Security is a concept that changes with the times, responding to systemic changes in human governance, priorities, technology, economy as well as sociology. The most important question is what you want to secure. A related question is defining the ‘what’ in the above question. Pakistan appears to be unable to respond to these issues.

The international system based on state sovereignty has undergone sea changes. Sovereignty as “exclusive jurisdiction over a piece of territory” (Max Huber) is no more to be seen anywhere. Along with this, the concept of security is also undergoing a change. Traditional security focused on securing state territorial exclusivity from any outside interference; the most important being from military threats by foreign states. National interest was defined as national security interest. There was a strict division/separation between domestic and non-domestic issues.

In the 1970s, the term ‘Comprehensive Security’ came as a conceptual response to the changing international system. It referred to both broadening, meaning inclusion of non-military issues, and deepening, referring to inclusion of domestic concerns in the concept of security. We started hearing of ‘human security’ focusing on the person of individual rather than the geography of the state. Barry Buzan, a British professor, wrote of securitisation — referring to the broadening/expansion of the security through inclusion of governance, economy and socio-economic elements. This meant that in the calculus of state security, one must include much more than tanks, fighter planes and bombs. The collapse of the Soviet Union established beyond doubt the fallacy of depending solely on military means for security. The collapse was, among many other factors, also due to exclusivist statism that was incompatible with the growing globalisation of society, its governance and its overstretch of resources.

The end of the Cold War thus meant the end of statism as well. 9/11 has furthered that process. It appeared at first glance that 9/11 has brought back to centre stage military security — however, that was not the case. The real essence of 9/11 is that a non-state entity became the most serious violent challenger to the state. The nature of war has fundamentally changed and so has that of security. The parties to war today are not always states. In traditional war, State A had to defend its largely known territory from a known State B. Now, when you have to secure yourself from a Qadri, you need totally different strategies, tactics, forces and weapons.

Comprehensive Security in democratic states furthers democratisation of decision-making by increasing the role of non-security segments on security issues, along with political control. Where the security establishment dominates decision-making, like in Pakistan, it expands its control in fields hitherto left to the civilians. The problem creates a lot of confusion and bad policy when this expansion, which is happening, happens without a conscious understanding of it.

Pakistan’s security experts need to rethink its security paradigm in line with changed and changing facts and theory. Democratising security policy will have direct consequences for what the policy is. The first step towards this is to discuss it in public forums. Political parties needs to develop comprehensive approaches/documents towards security policy rather than simple press statements. The security establishment has to be engaged in policy debate at different levels. Along with engagement at the popular level, there is a need for independent serious academic and expert treatment of the subject. While practitioners, i.e. serving and retired bureaucrats (both uniformed or not) are important sources of factual information and description, they simply are not trained to analyse interpret facts. There is a need for more interaction between independent and trained professional analysts/researchers and decision-makers — both in state institutions and (more importantly) in political parties.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 15th,  2011.