An Ignored Dimension

Spearhead Analysis – 17.11.2016

pakistan-flagSince May 1998 Pakistan has been classified as a Nuclear Weapons State. This status brings with it many considerations of leadership and responsibility. It is for this reason that Pakistan moved quickly to establish a National Command Authority and custodial security measures that have been progressively improved and are now considered excellent. The Prime Minister chairs the National Command Authority that is responsible for development as well as employment of strategic assets — this makes him the man with the finger on the nuclear button. His decision making ability must never be in doubt nor should there be any reservations on the competence and expertise of the team that will advise and assist him in crucial decision making. As in most other states — perhaps more so in Pakistan — the military has a major role in all aspects relating to strategic assets. This makes the civil-military relationship a vital part of Pakistan’s top decision making tier — an arrangement that should inspire confidence and project stability in crisis handling ability.

These considerations are sometimes forgotten or get sidelined when the domestic political environment heats up. The DAWN leaks episode is an example of an event in which the national interest and the need to project the image of a cohesive civil-military relationship was sidelined for narrow political or personal gains. This should never happen in a state with nuclear weapons and certainly not in a situation where two nuclear weapon states have unresolved issues and where no opportunity is likely to be passed over when vulnerability is exposed. A lesson needs to be learnt and effective controls imposed. It is also important to note that a state with nuclear weapons must not drift into economic decline or political instability or into an internal security situation that threatens its stability and survival. It is for this reason that after the attacks on airports and other facilities the military moved to launch an operation to reclaim space lost and to sideline the terrorist threat that was without a doubt being exploited to destabilize and brand Pakistan as a state that could implode. The intention — no longer concealed — was to give Pakistan the international image of a state that lacked the competence and effectiveness to ward off implosion and therefore create the fear of its nuclear assets falling into terrorist hands. The military operation — Zarb e Azb — and its follow up operation in Karachi have succeeded and the space created have led to economic stability. This combined with the military’s total support for democracy has brought the CPEC project that has the potential to change the economic and socio-economic environment of Pakistan. Now there is no talk of existential threats or fragility or state failure. There is now a requirement for consolidation, for political stability, for major structural reforms, for skilled management of policies, for institutionalized decision making and most of all a response to the domestic public and media demands for transparency and the presence of effective and competent leadership in ministries, advisory capacities, administration and management — free of political or other considerations.

Recent political events and the fallout from those events have led to collusion between our eastern and western neighbors to undermine the country by exploiting and accentuating latent divides and differences that exist in most states. Our eastern neighbor has been emboldened and has adopted an overt hostile stance backed by aggressive violations of the cease fire on the Line of Control in Kashmir and preposterous utterances and policies that are creating a situation that cannot and should not be ignored. The fact that nuclear weapons exist on both sides and there is deterrence stability should not lead to the dangerous assumption that there is space for coercion and conflict under the nuclear overhang because of the conventional weapons and economic asymmetry that exists. This would be a dangerous assumption especially if it is inspired by domestic political and security considerations to ward off international criticism. US policy in South Asia needs to discourage the negative trends that are clearly discernible and Pakistan’s restraint should be noted. Pakistan wants dialogue and interaction with both its neighbors to resolve issues and move towards normalcy. Deterrence should not be challenged and this requires political interaction to bring about crisis management structures and arrangements in the interest of peace and stability.

As the US and indeed the world moves towards a Trump administration Pakistan needs to look inwards and do its utmost for internal consolidation including building institutional capacity. The fact that its military institution is strong, cohesive and clearly identified as a bulwark against all threats and always conscious of the national interest is a positive factor that should never allowed to be undermined in any way whatsoever. All internal events, developments and discussions must be tempered by the need for projecting the right image of the state. The Pakistani state has shown enormous resilience. Democracy has survived the challenges that have been thrown up. The judicial institution has to rise to the challenge of coming up to the national expectations. The fact that institutions are far more important than individuals has been highlighted as never before. The economy and human security are now the most important considerations. States, especially nuclear weapon states, have to demonstrate their competence and effectiveness as states.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual)