The good intentions and tactical measures outlined in the National Security Policy draft document presented by the interior minister on Wednesday aside, a few longer term key strategic areas need the government’s focus for sustainable security.

If we analyze broadly, the militancy and Islamist extremism are functions of three important, long term factors. First, it is the perpetual state of being a client nation-state that has been willing to do anyone’s bidding for dollar or oil. Pakistan remains in the habit of living beyond its means, and has historically attached itself to purse strings of regional and global powers. The government’s recent repositioning of its ‘Jaainamaaz’ sharply towards the Ka’aba, and the consequent shift in the Syria policy from a non-aligned to a partisan one, is yet another example of this. This too clever by half ‘strategery’ will in time backfire exactly the way earlier ones did. Whilst the government and the security establishment may be hoping to kill two birds with one stone, i.e., cheap black gold from Ka’aba and diversion of erstwhile Kashmir oriented jihadis towards Syria, the stone will boomerang to smash Pakistan’s face once more, in more ways than one.

At the root of this perpetual client status is the unsustainability of grandiose designs and the lifestyle Pakistan wishes to pursue without generating enough income itself. Hence, the failure to carry out tax reform (broadening the base, collection etc.) remains one major contributor to the national security problems we face today.

Second is the imbalance in civil-military power in terms of setting the country’s direction. There are no prizes for guessing who has harboured grand designs of punching above their weight; of conquering Kabul in the West and Kashmir in the East on borrowed guns and robotized zombies fed on bilious ‘ideology;’ the ‘ideology’ being a corrosive mix of delusions of grandeur, murder of history, paranoia, xenophobia, hate and prejudice peppered with the most twisted notions of religion and piety. To establish its writ over the security apparatus, the civilian government needs to take a lead on the most pressing issues facing Pakistan today i.e., the energy crisis, the education emergency, and the militancy and extremism cancer. Yet, recent weeks have seen the civilian government as clowns at the center of the circus of appeasement rather than providing succor to the nation in the form of providing decisive leadership. With its buffoonery of stubbornly ‘giving peace a chance’ in the face of daily bombings and beheadings of its citizens, the civilian leadership has helped immensely the security apparatus to come out smelling like roses once again. Whilst the PML-N led government is being viewed as indecisive, appeasing of militants, cowardly and spineless, the military is being commonly perceived as the savior that led the government kicking and screaming to acquiesce with action against the Taliban. The ignominious signal of the interior minister’s ‘the military has a right to defend itself with retaliatory strikes’ after 23 men of the FC were slaughtered by the Taliban, was not lost on anyone. The decision to go after the Taliban is decidedly being seen as the military establishment’s. This is not how civil-military power balance is achieved, with the public grateful for the military’s decision making and common sense, where the civilian leadership should have been in the lead. The Prime Minister’s mealy mouthed statement of ‘peace talks being negatively impacted’ upon the news of the FC men’s beheadings will always be seen as a prime specimen of opportunities lost by him to connect with the people’s mood and needs. Nor is the balance achieved by suddenly ditching energy procurement agreements (Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline) with no alternatives in sight, in the face of acute shortages affecting the lives and livelihoods of citizens. The road to power goes through the people. Leadership and governance alone will conquer the civil-military relationship, not changing the buyers of our services.

The third, and a most important, factor in aspiring to sustainable security is the separation of state and religion. The mixing of the two to the extent where the state’s raison d’être cannot be differentiated from Jihad fi Sabeel Allah has traditionally enabled and powered the security establishment to indulge in its foolish grand designs via state and non-state actors, including the media, to the point of radicalizing society. The Islamisation of the state, from the Objectives Resolution, to the declaration of the Ahmedia sect of Muslims as non-Muslims, to the establishment of the Islamic Ideology Council and the Federal Shariat Court, are the most powerful tools historically employed to actualize interference in our neighbouring countries’ affairs that has come back to destroy us. Allah, the all powerful, is quite capable of working for His own cause. In the meantime, the Pakistan Army’s motto and cause needs to be re-defined to Jihad fi Sabeel al Sha’ab or Jihad fi Sabeel Bani Adam. If we believe in the nation-state that is Pakistan, and want to secure it against exactly the kind of extremism threatening it today, then we must separate it from religion. For long term sustainability, a multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and humanistic Pakistani identity will have to be allowed to emerge. And this can only be achieved if the state stops identifying itself as one with one particular religion and creating monsters in the name of that religion. The irony of the state’s security machinery’s official motto being undistinguishable from the Taliban’s is inescapable. The constitution needs to be stripped of its Jihadi turbo engines of religion and restored to principles of peace, equality, justice, pluralism and humanism.

Without heed to the strategic shifts outlined, any amount of operations or wars on militancy and extremism will remain tactical and therefore temporary.

The writer is a human rights worker and freelance columnist.

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