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Threats to the State

By Farzana Bari

Published in The News

The multiple crises the state is faced with today bring home the stark realisation that the policies pursued by the state elite over the last 62 years for national security in Pakistan were incorrect and misplaced. The territory-centered state security paradigm has resulted in a lack of human security that is now posing the biggest internal threat to the country. Massive economic insecurity, illiteracy, rising unemployment, inflation, energy and water shortages, food insecurity, inaccessibility to social sector services, militancy, sectarianism and extremism, rampant kidnapping and killing for ransom and the complete breakdown of law and order are some of the real existential threats to the security of the state today.

Pakistan appears to be crumbling down not because of external threats but from the internal crisis intensified by the competing forces within the state elite and institutions. The contemporary crisis of the state and its internal contradictions can only be understood in its historical and colonial context.

Pakistan inherited internal and external security dilemmas from the colonial rule as part of independence. The major internal threat to the state stems from the very ideology of Pakistan itself. In the absence of a commonly shared notion of nationhood, the post-colonial state establishment started using Islam as a unifying force to keep the ethnically and culturally diverse population together. The state was Islamised through the Objectives Resolution in 1949. Thus, the ideology of Pakistan created a need for a strong centre. Despite the initial contract between the centre and the various federating units that the latter would be sovereign and autonomous, the centre refused to grant provincial autonomy to its federating units in the successive military and civilian governments for the last 62 years. The over-centralised state created tension between the federal and provincial units. The independence of Bangladesh was a nail in the coffin of the ideology of Pakistan.

However, no lessons were learnt. The centre continued to exploit provincial resources, refused to abolish the concurrent list and did not work out a power and resource sharing formula between the federal and provincial governments. As a result of this, the national question emerged as one of the most serious threats to the state security. Some of these nationalist forces are now turning into secessionist movements.

Another major threat to the state is from rising religious militancy and extremism. After independence, Pakistan inherited the disputes of Kashmir with India and Durand Line with Afghanistan. To respond to these perceived security threats from neighbouring countries, the Pakistani establishment crafted the policy of support to non-state actors and trained Islamist militants who were fighting in Indian held Kashmir. The annexation of the Objectives Resolution with Pakistan’s first constitution was followed by declaring Ahmadiyya sect as non-Muslims in 1974. The policy of appeasement of religious forces was at its peak during the military dictators of Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf’s military rule.

Ziaul Haq nurtured Islamist militants with the support of the US to fight Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The radical Islamists were given tremendous financial and political support to establish religious madaris to produce and train militants for Afghan jihad. Musharraf’s regime secured the electoral victory of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) through manipulation of elections in NWFP. During the five-year-rule of MMA (2002-2007) in NWFP, radical militant groups in FATA became strong.

In the post-9/11 scenario, the Pakistani establishment was forced by the US to withdraw traditional state support to these militant groups who then turned against the country. Today, the rise of neo-Taliban insurgency in the shape of Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) is posing a threat to the state.

Rising poverty, illiteracy and disease are other formidable threats to state security. In the name of territorial security, the state provided justification to spend a bulk of its financial resources on defence and the development of nuclear capability. Investment on education, health and creating employment opportunities lagged far behind the ever-rising defence budget. The state compromised human security and failed to diverge from state centric to people-centric security paradigm. Today nuclear Pakistan is unable to provide personal security to its citizens from rising extremism and Talibanisation, sectarian violence, suicide bombing, kidnapping and killing, crushing poverty and disease.

The criminal neglect of human security concerns and lack of investment in human capital by the self-serving state elite is the most serious threat to Pakistan — not external but emanating from within the national borders.

To save the country from contemporary traditional and non-traditional security threat, the new social contract is the need of the day. The key element of this new contract must include the separation of religion from state, complete provincial autonomy, balance between the security needs of the individual, community and state, massive investment in human capital, inclusion of citizens in governance, gender equality and an independent foreign policy.

The writer is acting director of the Centre of Excellence in Gender Studies at Quaid-e-Azam University. Email: farzana @comsats.net.pk

This entry was posted in: Uncategorized


Vision 21 is Pakistan based non-profit, non- party Socio-Political organisation. We work through research and advocacy for developing and improving Human Capital, by focusing on Poverty and Misery Alleviation, Rights Awareness, Human Dignity, Women empowerment and Justice as a right and obligation. We act to promote and actively seek Human well-being and happiness by working side by side with the deprived and have-nots.

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