Can national security policy solve all security problems?


The presence of a uniform homeland security policy allows the government to have a pre-emptive approach to solving national homeland security issues. Thus, the National Homeland Security Policy (NISP) is a necessity that helps diagnose the limits to ensuring the safety of citizens. It gives the government a roadmap to determine its area of ​​focus and to help shape policies on similar national security issues in the future.

The NISP offers a multidimensional approach to solving extremism and terrorism in society. The reforms are versatile, ranging from judicial incentives to prison reforms to changes in education and cyberspace. One of the key features of the policy is the list of priorities which summarizes and highlights areas of the policy that require immediate attention. This gives the government a better chance to develop an emergency response to a homeland security crisis.

However, the scale of the policy is an obstacle in itself given the limited availability of resources. Although the NISP suggests multiple approaches to countering homeland security issues followed by far-reaching reforms, the economic and administrative inability of the state to execute these reforms was not taken into account. With the state being far too focused on viewing India as the only enemy, it has neglected internal state building and security, leading to loopholes that allow for lack of transparency, corruption and inconsistency. Five years is therefore too short for the innumerable reforms mentioned in the policy to see the light of day. Additionally, ongoing tensions between provincial and federal governments further complicate the initiation and implementation of reforms, limiting the extent to which the policy can succeed.

The NISP also does not take into account the variation in the capacity of the provinces to execute the policy. It does not address the disparity between provinces, with Punjab having the highest technological and infrastructural capacity compared to all other provinces, especially Balochistan.

Raza Rumi writes in Charting Pakistan’s internal security policy that politics gives NACTA a plethora of roles, challenging its status as a specialized agency. The organization is used for strategic, tactical and research purposes. Such extensive responsibilities hamper the efficiency of the administrative entity, which leads to poor results at the expense of the funds spent on its operation.

Moreover, the absence of incrementalism turns out to be contrary to the expected political results. New governments fail to build on past policies and make insufficient efforts to ensure that proposals made by previous governments regarding national homeland security policy are followed. This leads to the dormancy of administrative bodies and the eventual death of any plan initiated by the government that preceded it. This is a striking feature of the Pakistani political system that continues to corrupt the policy implementation process and has hindered the enactment of the majority of reforms suggested in the National Internal Security Policy.

The NISP also does not take into account the variation in the capacity of the provinces to execute the policy. It does not address the disparity between provinces, with Punjab having the highest technological and infrastructural capacity compared to all other provinces, especially Balochistan. The policy does not propose a strategy that would ensure uniform implementation in all provinces. Similarly, no mechanism was proposed to gather feedback or conduct an evaluation regarding the success of the NISP at the national and provincial levels.

The 2018 NISP is flawed due to its exclusion of non-traditional threats such as climate change, food and water scarcity, population explosion and infectious diseases. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped states determine the importance of countering non-traditional threats. Therefore, this gap within the NISP necessitates a review of policies and the incorporation of strategies to address these threats in the future. Non-traditional threats such as population explosion and resource scarcity are indirectly responsible for the proliferation of extremist narratives that emerge from unresolved public grievances. Therefore, the issue of extremism must be analyzed and resolved in relation to these non-traditional threats.

The success of the policy can be studied using the following factors: media regulation, cybercrime, religious groups.

Although the policy is quintessential on paper, it seems inapplicable in reality given the various infrastructural, governmental, technological and economic shortcomings present within the system. Unless these shortcomings are addressed, no policy is likely to succeed in solving Pakistan’s internal security problems.

Rather than regulating the media to control hate speech, fake news and the glorification of extremist narratives, the government has only succeeded in taking steps to restrict freedom of expression. Pakistan’s vague definition of national security gives the government justification to restrict the release of any information it deems inappropriate. Rather than diminishing hateful tendencies, they led journalists to be victims of kidnappings, beatings and murders.

The final draft and drafting process has been kept secret, with no input from stakeholders, suggesting the government is only seeking to silence dissent and appease religious constituencies.

This brings us to the second factor: religious groups. The government continues to water down regulations to prevent reactions from religious militias. An example is the TLP which, after recurrent protests, succeeded in convincing the government not only to release 2,000 right-wing activists, but was also allowed to stand for election. This is an apparent failure of the NISP 2018. It is highly likely that the liberated activists will be reintegrated into society and will nurture and spread their extremist tendencies.

On the other hand, cybercrime is on the rise. Various national websites, including that of HEC, FBR, NBP, NAB, have faced data breaches. Over the past three years, according to a report, the cumulative rate of cybercrimes involving fake profiles, harassment, defamation and financial fraud has increased significantly.

In short, while the policy is quintessential on paper, it seems inapplicable in reality given the various infrastructural, governmental, technological and economic shortcomings present within the system. Unless these shortcomings are addressed, no policy is likely to succeed in solving Pakistan’s internal security problems.

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