A new National Security Policy for Pakistan is being formulated behind closed doors of the GHQ and Interior Ministry, wrapped in a shroud of secrecy and a mist of confusion. The precise objectives of this policy have neither been expressly disclosed, with any degree of specificity, nor has the same been debated in the light of day. Exactly who the ‘stakeholders’ are in the deliberations is a mystery, and what exactly is their respective input, remains a point of speculation.

What has been disclosed, however, is this: there are three components of the new policy – Secret, Strategic and Operational. Per statements of the Interior Minister, a Joint Intelligence Directorate will be set up, under the new policy, for central coordination and intelligence-sharing among the 26 intelligence agencies in the country. The policy will pursue a dual strategy of carrot and a stick: while talks with Taliban remain part of the mix, a security offensive will also be pursued. Initiatives for capacity building and better training of security personnel, especially the Provincial Police forces, shall be undertaken. The policy, and its particulars, demand a total of Rs. 28 billion from the National Exchequer, and the federal government has targeted a one-year time period for implementation of all aspects of the policy.

Furthermore, per the official reports, a special meeting on the Federal Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister himself, has been called on Monday, in order to review and approve this new Security Policy.

Let us start with the positives: in a country that has lost over 26,000 souls to terrorism over the past decade (including women, children and security personnel), we must congratulate ourselves for finally articulating a National Security Policy. Whatever that might be. Let us also take heart from the fact that 28 billion Rupees is not an insignificant portion of the budget, in case it is aptly utilized. Also, finally – after the failed experiment of National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) – attention is also being paid to the importance and necessity of intelligence-sharing between the different (and disparate) agencies, in the form of a Joint Intelligence Directorate. And most importantly, the government has taken a bold step of stipulating a timeline for the implementation of this Policy, which also means that the government (through a liberal interpretation of the Constitution) can be held judicially accountable for its completion and outcomes.

But that is as far as the positives extend.

Perhaps the basic defect of this policy, and all other initiatives of the successive governments till date, in countering terrorism, has been the absence of a clear counter-terrorism narrative. The federal government – including the Interior Minister or the Prime Minister – has been unable to articulate the governing ideology under which this Policy is being framed. Are we fighting for Islam, or are we fighting for Pakistan? Are we going to fight a war against terrorists till we rid Pakistan of this scourge? Or are we willing to settle with them, under some negotiated (brittle) peace accord? Are we fighting for a liberal interpretation of our fundamental freedoms? Or are we simply arguing for a different interpretation of Islamic law? Are we willing to call terrorists by their name, or will we continue (in part) to hide behind a failed doctrine of strategic depth? Are all militants enemies of Pakistan, or is there a distinction between good and bad perpetrators of violence?

In terms of negotiating with the TTP: is there a basic minimum that we will never compromise on, or are we willing to surrender our constitutional ideology at the altar of a corrupted peace? Will we allow the TTP, and their sympathizers, to shut down schools, video shops, theatres and places of entertainment? Or will we not permit our fundamental rights to be trampled upon, in order to live a shackled life? Will our daughters go to school without fear of being shot, or will we forever muffle the voice of women in our society? Will our children be crippled under the looming cloud of Polio, or will we ensure that each child is born with the full promise of a complete life?

And perhaps at the very fundamental level: will the narrative, including our Security Policy, clarify whether Mumtaz Qadri and Hafiz Saeed are our national heroes, or will we instead protect, defend and uphold the achievements of an Ahmedi Physicist, as the greatest Pakistani of his generation?

Over the past few days, in a back of forth offensive between the militants and the security forces, Pakistan has lost over a hundred lives. We have killed almost 40 foreign militants through an air-strike (first of the sort, since 2007). And, what is more, another 190 million people continue to live in the constant fear for their survival. Our military forces, police officers, political personalities, and even health workers cannot travel across the street without the threat of violence.

It is, of course, important to put in place the mechanical steps that improve the capacity and operations of our security forces. It is absolutely necessary to allocate the budget for such measures, and constitute institutions to coordinate the effort. But more than any of this, it is essential for us to define what exactly we are fighting for. Who exactly is our enemy? What precisely is our objective? What we want our country to become? And how far are we willing to go in order to achieve these objectives?

In answering these questions, we will not only discover our National Security Policy, but… in case we are lucky, we might also discover who we are.

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has a Masters in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School.


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