The leaked Abbottabad Commission report is not only a devastating indictment of the intelligence and security establishment of Pakistan for its incompetence and irresponsibility, but also of the country’s political and bureaucratic leadership. This sad state of affairs was the logical result of decades of military rule, which derailed the democratic process and weakened the ability of civilian representative institutions to exercise oversight over different organs of the military and intelligence establishment. This lack of accountability bred incompetence, inefficiency and lack of coordination among the various state security institutions leading to the chaotic state of affairs depicted by the Abbottabad Commission report.

The net result was the freedom with which the American helicopters were able to penetrate deep into Pakistan’s airspace and operate on Pakistan’s territory for about three hours before our security forces were able to react. By the time our security forces reacted, the American helicopters were exiting Pakistan’s territory after accomplishing their mission. The commission, therefore, concludes that the successful American operation was the result of “a collective and sustained dereliction of duty by the political, military and intelligence leadership of the country” (paragraph 730).

The report leaves several questions unanswered because of either lack of sufficient information or because the country’s top political and military leadership declined to be interviewed by the commission. For instance, the commission has not provided a definitive answer to the question whether the Americans had sent to Pakistan’s top leadership any communication about the Abbottabad operation prior to its occurrence. The commission was not able to find any evidence supporting a finding of a prior communication to Pakistan’s leadership about the impending Abbottabad operation, but does not rule out such a finding in the light of additional information that may become available in the future. Strangely, while reaching this conclusion, the commission fails to explain as to how President Asif Zardari, who was informed about the Abbottabad operation at 0645 hours on May 2, 2011, by the COAS, was able to get his article on the subject published in The Washington Post of the same date.

It has now been reported that the leaked document was the initial draft and not the final version of the Abbottabad Commission report. Still the leaked document deserves serious attention, as it portrays a fairly accurate picture of the sad state of affairs of our national security. In particular, the commission’s recommendation for the adoption of a comprehensive approach towards national security, instead of the unidimensional approach focusing primarily on the military aspect of national security, deserves the serious consideration of the government.

This is a subject on which extensive literature is available. I myself have written in the past on several occasions on the necessity of the adoption of a comprehensive approach for safeguarding our national security. But it seems that our military establishment simply does not want to learn from its tragic experiences of the past, be it the 1971 crisis that led to the dismemberment of Pakistan, our disastrous Kashmir and Afghanistan policies of 1990s, or the Kargil adventure of 1999. Our military remains focused primarily on the military dimension of national security at the expense of political, economic and diplomatic dimensions, and on the short term to the neglect of the long term aspects of national security.

An indication of the mindset of our military is the decision to assign the responsibility of formulating the national security policy to the National Defence University (NDU), as mentioned by the Secretary Defence to the Abbottabad Commission. Since the NDU has no professional expertise or experience whatsoever in political, economic and diplomatic dimensions of national security, it shows that our military continues to consider national security in unidimensional terms. The product of such a misconceived approach can only harm our national security, instead of safeguarding it.

Ideally, the national security policy should establish an optimum balance among its political, economic, diplomatic and military dimensions so as to preserve domestic political stability and social cohesion, promote economic strength and progress, and safeguard the independence and the territorial integrity of state. A unidimensional approach focusing on the military aspect of national security to the neglect of other essential ingredients will prove counter-productive, particularly in the long run.

For instance, excessive allocation of the national resources to the military may give the impression of a strong defence in the short run, but it may weaken national security in the long run by slowing economic growth and weakening the economic foundation of national security. A heavy military superstructure on a weak economic foundation is likely to crumble in the face of a serious external challenge to a nation’s security. Pakistan’s current weak economic condition is the inevitable result of excessive allocation of the national resources to the military sector over the past several decades. The need of the hour is for Pakistan to place due emphasis on both the military and economic sectors so as to achieve a happy balance between the short term and long term requirements of national security.

Similarly, domestic political stability and social cohesion are a sine qua non for national security. A divided nation that lacks political stability is in no position to safeguard national security when confronted with a serious external threat. The loss of East Pakistan in 1971 was the direct outcome of the neglect of this essential principle of national security by the military regime of the time. Musharraf by killing Nawab Akbar Bugti and undertaking military operations in Balochistan, instead of taking care of the genuine grievances and concerns of its people, aggravated the crisis in the province showing once again the dangerous consequences of having at the helm of affairs a military dictator, who knows only the art of the use of brute force, for the national security.

Finally, it is the job of the diplomatic arm of the state to assess and prioritise the external challenges and threats to a nation’s security, and identify ways and means of overcoming them within the constraints of a nation’s economic and military resources, and its political strength and vulnerabilities. In so doing, we must at all the times remain cognisant of the regional and international security environment.

Unfortunately, there is no institution in Pakistan at present which can synthesise the political, economic, diplomatic and military dimensions of national security so as to present to the elected government viable policy options. That is why it is imperative that the government should take immediate steps for the establishment of a National Security Council (NSC) headed by the Prime Minister in his capacity as the Chief Executive. The NSC should be served by a full-fledged secretariat headed by a National Security Adviser. It should be the responsibility of this secretariat to submit to the government well studied recommendations on national security issues based on inputs from various organs of the state. Only policies based on such a comprehensive approach can hope to safeguard effectively the nation’s short term and long term security.

The writer is a retired ambassador and the president of the Lahore Council  for World Affairs.