President Mamnoon Hussain, who otherwise plays a very docile and non-controversial political role, gave some insightful advice to the government on Wednesday. The president was speaking at the inaugural session of a two-day seminar on Public-Private Partnership in Defence Production and Export organized by the Defence Export Promotion Organisation, where he said that an aggressive military doctrine in the region had led to increased import of high-tech military equipment, which might disturb the existing balance of power. He suggested that the government should focus on strengthening the economy and managing defense capabilities better rather than just importing weapons and equipment in bulk. Admittedly, the speech was intended to galvanise local weapon manufactures at the conference, but the wider implications of it hold true.
The military budget continues to balloon while government goes begging when establishing even the most basic security apparatus. While the military purchases wildly expensive submarines and attendant equipment, the government is struggling to hire enough police constables to cover cities like Karachi, let alone the province. The policemen that are serving aren’t making a great impact either. Strapped in ancient riot gear without tactical training, diverse weapons, bulletproof armour, or advanced gear like stun grenades, the policemen are little more than cannon fodder, especially in Karachi. Outside urban centers, even these basic tools vanish, leaving the police force outgunned, outmanned and outwitted.
The recent attacks on policemen and army personnel seem to have given the provincial government some urgency; the Sindh apex committee decided to expand the rangers operation to other parts of the province too. It is a necessary step, perhaps one that should have been taken long before, but at the end of the day it is still a makeshift step. More prudent is the decision to establish 30 new anti-terrorism courts around the province, the recruitment of 200 new public prosecutors and investigation officers, and the hiring of 8,000 new police constables. The increased manpower and increase in judicial accessibility is key to controlling terrorism in the country.
However, 8,000 under-equipped policemen are not enough - they are not enough to even make up for the shortfall in Karachi’s police force. The government needs to prioritize. High-tech military equipment will keep Pakistan competitive on the international scale but it serves little purpose to defend the country from external foes if internal foes have the upper hand. Even if the military curbs its weapons imports by a sliver, policing of civil areas – the first line of defense – can get a significant boost.