From Economy to Security
Ever wonder why global attempts to achieve security are leading to an increasingly insecure world? The answer lies in our understanding of security. There are four mutually nonexclusive and interconnected levels of securities: global, national, regional, and individual (or human). Their interconnectedness makes it difficult to achieve security at any three levels ignoring the fourth one. Thus it is not the case of choosing between ‘either’, ‘or’, but the case of pursuing all four levels simultaneously.
Working for global security is the collective obligation of all responsible nations. In fact the Article 1 of the United Nations’ charter states the maintenance of “international peace and security” as the main objective of the organization and obliges all members to “take collective measures for the prevention and removal of threat to the peace”, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or breach of the peace. Pakistan’s support in war on terrorism after September 2011 is the manifestation of its commitment to stick to the cause of global security.
Sociopolitical instability leading to violence does not only threaten national security but also regional (and at times global) security, too. By ignoring the human dimension of security, the state has failed to address one major factor that perpetuates violence, conflict and physical insecurity. It is about time to bring a paradigm shift and start taking individual insecurity as a nontraditional security threat. Secure individuals are the guarantee for a secure state, region, and globe.
Similarly, Pakistan always has striven to be involved in regional security mechanisms in order to ensure its national security as well as the security of the larger region of which it is a part. It joined various regional accords and networks such as the Baghdad Pact (CENTO) and the Manila Pact (SEATO) as early as the first decade of its creation. Since the 1980s it has been one of the leading members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and is looking forward to host the next SAARC heads of state/government summit in February 2016.
Additionally, it has engaged with all its neighbours in various economic, trade, and other agreements. On the military side, Pakistan has fought three wars with India, to challenge its eastern neighbour’s ambition to become a regional hegemon. Pakistan also fought a decade-long proxy war against the Soviet Union on Afghan soil during General Zia ul Haq’s era. All of these actions are manifestations of its desire to remain a relevant player in regional security. The third and most important level of security that Pakistan tries to achieve is security at the national level. Till recent past almost all countries have tried to attain national security through military means alone. However, of late the threat within is being realized and an attempt is being made to win the hearts along with the battle.
This brings us to the fourth level of security, i.e., human security. According to the UN Commission on Human Security, it is the protection of the vital core of all human life in ways that enhances human freedom and human fulfilment. Thus human security encompasses building strengths, resilience, and aspirations against external and internal shocks. It also encompasses creating enabling system (political, social, economic, environmental, cultural etc.) to assure survival, livelihood and dignity. Social sector development is one of the keys to human security. Unfortunately human security could never become a priority in Pakistan. At times it was compromised of “politically vested interests” due to or perceived to be clashing with “national security interests”. The neglect of human/individual security is evident from the country’s current account expenditure. The country’s current account expenditures can be classified using four “Ds” – debt repayment, defence-related expenditures, day-to-day administration costs, and development-related expenditures.
The Government of Pakistan would like to maintain its credit rating, which means it cannot default on its debts; debt repayment has to happen. Almost 45% of federal revenue is spent on debt and markup payment. Pakistan is in a state of proxy war. The country has to spend huge amount of money to achieve its global, regional, and national security goals. Expenditure related to defence, security and, law and order, therefore, cannot be curtailed and consume around 20% of federal revenue. Similarly, the entire administrative machinery will come to a halt if the government does not spend money on its day-to-day running. Thus the first three ”Ds” have ended up consuming more than 80% of national income pie.
The only type of expenditure that seems flexible is public-sector development expenditure. Thus, every time there is a fiscal problem (mainly due to overspending on the first three Ds), the size of the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP, which includes expenditures on public infrastructure development and provision of basic services such as health, education, drinking water, sanitation, disaster preparedness, and communication etc.) is slashed.
We saw this happening in 2008-9 when the size of the federal PSDP had to be reduced from Rs. 337 (US$5.61) billion to Rs. 210 (US$3.5) billion because Pakistan could not convince the “Friends of the Democratic Pakistan Forum” to provide financial assistance. It happened again in 2009-10 when the federal PSDP had to be slashed from Rs. 421 (US$6) billion to Rs. 300 (US$ 4.2) billion because expected budgetary support from the Kerry Lugar Burman law did not materialized. The size of the federal PSDP was yet again reduced from Rs. 280 (US$3.5) billion to Rs. 140 (US$1.75) billion in 2010-11 because the Government of Pakistan had to divert funds to flood rehabilitation. Last year, FBR missed its tax collection targets and the PSDP budget saw a cut of Rs. 120 million (block allocation). While allocations for the PSDP have suffered downward revisions for all these years, the budgeted expenditures on debt repayment, defence, and day-to-day administration have increased. It is pertinent to mention that the PSDP is perceived to be a lubricant for the growth engine and a guarantor of individual (read: human) securities through social-sector development.
The effectiveness of a successful PSDP, in fact, can be gauged from reduced human/individual insecurities. What happens when spending on public-sector development is curtailed? It curbs human development and gives rise to economic, financial and even social insecurities among the members of the society. These human/individual insecurities are further aggravated in unusual times like those that Pakistan is currently enduring. In the absence of an effective social safety net and in the presence of huge income inequalities, individuals with insecurities may resort to extraordinary behaviours (poverty does not always lead to crimes and militancy). Some of these behaviours, as reported in the Pakistani media, include violent and destructive protests for basic amenities such as the uninterrupted supply of electricity, natural gas, and water; resorting to industrial actions (which may turn violent); organ trade and putting children on sale; engaging in various criminal activities (theft, burglary, robbery, kidnapping for ransom, among others); and forcing women to engage in prostitution and children into child labour. In the worst cases, some people commit suicide and/or kill all their family members, while a few fall prey to the jihadi propaganda of militant groups and become suicide bombers or militants. All these behaviours not only promote intolerance and violence, but they also lead to socio-political instability. Due to Pakistan’s peculiar geo-strategic situation, any socio-political instability has the potential to create a situation in which regional or global players may want to intervene.
However, this is but one aspect of human/individual insecurity. In the absence of strong social safety nets and in the presence of huge income inequalities, perception of individual marginalization, social vulnerability, social exclusion, and various forms of poverty may lead to social conflict and contestation over scarce resources when individual insecurities take on a collective identity – whether ethnicity, creed, gender, class, or region. This type of social instability may erode the basic societal fabric when it turns violent. The evidence that this is already taking place in today’s Pakistan is there for everyone to see in the cases of urban violence in Karachi and the militant nationalist movement in Balochistan. As mentioned earlier, sociopolitical instability leading to violence does not only threaten national security but also regional (and at times global) security, too.
As a matter of fact, Pakistan’s development challenges present a classic example of the maxim that insecurity in any form breeds other forms of insecurities.
A report jointly released by the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), observed that the state of food security in Pakistan has deteriorated since 2003. The report reveals that the conditions for food security are inadequate in 61 percent of districts in Pakistan. This percentage is a sharp increase from 2003, when conditions for food security were inadequate in only 45 percent of the country’s districts. In terms of population, more than half of the people living in Pakistan (53 percent) are food insecured (without access to sufficient food for active and healthy life at all times).
The report found circumstantial evidence that most of the food-insecure regions are also the most conflict prone and violent areas of the country. The Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) – the theatre of war against terrorism – has the highest percentage of food insecure population (67.7 percent), followed by Balochistan (61.2 percent), and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (56.2 percent), the latter two hobbled by religious and ethnic militancy respectively.
Despite the fact that there is, in fact, no empirical evidence to prove that food insecurity is the only cause of militancy, violence and conflict in the above mentioned parts of Pakistan (or vice versa), it is an established fact that the relationship between violence, conflict and food insecurity is reciprocal, creating a vicious cycle that continues challenging the transition to sustainable development.
By ignoring the human dimension of security, the state has failed to address one major factor that perpetuates violence, conflict and physical insecurity. It is about time to bring a paradigm shift and start taking individual insecurity as a nontraditional security threat. Secure individuals are the guarantee for a secure state, region, and globe.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.