ISLAMABAD - Not the strategic factors from without but the persistent threats from within are the decisive determinants that keep challenging the existential fabric of nuclear Pakistan, the defence experts believe.

On the eve of Pakistan’s Defence Day being observed today (Thursday), to mark the 47th anniversary of Indo-Pak 1965 War, TheNation talked to the country’s noted defence analysts for their views on Pakistan’s present defence capability compared to what it had 47 years ago, to respond to any untoward incident involving an outer force.

Generally, the analysts sounded unanimous in their respective contentions that Pakistan stood in a position to effectively respond to the external threats while the real problem came from the domestic challenges contextual to security issues and governance crisis the country is presently grappling with.

“Our concept of defence has to change. Every year, we observe the Defence Day and talk high about our soldiers’ valiancy and bravery during the Indo-Pak war and its conventional aspects. No more does the defence concept involve external front solely. Times have changed and so have the defence dynamics. It’s time to review our policy. This is not 1965 and there’s no such threat as external,” Air Marshal (r) Shahid Lateef said.

The real factors, according to him, that brew problems for the entire country come from domestic fronts involving security related, administrative and social issues having borne out of terrorism and poor style of governance.

“For over a decade, the internal unrest entailing terrorism, extremism, sectarian violence, ethnic division, rift between provinces, corruption, social injustice, denial of basic human rights, unemployment, lawlessness, violation of merit and other social vices have compiled to challenge Pakistan’s very existence. Unfortunately, there is no policy at all at the governmental level to address this situation. There’re no anti-terrorism laws, no effective governance mechanism and no checks and balances. The terrorists and murders get off the hook and keep unleashing terror. This has to change if we want a peaceful and progressive Pakistan,” he said.

Pakistan’s defence capability, Air Marshal (r) Shahid said, is much stronger today in comparison with that in 1965. “We’re a nuclear power and we’ve enhanced our air power by starting to manufacture JF-17 Thunder jets. These two achievements have together formed an invincible defence shield for Pakistan. Future warfare is all about air power in which Pakistan is second to none. From the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq to Bosnia and Chechnya conflicts, air power has played a decisive role.  Moreover, Pakistan’s Army, Air Force and Navy are highly organised and skilled forces.  In my opinion, Pakistan is safe and secure on external front. Something that is persistently problematic comes from within. It’s not easy to fight wars now. See what happened to the Soviet Union, it had highest number of nuclear weapons and see how it disintegrated due to its poor economic conditions. It’s all about the countries internal policies now. Unless the domestic issues are addressed, we’ll keep suffering,” he said.

Renowned defence expert Dr Riffat Hussain said, Pakistan’s strategic scenario today is quite unlike 1965 when Pakistan had to defend its Eastern and Western borders simultaneously. “There’s no more East Pakistan so we don’t have to defend that side of the border anymore. It’s only Western border now that we share with India. It is much shorter compared to the previous Eastern border. In 1965, Pakistan heavily relied on foreign supplies but now our indigenous defence production capability is tremendous. There’s no hostile country factor as it was in 1965 in the form of East Pakistan plus we are a nuclear power now. Pakistan’s capability is great to defend its territorial integrity.

No country would want to get into war with Pakistan.”

Dr Riffat pointed to the internal security challenges Pakistan’s military was facing on multiple fronts. Over 140,000 military troops, he said, are engaged in combating militancy in different parts of FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) “Strategically speaking, these internal security issues are the actual problems for Pakistan. Our men are fighting insurgency. We’re militarily engaged on many fronts. Internal security issues are persistent. Pakistan can well respond to outer threats. It’s the internal issues that need to be taken care of.”

Lieutenant General (r) Talat Masood also said, external factors were not a cause of concern for Pakistan. “I don’t think there’s any real challenge coming from without. Pakistan’s conventional capability, strategic strength, nuclear build-up and operational preparedness to respond to any kind of aggression are well up to the mark. There is nothing worrisome in this regard. What should invite our concern is that we’ve not been putting our own house in order. Pakistan’s economy is declining fast. Poor management of resources, lack of government’s writ, lack of visionary leadership and wastage of national exchequer due to malpractices are costing Pakistan dearly. Overcoming energy crisis and utilisation of funds in industrial sector are necessary for economic recovery. A country weaker from within is vulnerable to every kind of threat.”