this, the service has recently acquired three more Saab-2000 Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&CS) from Sweden. PAF is also looking to acquire PL-15 long range air-to-air missiles to counter the threats from adversary. Pakistan Navy has also seen modernization over the years. The service has inducted four new Azmat-Class Fast Attack Crafts (FAC) and is going to induct new frigates and submarines in coming years. Nuclear force modernization of Pakistan is also significant over the years. To overcome the New Delhi’s Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) program, Islamabad has introduced a Multiple Independently-targetable Reentry Vehicle (MIRV) capable Ababeel ballistic missile. It is a medium range ballistic missile, with 2200km range, which can carry several warheads, thus compromising BMD Systems. To counter the threat of Indian CSD, Pakistan Strategic Forces have introduced the Hatf-IX Nasr Missile. It is a short range ballistic missile, 60-70km range, which can deliver a sub kilo ton warhead. Pakistan has also conducted several tests of Babur-3 Submarine Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM) in order to complete its nuclear triad and to have an assured send strike capability. This move is in particular to counter any doctrinal changes by India in NFU policy.

The other approach which Pakistan has adopted to counter the threat from India is the collaboration with China. In recent decade, China has played a significant role in enhancing the military capacity of Pakistan. In this regard, PAF has successfully mastered the production of JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft. More than hundred units are operational with PAF at five different squadrons. PAF is looking to soon induct the Block-3 version of the fighter. This all has been done with the collaboration with China. In Naval domain, China is building two Type-54A/P frigates and four Hangor-Class submarines for Pakistan Navy. Two more such frigates and four more submarines will be built at Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works (KSEW) with assistance from China.

These are the means through which Pakistan aspires to counter the threats from India.

As far as terrorism is concerned, the country has conducted some successful military operations over the years. In this regard Operation Zarb-e-Azb needs a special mention. It was a large scale military operation conducted by Armed Forces of Pakistan from 2014 to 2016. The operation was successful in eliminating terrorists from the tribal region. A country wide intelligence based operation, Operation Rad-ul-Fasad, is currently ongoing. This is been significant in curbing the sleeper cells of terrorists. Apart from this, the government of Pakistan has introduced National Action Plan (NAP), after the deadly attack on Army Public School Peshawar in December 2019. The main twenty points of NAP are as following :

  1. Implementation of death sentence of those convicted in cases of terrorism.
  2. Special trial courts under the supervision of Army. The duration of these courts would be two years.
  3. Militant outfits and armed gangs will not be allowed to operate in the country.
  4. NACTA, the anti-terrorism institution will be strengthened.
  5. Strict action against the literature, newspapers and magazines promoting hatred, extremism, sectarianism and intolerance.
  6. Choking financing for terrorist and terrorist organizations.
  7. Ensuring against re-emergence of proscribed organizations.
  8. Establishing and deploying a dedicated counter-terrorism force.
  9. Taking effective steps against religious persecution.
  10. Registration and regulation of religious seminaries.
  11. Ban on glorification of terrorists and terrorist organizations through print and electronic media.
  12. Administrative and development reforms in FATA with immediate focus on repatriation of IDPs.
  13. Communication network of terrorists will be dismantled completely.
  14. Measures against abuse of internet and social media for terrorism.
  15. Zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab.
  16. Ongoing operation in Karachi will be taken to its logical end.
  17. Balochistan government to be fully empowered for political reconciliation with complete ownership by all stakeholders.
  18. Dealing firmly with sectarian terrorists.
  19. Formulation of a comprehensive policy to deal with the issue of Afghan refugees, beginning with registration of all refugees.
  20. Revamping and reforming the criminal justice system.

Although the implementation of NAP has not been in true spirit but the government of Pakistan has, to the great extent, been successful in overcoming terrorism.

In economic domain, as discussed earlier the importance of vibrant economy for national Security, the country has taken several steps to overcome the threats in this domain. In short term, the government has sought economic assistance from International Monetary Fund (IMF) and friendly countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and China. This will help the country to enhance the depleting foreign exchange reserves. In long term, the government is looking to reduce the trade deficit by increasing the imports. For this, local industries are been provided subsidies on electricity and gas. Another long term measure by the government is to curb the corruption. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has recently conducted an amnesty scheme in order to white up the black money. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has been empowered to conduct accountability of those who are accused of corruption. These are the means through which the country is trying to minimize the threats emerging due to fragile economy.


Every state defines national security according to their own threat perception. To Pakistan, the threat to national security is mainly from India, the terrorism and fragile economy. The offensive military posture by India and its proposed doctrinal shift in NFU policy is a direct military threat to Pakistan. Similarly, terrorism and weak economy also has serious repercussions for the country’s national security. To overcome all these challenges, Pakistan has adopted several means. The threats from India are being checked by enhancement of military and the collaboration with China. Pakistan has conducted some successful operations against terrorism that is why there has been a sharp decline in terrorist attacks in the country over the past few years. In regards of overcoming the economic threats, the country has sought assistance from friendly countries and IMF etc. The government is also trying to enhance exports and eradicate corruption in order to increase foreign reserves. These are the means to overcome the mentioned threats.

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