Pakistan’s NSP Through Pakistani Eyes

This is another in the series of Excerpts from Dawn : A Peek into Everyday Life in Pakistan 

When the National Security Policy (NSP ) of Pakistan was released, there were many  in India who felt that it was not worth the paper it is written on. The NSP did not offer anything new. The same old India bashing and Kashmir obsession was evident. I had analysed and established in my article Pakistan Back to the Future that Pakistan’s biggest security threats were from within. Many in Pakistan will say that an Indian General’s view was bound to be coloured and blatantly anti-Pakistan. Hence it must be summarily thrown out of the window.  To a large extent they are correct. Why should a Pakistani heed the advice of a retired General from India specially when his own establishment does not care a fig? Some would also argue that retired Indian Generals have nothing better to do than give solutions to problems they could not solve when they were in service. The argument further would be that since their domestic analysis is trashed, analysing Pakistan is always an attractive proposition to get some attention and fame. They are right there too. However my line to the Pakistanis is that – do not believe Indian Generals;  who are anyway worthless since they cannot even ensure that their soldiers who serve in Siachen get more than half the allowance which their bureaucrats enjoy while being posted in Siachen and not being there! At least pay heed to sane Pakistani voices. What do they say? 


Ever since the NSP was made public it has been dissected by Pakistani opinion makers in detail. Each of their subject matter experts has analysed The NSP from his area of expertise and its relevance to Pakistan’s national security. They make very valid and cogent points. To me it is gratifying that their views generally coincide with mine. In this context, I have put together opinions published in the Dawn from time to time on various aspects of the NSP. Excerpts of these opinions are reproduced below.  




by Muhammad Amir Rana  @


Excerpts : …the NSP reflects a much deeper issue and is linked with the identity of the state and maintaining cohesion in society. The state has been using religion to create nationalism in the country but at a very high cost. Religiously inspired actors have used the same religious-ideological arguments against the state and damaged the country by promoting sectarianism and extremist narratives, which have not only weakened communal and sectarian harmony and social cohesion, but have also fed into terrorism.

A large part of the emphasis has been on bringing in religious actors as the key agents of desired change. The state remains reluctant to find an alternative source of social and national cohesion and feels threatened by the presence of sub-nationalist cultures and sentiments in parts of the country. So, it appears convinced that only a religious narrative could work towards harmonising society. Even in the introduction of the NSP, the prime minister has adopted a religious tone to endorse the policy document…It is not certain how NSP will help in addressing the identity crisis in the country when the predominant approach of achieving social and national cohesion is to reduce the space for sub-nationalist movements. 



 by Zafar Mirza @


Excerpts : The health security part sounds good but is patchy in concept. It is mainly driven by the Covid pandemic and how to prepare and respond to health emergencies in future and does not pay serious attention to the need for strengthening essential healthcare for all without discrimination which is not possible without investing in primary healthcare and advancing universal health coverage…Pakistan has one of the world’s highest population growth rates; 40 per cent of its children live with irreversible physical and mental stunted growth; it has anaemic mothers, a high incidence of communicable diseases like hepatitis (second highest global prevalence), tuberculosis (fifth largest burden globally), HIV (the highest rate of increase in new cases in Asia-Pacific), and has seen a sharp increase in diabetes, blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, depression and anxiety disorders, cancers — the list goes on…Healthcare in the public sector is grossly inadequate and the private health sector is highly unregulated, unethical and exploitative. We are the lowest spenders on health, even among low-middle-income countries. 



 by Abbas Nasir @


Excerpts Having raced through the document that was released on Friday with considerable fanfare and self-congratulatory messages, it was a sad conclusion to reach that it is a no more than a plethora of platitudes and will be a non-starter of a national security policy (NSP)…A document filled with worthy objectives and not a single concrete step on how to attain any of them is surprising, to say the least. And if the current state of play is any guide, even more surprising…A more honest acknowledgement would have been that the post-Cold War and ‘war on terror’ generous western funds pipeline has now run bone dry and unless the size of the economy and its rate of growth (alongside trade) increases considerably, the dema­nds of ‘traditional security’ would be impossible to meet.



By Maleeha Lodhi @


Excerpts : ..Seeking to be all-encompassing the document lists numerous well-known challenges but without identifying credible and executable policies to achieve objectives. Instead, it offers a series of platitudes. A policy document must align goals with resources and capacity, and ends with means so that it is in sync with realities. That’s what makes policy enforceable…The NSP disappoints because it states objectives without indicating a strategy, goals without specifying means to secure them and aims without identifying criteria for deliverables. Long on verbiage it is short on ideas…It is silent on allocation of responsibilities to promote the goals it sets. It is as if a tick-the-boxes approach is adopted, which treats issues in a cursory manner and leaves priorities unclear…Three other challenges with enormous economic and security impact are dealt with in passing — population growth, extremism and the education deficit. The demographic challenge is consequential to Pakistan’s security for reasons that need little elaboration. 


 By Ali Tauqeer Sheikh @


Excerpts : The NSP, however, has not fully grasped the complexity of N0n Traditional Security  threats to Pakistan and how they impinge on the country’s internal and external security environment. For example, it has not laid out how poverty and degrading natural resources intersect.…In fact, it uses the word ‘ecosystems’ only for health and technology ecosystems and the word ‘environment’ is used only to refer to the global, security or business environment! The NSP has not recognised how the slow onset of climate change and frequent disaster events are hampering economic development and posing existential threats. If not these, what else would deserve to be at the heart of the national security preoccupation?…The five areas mentioned in the NSP — population and migration, health, climate and water, food and gender security as well as the management of Indus basin and its tributaries, early warning systems for floods and drought, groundwater flows, polluted air and water bodies are all by nature transboundary, requiring transboundary negotiated mechanisms… It is obvious that several Non Traditional Security threats are transnational and it is beyond Pakistan’s capacity to undertake unilateral remedial measures to counter them. National solutions are often inadequate, and would essentially require regional and multilateral cooperation. In other words, security can no longer be defined in terms of state security only as in state sovereignty or territorial integrity. 



 by Zahid Hussain @


Excerpts : It is a nightmare scenario that is fast unfolding. Yet the threat that population explosion presents to national security is missing from our policy discourse. Aside from a fleeting reference to population management, there is not enough recognition of the gravity of the problem in the recently launched integrated National Security Policy (NSP). There is no clear strategy on how to deal with the exponential population growth that continues to have a destabilising effect on our society…A dangerous situation has been created on account of Pakistan’s having one of the highest population growth rates globally and an increasing youth bulge. The latter poses a grave threat to internal security considering the poor investment in education over the years and low economic growth. These two factors have spawned economic and social problems that cannot be dealt with adequately, unless the spiralling population numbers are brought under control…Pakistan is now the fifth most populous nation in the world. With a disturbingly high growth rate of 2.4 per cent per annum, four to five million children are added to the existing numbers every year. At this pace, we are likely to have around 300m people by 2030…With a rapidly increasing population and low economic growth rate, the country faces a catastrophic situation.


 by Huma Yusuf @


Excerpts : We have one of the largest youth populations in the world, with 68 per cent of the population under the age of 30, and around 27pc between the ages of 15 and 29, according to the Pakistan National Human Development Report. Almost 30pc of youngsters are illiterate, while of the four million youth who enter the workforce each year, only 39pc find jobs. A 2020 UNDP report estimates that half our country’s youth is languishing, and not in any form of education, employment or training…Scan the news stories in this paper, and the full extent of the youth crisis will begin to crystallise. Young people in this country are contending with enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings; lack of basic services such as water and gas; and a paucity of credible information sources. They fear the havoc that climate change will wreak on their lives, with 74pc citing it as one of the biggest challenges for the country…And yet, there is no comprehensive, all-encompassing plan for how to educate, upskill, employ and engage young Pakistanis


MY COMMENTSAll the opinion makers are very proud that Pakistan is the first country to have a publicly available NSP. They term it as a brave and strategic step. They welcome it to that extent. However all them are unanimous in their view  that it is unimplementable. They can have the best of policies and laws but the devil lies in the implementation. To that extent I agree with Abbas Nasir’s view that it is a Non Starter. Maleeha Lodhi points out the gap in the reality in her article. However it is interesting to note that all of them acknowledge that Pakistan’s real security threat is its unchecked population and ill-uneducated youth bulge which is largely unemployable. An equally important threat is that  the state and radicals are competing in the same religious-ideological space to promote their own sectarian and extremist narratives  against each other and outsiders. It is interesting to note that most of them have stated in some form or other that a weak economy, poverty, climate change, degraded resources, water and food security are grave threats to Pakistan. It is even more interesting to note that they know that their non-traditional threats are beyond Pakistan and transnational in nature. By transnational they mean that the solutions for most of Pakistan’s problems lie in India. However to get to that they have to do a U turn on their traditional ‘Anti India Non Stop Rants’ and the ‘Bleat of Genocide (non-existent)  in Kashmir. Can they do that? The day they do that Imran Khan will be out of a job. The Pakistani Army would have lost its last hope of revenge against that Indian Army to shake off the tag to be the best Army in the world never to have won a war! This is not a Catch 22 situation. It is a Catch 44 situation. 




3 responses to “Pakistan’s NSP Through Pakistani Eyes”

  1. An excellent analysis of their own political will. Your comments are bang on.

  2. It's a well written blog worth reading. Thanks sir

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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