Like any organized entity, every nation needs a roadmap that clearly defines what we are, what we want to be and how to get there. Pakistan today is not the land of Islam the Prophet (PBUH) would have wanted, the vision envisaged by the great poet Iqbal and the nation the Father of the country, Quaid-e-Azam created it to be. We have been laid low by the bankruptcy of the policies that we follow, under pressure internationally from disparate forces with vested interest and under attack domestically by the forces of evil, their appetite for loot and plunder not yet satiated after more than half a century. While we are still far from being a failed State, and that mainly due to the intervention of the Armed Forces Oct 12, 1999, a new set of crisis, part diplomatic and part political, has put us into a near critical condition. At time like these one has barely any moment to reflect, and maybe the corrective measures may be a moot point at this time, however, we should take time-out to ponder what exactly went wrong and why it is still going wrong. While the problems are complex and cannot even begin to be addressed in one column or one day, we can take a cursory look at the failure of mechanics of governance.
Amazing as it may seem, there is no institutionalized decision-making process in Pakistan. True, decisions are made but these are not in strategic harmony, even though at the tactical level we may have been holding our own, but in a very slip-shod, fickle and disorganized manner, taking in the inputs of various public institutions but never turning to private think tanks for input on a whole range of issues. We have been at the mercy of the individual whims and caprices that make for arbitrary decision-making. Instead of a comprehensive examination of causes and affects for adequate analysis, comprehension planning and implementation thereof. The Head of State or the Chief Executive of the Government must have a permanent mechanism that can draw upon all Federal and Provincial resources for information gathering, collation of recommendations and preparation of option papers. This is only possible by having a permanent National Security Council (NSC) Secretariat staffed by the finest brainpower that is available in the country.
Unfortunately in our country the concept of National Security Council (NSC) is controversial because it envisages Armed Forces control and/or interference in civilian government. One feels that politicians have been magnifying the political role of the NSC because of their own insecurity and because of this there is ambiguity about its tasks, the primary one must be of supporting good governance by institutionalizing the decision-making process. In the political sense, it is a buffer that protects the country from arbitrary decision-making by creating a check and balance between the President and the PM.
The primary task of the NSC Secretariat would be to prepare a National Security Strategy Report, and update it or even re-write it every two years. Most of the Report should be a public document that can be debated by the intelligentsia. The Report will give a comprehensive evaluation, including, viz (1) the domestic and foreign interests, goals and objectives that are vital to the national security of the Pakistan (2) foreign policy, the commitments thereof, and the country’s defence necessary to deter aggression and to implement the country’s security objectives by political, economic, military, and other elements of national power and (3) the potential and capability to carry out the National Security Strategy and support its implementation.
National Security Strategy Report is intended to serve five primary purposes. (1) to communicate strategic vision to both the Executive and Parliament, and thus legitimize the rationale for resources. Both Parliament and the Executive, as the elements of national power need a common understanding of the strategic environment and the administration’s intent as a starting point for future dialogue (2) to communicate the same common vision to the citizens of the country, to the intelligentsia and the masses alike (3) to communicate coherence and farsightedness in the security policies of government: that all citizens, fully support (4) to document a strategy where none exists! We must have the ability to forge consensus among these competing views on direction, priorities and pace, and (5) to contribute in substance and presentation, to the overall agenda of the Head of State and/or Chief Executive of Government. What follows is an interactive, interagency process to resolve differences and approve the final document. One can use only three national security goals, viz (1) enhancing our security, (2) promoting prosperity at home, and (3) promoting democracy é under which to integrate all of the government’s efforts to advance Pakistan’s interests.
The inadequacies of the present system, are viz, (1) despite well-structured intelligence organizations, the Armed Forces have limited inputs from policymakers or experts in the field of foreign policy and economic management (2) very limited coordination between the civilian intelligence agencies and the intelligence agencies of the Armed Forces (3) periodical assessments affecting national security are more in the nature of a briefing rather than a part of any institutionalized decision making process (4) the Defence Committee of the Cabinet has a very limited role, primarily because it does not have its own Secretariat and rarely discusses major national security issues (5) without a National Security Council having its own Secretariat and supporting mechanisms, there is lack of an integrated view to formulate policy options and strategies for dealing with internal and external threats to national security and (6) a wide gap exists between the perspectives and assessments of the military establishment and the elected civilian setup on different aspects of national security, being responsible for recurrent political instability due to periodical tensions between the two. Within the NSC Secretariat, prior to when decisions are made, questions must be asked to ensure that policies and concepts are stated in language that makes sense across the cultural lines of the agencies which will implement them. No member should assume that something will happen perforce. Collegial questioning serves to ensure that national power is focused and that the ends, ways, and means of strategy, as well as the risks of both action and inaction, are all fully considered.
The NSC should be chaired by the President of the country, who should be directly elected so as to have absolute mandate of being able to monitor the indirectly elected chief executive of government i.e. the PM. The NSC must directly have the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) answerable to it as the dealing of corruption has to be kept out of political hands let it be used for motivated witch-hunting. The NSC should have its own Secretariat should be led by a National Security Advisor who should be a member of the NSC and would have the rank of a Minister. A Planning Committee headed by the National Security Advisor will prepare policy briefs, position papers and policy guidelines on different aspects of national security for consideration and approval by the NSC. Approved policy papers should be presented to Parliament and/or published for general discussions by the public and the media. This NSC should meet as frequently as the situation demands, involving intense and frank discussions, rather than the traditional bureaucratic approach.
We must have a cohesive grand strategy, i.e. if we have any strategy at all. The country has been trying “adhoc” and “containment” measures in one form or the other for 50 years. There is no focus and coherence in terms of values, interests and objectives. The NSC’s clearly written strategy will serve to rationalize the resources to execute the strategy, thus facilitating the authorization and appropriation processes, in which the Defence Budget must not remain a sacred cow. We must have the ability within the executive branch an institutionalized decision-making process to formulate in a coherent and integrated manner, the mid and long-term strategy necessary to defend and further our vital national interests.
Mr. Ikram Sehgal is Publisher and Managing Editor of Defence Journal (Pakistan).