National Security Policy Remains Up For Debate, Says Parliamentary Secretary

National Security Policy Remains Up For Debate, Says Parliamentary Secretary
Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Andleeb Abbas has alluded to the possibility of amending the National Security Policy, after opposition leaders criticised the document and called for a more focused policy addressing the underlying causes of political, economic, and social imbalances in the country.

While participating in the dialogue hosted by the Islamabad Policy Institute on Wednesday, the Parliamentary Secretary remarked that the NSP was a living document which the government was willing to review.

“Policies are revisited and reviewed and constructive criticism would be welcomed,” she said, adding that the NSP reflected the government’s view point, and valid ideas could still be incorporated.

Ms. Abbas emphasized the NSP's implementation and pointed out that several of the government's recent initiatives were already in line with the NSP's objectives.

Both Vice President Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and former foreign and defence minister Khurram Dastgir Khan and Secretary General Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Mr. Farhatullah Babar criticised the policy for containing little substance.

Mr Dastgir said the NSP was, "a hollow document that lacks legitimacy and consent from elected representatives, is devoid of a clearly defined implementation framework, and contradicts directly the conduct of foreign and security policies by the hybrid regime since 2018.”

He noted that the NSP sets out defence of the nation’s sovereignty as its principal aim, but meanwhile the government had compromised the country's economic sovereignty by bulldozing the State Bank bill in the parliament.

He argued that if the NSP’s claim of being “citizen-centric” was to be realized, then resource allocation must be rationalized by balancing defence spending and development. “If this does not happen, the policy is mere paper,” he maintained.

The former foreign minister opined that the Kashmir dispute was not adequately emphasized in the document, nor was the ground situation in the occupied territory fully reflected. He said the document limited itself to boilerplate statements from the Foreign Office, and should have demanded a reversal of India’s actions on 5 August 2019.

Mr. Babar, meanwhile, noted the NSP lacked input from the parliament and civil society, so was neither inclusive nor participatory – a basic condition for a truly national policy. “It is an expression of pious hopes, vague promises, and resting on borrowed clichés,” he added.

He regretted that much like the formulation of the NSP, the government had without any political consultations and debate drastically changed the National Action Plan, though originally formed through consensus among political leadership, rendering the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) dysfunctional.

The NSP, Mr. Babar contended, claims “to leverage the symbiotic relationship between human security, economic security and military security,” but fails to recognize that human security also means protecting and enhancing human freedoms that are the essence of life.

He called on the government to address the issues of institutional imbalance, inequitable resource distribution, non-state actors, and deliberate undermining of democratic institutions. Instead, he suggested that the new national policy must make a clear admission of the failures of the past, of the need to “put own house in order” and start with a Truth Commission to chalk out the path.