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Redefining Security

by Newsweek Pakistan
SS Mirza—AFP

SS Mirza—AFP

Pakistan must adopt a pragmatic approach to its policy-making.

As new Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa takes over his command, Pakistani media is rife with speculation about what changes he will bring to the national security policy and how he will manage the continuation of his predecessor’s popular undertakings.

That Pakistan is a national security state has long been inferred from Pakistan’s behavior as a state. If that label sticks, it is often dubbed a flaw because it limits the options of the state in the field of economic and social advancement. What further complicates the narrowing of options is the ideological nature of the state. In most cases nationalism too plays the same restrictive role. Pakistan is more predictable than many other medium-sized states because of the narrowness of this decision-making turf.

A powerful state can ignore the matter of options, which means it can afford to be inflexible in its policy-making. A weak state—which is no demerit—must be flexible in its policy options to survive and take advantage of prevailing conditions to become prosperous. It develops that national economy in most cases is the driving force behind all strategy.

The Pakistan Army is/should not be the primary decision-making body. It can only function within the security paradigm decided by its lawmakers and the representative government. Pakistan’s ideology presides over a part of the decision-making process, further stiffened by nationalism, which is India-centric, meaning that Pakistan sees the rest of the world from its fixed assessment of India as enemy.

Pakistan needs to become pragmatic in its policy-making; in other words, it needs to become flexible rather than inflexible in proportion to its capacity to manipulate its external environment. The biggest solvent of problems arising from fixed postures is trade, and the biggest exemplar in the pursuit of the freedom of choice is China, the superpower that frontloads the national economy in its pursuit of national interest.

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