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Imperatives of Pakistan’s National Security Policy

For the national security policy to be successful, the key objective is to first clearly identify the threat and terrorist elements

Mansoor Jafar

Published: Updated:

Pakistan finally drew up a National Security Policy last week in an attempt to counter the growing menace of terrorism inside the country that has eaten away the very national fabric over the last decade, spilling the blood of over 80,000 innocent citizens and security personnel.

The federal cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, approved the draft of the policy which includes stringent measures such as keeping suspects under detention without trial for long periods and drastically cutting down the freedoms of citizens through excessive surveillance and spying.

Copy cats

To me, the much propagated draft of the policy, prepared during the last eight months, is more or less a copy of a U.N. security policy drawn in 2008 with its main features akin to the U.S. Patriot Act of 2001, an act Congress hurriedly passed in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001 in the name of protecting the country from such terrorist attacks in future.

I will not be surprised if officials of the interior ministry made extensive use of internet to copy such policies from the U.S. and United Nations.

Personally, I have no objection to adopting good security features from consulting such policies everywhere in the world. But state institutions are required to display a fair amount of honesty by giving credit to them.

Those acquainted with the U.S. Patriot Law and U.N. Security Policy will be quite amused to see that several paragraphs have been pasted from it word by word. Besides, many clauses in the policy deal with specific situations that only exist in western societies.

The National Security Policy comprises of three parts, classified as Strategic, Operational and Secret. Keeping a major portion of the policy secret makes the documents quite complex, and making public certain key operational features that should have been kept secret, makes it rather confusing.

In violation of human rights

As a whole the document is drawing quite an interest from the public, but certain key aspects needs to be subjected to public debate.

Surprisingly, only one or two political leaders have raised the issue that it will violate of human rights and the people’s liberties as guaranteed by the constitution of the country. However, the bulk of human rights bodies in the country affiliated with international bodies and their western counterparts have so far ignored that aspect.

Especially considering the blanket authorization of security agencies that keep suspects thought to have links with terrorists or terror groups under secret detention for several months or sometimes definitely indefinitely. This is quite disturbing and an open violation of the U.N. charter on Human Rights and civil liberties.

Other violations include state agencies that spy on citizens by tapping their phone calls, mail, bank transactions and other payments and incomes; something that has drawn a strong response from the public.

The country has been lacking such a policy to take action against widespread terror groups or enemies that had infiltrated inside the social fabric. However, for the national security policy to be successful, the key objective is to first clearly identify the threat and terrorist elements.

Mansoor Jafar

In fact, such modes of security are an exact replica of the U.S. Patriot Law which has always been under severe condemnation from human rights bodies and political groups all over the world, making it one of the worst legislation in the history.

Either the policy makers in Pakistan are either too terrified to consider themselves capable of dealing with terror threats without adopting the U.S. model of legislations, they are too naïve or they are under some kind of pressure to copy the U.S. model of bad legislation, a measure which could back fire bringing more embarrassment and problems for the government.

Opponents of U.S. Patriot Law have criticized its authorization of indefinite detentions of immigrants, the permission given to law enforcement officers to search a home or business without the owner’s or the occupant’s consent or knowledge, allowing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to search telephone, e-mail, and financial records without a court order, and the expanded access of law enforcement agencies to business records, including library and financial records.

Since its passage, several legal challenges have been brought against the policy and federal courts have ruled that a number of provisions are unconstitutional.

Good intentions

For Pakistan, the formulation of a National Security Policy at a time when the country was on the verge of a full-fledged military operation against Taliban or other groups which form part of its national fabric is quite commendable.

The country has been lacking such a policy to take action against widespread terror groups or enemies that had infiltrated inside the social fabric. However, for the National Security Policy to be successful, the key objective is to first clearly identify the threat and terrorist elements.

Surprisingly, the government and state agencies have badly failed in clearly identifying the terror threats and enemies of the state so far. The term Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is quite vague as it is applied to all the citizens living inside federally administered tribal areas (FATA), the mountainous region bordering Afghanistan. Countless number of women and children have so far been killed in bombings by Pakistani jets and shelling by armored divisions of the armed forces due to this generalization.

Considering FATA

Interestingly, Pakistan's army has been engaged in military operations in FATA since early 2004 while TTP was formed in late 2007 in the wake of Red Mosque Islamabad military operation that left hundreds of girl students killed after a mysterious commando attack on a seminary at the heart of the capital of Islamabad.

Islamabad has always opposed strong demands from political and public quarters to change its U.S.-centric foreign policy, which retired military dictator General Pervez Musharraf formulated on just one phone call from U.S. Under Secretary of State Richard Armitage after Sept. 11, 2001.

Pakistan’s unconditional support of U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 is the basic reason the Islamists in the country, particularly those of FATA, turned against their governments.

Finally, Islamabad must understand that fear of foreign terrorists drove Washington to create the U.S. Patriot Law which is in harsh violation of the U.N. charter. But Pakistan is faced with militancy by a large section of its own society that was opposed to a drastic, dictatorial and paradigm shift in foreign policy which was neither debated by parliament nor subjected to public debate.

The policy identified that Pakistan’s security paradigms were drastically changed throughout the decade long war against terror by a U.S.-led global coalition in bordering Afghanistan and resulted in armed insurgency by a number of groups. However, the fact is that a majority of Pakistanis are still confused about calling this war as their own since those portrayed as enemies are their own brothers

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Mansoor Jafar is Editor of Al Arabiya Urdu based in Islamabad. He can be reached via Twitter: @mansoorjafar

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.