CPEC security should not be seen in isolation from the overall security situation in Pakistan

It is also a blunder to look at the NAP for policy guidance regarding security instead of NISP, which gives a more comprehensive picture of the situation

Insecurity is one of the most dominant problems in Pakistan. Though Pakistan Security Report 2015 showed a 49% decrease in terrorist attacks as compared to 2014, major concerns still prevail. The report showed some critical threats like sectarian violence (272 people killed in sectarian attacks), cross-border attacks (77 Pakistani citizens lost their lives), diverse militant landscape and nationalist insurgency in Balochistan. The report also highlighted some missing/weak links, like no comprehensive counter-terrorism policy, lack of understanding of the militant behavior, insecure cyber space and weak criminal justice system.

Unfortunately, most of these issues still persist and raise concerns regarding the development initiatives, foreign investment, and political situation. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a multi-billion dollar mega project in infrastructure, energy sector and industrial development will definitely require better security situation in Pakistan. China has emphasized on better security arrangements and recently it also raised concerns regarding the delay in the deployment of the Special Security Division for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. However, Pakistan has ensured of better arrangements and deployment of around 15,000 security personnel and a four-layer security mechanism for security of CPEC.

It would be important to see what sort of security arrangements are made for CPEC, and how CPEC security would fit in the overall security mechanism and where it would fit in Pakistan security policy – National Internal Security Policy (NISP) and NAP. What are the possibilities that CPEC security would improve the overall security situation in Pakistan and will not divert the attentions towards the mega-project alone? Moreover, it is vital to investigate whether the formation of security forces alone would solve the security issues?

It is a folly on the part of the policymakers to see the CPEC security in isolation from the overall security situation in the country. And, it is also a blunder to look at the NAP for policy guidance regarding security instead of NISP, which gives a more comprehensive picture of the situation, our capabilities to face the security challenges and the ways to tackle them. NAP, on the other hand, is a list of 20 points that lack detailed discussions about the context, responsibilities and implementation. Therefore, a wiser step would be to see CPEC security in perspective of NISP and see how it fits within that framework.

Policing or guarding the CPEC route is not the end of story as far as better security arrangements are concerned. Even if such an objective is pursued, the number of security forces required and the costs associated to guarding more than 3,000 km route should be kept in consideration. Nevertheless, a better approach would be to tackle the main security challenges throughout different parts of the country, particularly the ones that require immediate attention, like the security situation in Balochistan. Following what is termed as Comprehensive Response Plan (CRP) in NISP, Pakistan can achieve better results as far as challenging the real security threats are concerned. ‘Security for all’ is not about policing alone and it cannot be achieved by quantifying the number of security personnel for each citizen or for each Chinese citizen who would come to Pakistan for CPEC. Bodyguards will not be required once the security threats are minimized. Utilizing the resources and time for such measures also has the opportunity cost of utilizing the same for pursuing our comprehensive policy.  

Another important aspect of the effect of CPEC on security in Pakistan needs to be studied in connection with the consensus of civilian and military leadership regarding the security strategy. When NAP was formed in 2014 both military and civilian leadership agreed on a unanimous strategy but since then the gap between the both has increased regarding the security matters. Moreover, there are possibilities that the gap between the civilian and military leadership can be further widened by CPEC, once both vie with each other for authority and that would have a negative impact on overall security situation. 

Sajjad Aasim is a freelance researcher and an M Phil scholar in Government and Public Policy. He can be reached at sajjad.aasim@hotmail.com.

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