Pakistan, from its inception, was envisioned as an Islamic welfare state, internationally relevant and aligned with universal principles of justice, equality, and tolerance. Seeking a peaceful neighborhood based on mutual co-existence, regional connectivity, and shared prosperity. Being secure and economically resilient, and empowered by diversity of culture and demographic dividends, ensuring fundamental rights and social justice without discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, or belief. Promoting good governance through strengthening of institutions, transparency, accountability, and openness as articles of faith—National Security Policy of Pakistan 2022-2026
The National Security Policy of Pakistan 2022-2026 rightly identifies the key factors that are important for averting potential threats to our existence and for ensuring Pakistan’s prosperity. However, despite knowing the way forward towards stability and security, our rulers—civil and military alike—have failed to implement the requisite policies for reaping their benefits. The principle of universal justice is the most important element for any national security vision. Unfortunately, institutions responsible for dispensing justice appear quite indifferent. Since its existence, Pakistan’s justice system has been working against the spirit of universal justice. Consequently, we have been placed in the list of countries performing poorly with reference to abiding by Rule of Law.
Through the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Act, 2010 [“18th Amendment”], the government’s executive branch was removed from the process of appointment and removal of judges to allow independence of judiciary but with unfettered powers including self-accountability, this needs reconsideration. Post 18th Amendment analysis of our judicial performance shows that some decisions of the courts have caused global embarrassment while those challenged at international forums have resulted in huge losses to the national treasury.
For evaluating judicial effectiveness, two important aspects among others are quality of judgements delivered and inclusion of women in higher judiciary in accordance with their proportion in the population. We have failed to ensure both. The 2022 Global Gender Gap report has ranked us at 145th, right above Afghanistan. The report states that Pakistan is a country where women have the smallest share of senior, managerial and legislative roles (4.5%), even lower compared to other developing nations like Jamaica, where women represent 56.6% of workers in that category, or Togo, which has the highest share of women in senior roles, at 70.1%.
The United States Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in its report [Religious Freedon in Pakistan 2022] claims that Pakistan is a country of 96.3% Muslims, a mix of Sunni and Shia (approximately 10-15% Shia), 0.2% Ahmadi, Hindu and Christian, 1.6% and Sikhs, Buddhists, Baha’is, and Zoroastrians represent 1.0%.
The report specifically highlights growing intolerance for religious diversity fueled by extremism and existing problematic Pakistani legislation, citing recent attacks on religious minorities in the country. The report of USCIRF reveals that 84 individuals were charged under the blasphemy laws in 2021, apart from the incident of mob incited killings, including that of factory manager Priyantha Kumara, a Sri Lankan national. It also mentions the case of Muhammad Mushtaq, a mentally challenged man from Khanewal, who was accused of burning the holy Quran and was stoned to death and his body hung from a tree.
The report further pinpoints incidents of target killing of a Christian Priest in January 2022, death of two Sikh businessmen brothers and a man professing Ahmadiyya faith, killed by a seminary student in Okara District, Punjab. These and many unreported episodes not only testify to the poor performance of country’s institutions for maintaining the spirit of equity, but also confirm rising level of religious intolerance in the society. Assurance to all citizens of equality, religious freedom and equal opportunities are prerequisites for stability and prosperity.
The national security vision of any nation state envisages peaceful neighbourhood based on the principle of mutual co-existence. However, Pakistan remains perpetually in conflict with its neighbours, especially India. Pakistan and India may have political differences but they have never treasured their common heritage in terms of history, culture, language, music, food, crops, so as to forge peace and tranquility in the region. A prudent foreign policy requires that both countries should maintain good relations so that they can reduce their massive defence expenses and divert these for the welfare of their masses.
Pakistan and India have the capability to be good trade partners. Despite sharing many similarities, both countries are a consistent threat to each other’s existence and are not ready to initiate dialogue to address their unresolved disputes. Similarly, Iran’s relations with Pakistan are not ideal either. Iran’s government believes that Pakistan is responsible for its security related issues.
Pakistan is a host to around three million Afghan refugees and supports Taliban government in Afghanistan against opposition from the West. Despite sharing borders, culture and religion, Pakistan and Afghanistan hold opposing views on many issues. While Afghanistan blames Pakistan for toeing America’s hostile policies towards it in the past, Pakistan considers that Taliban-supported banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is responsible for terrorist incidents within its borders [see also, A lesson from the Taliban].
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is aimed at promoting and strengthening regional connectivity. This initiative is considered as game changing for Pakistan and the entire region. However, we have failed to maximise gains from the second phase of CPEC—though the first one was completed during Pakistan Muslim League’s (Nawaz) tenure (2013-18).
The pace of completion of the second phase of CPEC based on promoting industrial cooperation, trade, agriculture and socio-economic development, slowed down during the coalition government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) as it could not get proper attention of our authorities. Despite taking massive loans and making economic/industrial zones, Pakistan failed to set up new industries vital for GDP growth and for creating employment opportunities. As a result, in the last four years, we have failed to improve our GDP growth. This has led us to a position where gigantic debt repayments, coupled with insufficient revenue generation capacity, pose grave national security risk. Due to our casual attitude towards CPEC, China is not happy with us either.
Another important factor for national security is economic prosperity that comes with political stability. However, due to continuous intervention in state affairs by powerful institutions, we could not frame prudent and pragmatic policies for streamlining our economic progress. In the past five years, we had six finance ministers, with each of them coming up with a different model to run fiscal affairs. Due to these varied approaches the most needed International Monetary Fund (IMF) Extended Fund Facility (EFF) Programmes could not be completed within the agreed time frame. Moreover, repeated violations of agreed conditions with the lender of last resort have created a huge trust deficit. Resultantly, they are reluctant to execute staff level agreement after the Ninth Review.
Delay in reaching an agreement with IMF is increasing our economic difficulties. Our external financing needs have reached alarming levels as for the ongoing year we have to pay US$20.49 billion, whereas for next four years, estimated payments are on an average US$25.23 billion per year. These numbers are exclusive of the additional impact that can arise due to current account deficit as mentioned by the IMF in its reports.
Pakistan’s average annual gross financing requirement in next four years will be around US$37.5 billion. However, our current foreign exchange level shows that external debt servicing becoming due in one month is US$2.7 billion and between 1 to 3 months it will rise to US$3.8 billion. The country has very low levels of foreign reserves. Furthermore, delay in signing the IMF programme will push us into more problems. Without resumption of the programme, it would be an uphill task to seek any bilateral or multilateral monetary help to save Pakistan from rescheduling external loans.
Our political leaders, beyond party affiliations, should realize that merely writing wish lists in the national security policy and acting contrary to them will not bring us any good. The current political and economic affairs are posing real threat to our national security. We must devise a strategy for the implementation of our national security vision contained in National Security Policy of Pakistan 2022-2026, starting with judicial reforms, followed by formulating a prudent and pragmatic foreign policy.
Dr. Ikramul Haq, Advocate Supreme Court, specializes in constitutional, corporate, media, intellectual property, arbitration, international taxation, IT and ML/CFT related laws. He is author of many books on law, economic and political history of Pakistan, drugs, arms, terrorism and related matters. He has been studying phenomena of arms-for-drugs, narco-terrorism and global heroin economy since 1979 and authored Pakistan: From Hash to Heroin and its sequel Pakistan: From Drug-trap to Debt-trap. He studied journalism, English literature and law. He is Chief Editor of Taxation He is country editor and correspondent of International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (IBFD) and member of International Fiscal Association (IFA). He is Visiting Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and member Advisory Board and Visiting Senior Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE).
Abdul Rauf Shakoori, Advocate High Court, is a subject-matter expert on AML-CFT, Compliance, Cyber Crime and Risk Management. He has been providing AML-CFT advisory and training services to financial institutions (banks, DNFBPs, investment companies, money service businesses, insurance companies and securities), government institutions including law enforcement agencies located in North America (USA & CANADA), Middle East and Pakistan. His areas of expertise include legal, strategic planning, cross border transactions including but not limited to joint ventures (JVs), mergers & acquisitions (M&A), takeovers, privatizations, overseas expansions, USA Patriot Act, Banking Secrecy Act, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).