CCNS – PM bites the bullet (Daily Tmes)

National Security policy should be in sync with people’s interest

Finally, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif bites the bullet and has agreed to set-up the ‘Cabinet Committee on National Security’ (CCNS) replacing the Defence Committee of the Cabinet. As they say ‘once bitten twice shy’ in his third stint the prime minister who was twice bitten from the same hole was pragmatic this time and accepted the CCNS idea. Indeed with a heavy presence of the armed forces’ representatives at the policy making level.

In a country that is facing a serious existentialist threat there is no doubt that a well thought-out national security policy is needed. Nobody can also quarrel about the fact that the input of security forces is essential in making the policy and in implementing it also. Most countries have institutionalised their national security policy. Most countries have a power tussle between the foreign office and defence establishment on influencing the national security policy. But the final word is that of the civilian government—Nawaz Sharif’s unfulfilled dream.

Ann unofficial document prepared in 2011 by the National Defence University (NDU) too highlighted the absence of the “National Security Management System.” As the national security policy-making domain was jealously guarded by the GHQ in the past, no civilian-led national security policy making institution could be developed.

Judging by the previous performance of the military it is evident that a one-line and single-dimensional National Security Policy has focused singularly on meeting the ‘Indian threat’ militarily. This fact was also acknowledged by the NDU research paper: “However, until the recent past, our primary focus has been on kinetic threats, whereas, awareness about non-kinetic challenges impinging on our national security is slowly being realised. It goes without saying that with the strong standing armed forces and credible nuclear deterrence, Pakistan possesses a formidable response to kinetic domain. But we also need to bring non-kinetic dimension of the threat under sharper focus. This will help us evolve prudent policies and workable strategies to formulate befitting response against multitude complex external as well as internal challenges, which confront us today.”  Though the NDU paper has been categorized as not an official document by the establishment, it indicates that the establishment is shifting policies recognising ‘slowly’ the non-kinetic ‘challenges’: “In the face of growing global acceptance of India as the regional leader, Indo-US and Indo-Israel nexus and growing asymmetry between India and Pakistan, strategic reappraisal of our security calculus particularly in the non-kinetic domain is extremely important …”

This is where Pakistan blinded by myopia has gone wrong.  Ahmed Faruqui points out in his book: “National Security does not reside solely in military’s combat effectiveness, but in a complementary set of five dimensions that include four non-military dimensions and one military dimension. The non-military dimensions are political leadership, social cohesion, economic vitality, and a strong foreign policy.”

But in Pakistan, which is an ideological security state, this policy has been standing upside down. The GHQ has not allowed any civilian government to interfere in the making of the crucial foreign policy decisions since the early fifties. History has shown that when institutions and individuals grow too strong or dominant they consciously or unconsciously fail to distinguish and separate their own vested interest from that of an institution or that of the country. Here it is important to note that the terms ‘country’ and ‘nation’ are often used not representing the interest of the people of that nation or a country. For the ruling elite the country is just a geographical entity and ‘one nation’ and ‘one national interest’ slogan serves to further their own interests. This propaganda of the ruling elite, which is not challenged in everyday life, has successfully negated the existence of the various ethno-linguistic nationalities and economic classes in a country.

It is also a fact that the military together with the war economy co-evolutionists consider themselves as guardians of the nation and their security. They have always denied that their interests are mostly in conflict with the interests of the people they rule. The media both consciously and inadvertently promotes the ruling establishment’s political formulations. A security state is bound to have a large armed forces and huge defence expenditure which in turn creates the war economy. The war economy breeds its co-evolutionists among politicians, civil society and media. Pakistan has a large segment of military co-evolutionists who survive on the war economy. They are vociferous supporters of the so-called ‘national interest’, ‘national security’ and ‘chest-thumping champions of sovereignty’. 

Forced, particularly, by the 2nd May 2011 US attack to get Osama and the circumstances surrounding the 27th May Mehran Naval Base attack by the terrorists. The army has finally conceded that tactically they need the civilian cover. Pushed by public humiliation in May 2011 the Army has conceded to take ‘guidance’ from parliament. It is also a tactical move to take the cover of parliament to ease the US administration pressure on the military leadership.

The Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) paper has also an annexure of five countries models of the national security management system. The two most relevant are those of USA and India, although still some generals would prefer the military dominated Turkish model. “In the US, the National Security Council (NSC) advises the President and comprises only of civilian members…The Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff is the only uniformed member in NSC and acts as an advisor on military affairs. This body limits the role and input of the military and asserts on the primacy of the civil.”

“In India the military has no representation in NSC, which functions under the prime minister. The Service’s Chiefs sit in the second tier committee (Strategic Planning Group) with union (federal) secretaries, chaired by the Cabinet Secretary.” This is unthinkable in Pakistan, where the COAS usually deals on such matters directly with the president and prime minister. Vali Nasr’s recent book reveals that all important meetings regarding the Afghanistan policy were held by the Americans with the COAS Kiyani and not Prime Minister Gilani. 

The CCNC composition is not promising as it has a heavy armed forces presence, who with their jazzy presentation skills are likely to lead the prime minister’s civilian team to sign off  the GHQ written ‘national security page’ of which Chaudhry Nisar talked about in the national assembly. Military is trained to think on geo-strategic and threat perception basis, it is the political government which has to provide a vision keeping in view the national interest which has to be the people’s welfare interest they represent. That’s all national security is about.

The writer is the author of “What’s wrong with Pakistan? He can be reached at

  1. #1 by iqbalalavi on September 27, 2013 - 11:21 pm

    Your research based article has achieved the purpose . In your closing sentences you rightly high lighted the vision of the civil leadership which should guide the national interest and the military leadership benefits from the vision and strategy of the civilian authority.
    Thanks for sharing.

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