A few days before the National Security Policy (NSP) was made public, in this space, on January 10, while highlighting the importance of its appropriate and timely ‘implementation’, it was hoped that the NSP would contain not only the goals set in all-important areas but also dilate on how to achieve the desired objectives during a period that involves a general election at home and a pandemic driven overwrought geo-strategic environment. In the same op-ed, questions were raised on the absence of good governance and how the NSP would be implemented without good-governors and a good-governed populace. It was hoped that the NSP would also explain how geo-strategic and geo-political objectives could either be sidelined or ignored at the cost of boosting economic prospects.

The NSP is now issued and a number of useful commentaries thereon have come to the fore as well. However, the primary questions and concerns still remain unanswered including the one on its timely and appropriate implementation. It seems the basic idea revolved around the ‘issuance’ of the document was to portray that the present governmental set-up was the first in bringing out an agreed upon NSP after having the civil and military sides amenably on one-page. Well, if that was the sole purpose, the objective is already achieved.

Aiming for the sky, the NSP seems to have figured out all challenges and opportunities. The goals & objectives articulated in smart American English clearly indicate Islamabad’s intentions to shift its focus from geo-politics to geo-economics. Notwithstanding the absence of a clear-cut plan to make it ‘citizen centric’ in real terms, the NSP bases its arguments on a number of presumptions in achieving these goals without actually caring about the provision of requisite resources.

For instance, it is presumed that democracy in its purest form will be flourishing in Pakistan with the benevolent doors of FDIs immediately opening in an extremely intriguing geo-political and geo-strategic environment. It is also presumed that the Ministries and other Government Departments would assiduously and relentlessly work without complaining about the absence of an adequate budget and know-how to carry out the Plan. Without explaining the contours of ‘Economic Diplomacy’ and how different this idea was from the already in-place mechanism and available SOPs for diplomatic Missions and the key economic Ministries, the NSP presumes that Pakistan is presently enjoying the most investment-friendly environment.

During an informal discussion, according to one of the participants, through the NSP, a new Pakistan has been introduced to the world. It is now a country that is ready to take off and join the comity of peaceful and prosperous nations. Before the NSP’s annual review is due in a year, both the eastern and western borders will be secured and the law & order situation will be brought under control. Terrorism, TTP, Daesh, ISIS and all such militant outfits will be tamed in a manner that suits the country’s geo-economics’ paradigms. Meanwhile, successive governments will take care of basic amenities such as health, education, food, shelter and utilities and pay off the ever increasing foreign and local debt. The sense of deprivation will take care of itself; everyone will pay taxes; and, the tax-to-GDP ratio will surpass that of Denmark before the NSP’s five-year validity expires.

Another participant added: The entire population of 220 million will be vaccinated by December 2022 and the people of Pakistan will be happily leading their lives while following the best moral principles and more than eighty percent of overseas Pakistanis will have returned to their homeland by the end of 2025. It would be difficult to find someone living below the poverty line. Above all, the squeaking birds of extremism, ethnicity and sectarianism will be forced to migrate to Alaska so that the lion and the goat could drink water from the same stream.

The list of lofty goals particularly in the domains of national cohesion, economic future, human security & foreign policy and that too without indicating the required ways and means to succeed, reminded the third participant of an old joke!

The General was addressing his battle-hardened troops in the midst of a seemingly losing war. The tired troops were looking at the ocean while trying to pay attention to what was being said. Sensing the obvious boredom of his soldiers, the General thought of posing a question to them. ‘It is getting dark. Imagine the well-equipped enemy suddenly appears at a distance of around one kilometre in the ocean. You are short of ammunition and manpower. Retreat is not possible as you are already surrounded from three sides on the ground. What would you do? A brief silence ensued. None of the senior officers raised a hand to respond. Suddenly, a young officer stood up and asked permission to answer. Looking pleased, the General roared, ‘Yes Captain, what do you want to suggest’? The young officer said, ‘Freeze the ocean, Sir’. Completely perplexed, the General asked, ‘how would you freeze the ocean, Captain?’ ‘My job was to recommend a way and that’s what I did. Now, it’s up to you to implement the plan’, the Captain replied.

NSA Moeed Yusuf and his team have done a good job in bringing out a well drafted NSP. By no means was it an easy task to collate relevant material produced by various minds during the past eight years. Nonetheless, given the not-so-ideal socio-political domestic environment, serious financial constraints, rising inflation, extremely unpredictable regional situation particularly in the neighbouring Afghanistan, the decades-old absence of good governance and a host of other variables, it is difficult to see the NSP being implemented in letter and spirit. It’s all about smartly using the space available between opportunity and response particularly when it comes to formulating a country’s policy. The NSP needs to be revised to make it a document for present-day Pakistan. Otherwise, as always, the nation would wait for the ocean to freeze itself.