By: Raja Taimur Hassan
“In this contemporary world, economic and political factors play more dominant role in defining and molding the national security.”
Islamabad: Of many, one of principle factors of demise of once mighty Soviet Union was widespread economic struggles triggered by massive expenditures on military and weapons, which agitated political and civil unrest in almost all the states. Before the cold war era, national security was based broadly on military dimensions (strengthen of military, number and variety of weapon etc.), while the non-military dimensions (i.e. economy and political stability etc.) played limited role. But after cold war, world powers and allies’ countries realize the importance of non-military aspects and started rethinking the security paradigm.
It is now widely acknowledged that a country’s national security is inextricably link with economic security and political stability, where national security cannot be dealt in isolation. As economy and politics of a country affects directly lives of the people; a weak economy and difficult political situation can lead to the civil unrest and hence weaken the national security. Conversely, a bright economic outlook and political stability ensures social stability, which in turn make the country stronger on security front.
In this context a question strike to one’s mind that is Pakistan’s politics and economy stable and secure enough to tackle the challenges of national security, in the changing security paradigm? And subsequent question arises that is there any threat to Pakistan’s national security?
Our history of economic progress and political stability tells deplorable story and hence, the national security. During last 15 year, we lost more than 50 thousand innocent civilian as a front-line state in ‘war on terror’. The recent State Bank of Pakistan report revealed that total direct and indirect loss and damage to Pakistan’s economy, as a result of ‘war on terror’, is around 118.3 billion dollar from 2002 to 2016. But as compensation, Pakistan receive only 14 billion dollar through coalition support fund, which are just peanuts to such a huge loss.
Pakistan could have had avert that immense loss of economy and innocent lives, if Pakistan would have had strong on both political and economic front. However, it is important for us to know that where we are standing now?
As of today, there is much economic stirring in the country, mainly due to CPEC and low oil prices. The stock market is breaking record every day, in fact, the best performing in the region, due to political stability and improved law and order situation. Growing foreign reserves, improving growth rate, significant reduction in load-shedding and successful completion of IMF program are the other factors painting the brighter picture of the economy. On political front, apparently, civil-military ties are improving, shows military non-involvement in political affairs after 2008. We have witnessed Pakistan’s first peaceful political dispensation in 2013 and heading toward second dispensation, due in 2018.
But does that above mention facts, tantamount to economic security and political stability? My answer is No.
There are still many things to worry about. Pakistan’s majority macroeconomic indicators do not tell the blissful story of the economy, and growing strife among major political parties coupled with protests and sit-ins is pushing country toward political instability.
On Economic front, Pakistan’s export performance is on declining trend; $ 24.5 billion in 2012-13 to $ 17.9 billion in 2014 in 2014-15 (Economic Survey 2015-16). Trade deficit is widening, standing at 5.9 percent of GDP. Cost and ease of doing business in Pakistan is also not globally competitive. Worker remittances are on decline; stands at 5 % of GDP in FY 2015-16, as compared to 6.9 percent in FY 2014-15. Total level of public debt and liabilities has swollen to Rs. 22,461.9 billion, which is 75.9 percent of GDP (SBP 2015-16), and likely to worsen in the next few years. Tax-to-GDP ratio is still stands as one of the lowest in the world, stands at 10.5 percent of GDP. Except China, there is declining trend in investment flows, stands less than one percent of GDP. Unemployment is on rise, where millions of graduate are on streets to find job.
On political front, Pakistan is still struggling with political stability, owing to largely Panama scandal, and allegations of election rigging. We have witnessed 120 plus days sit-ins and protests on election riggings in 2014 and attempt of locking down the federal capital Islamabad on Panama leaks. Cyril leak, which is being linked with national security, was another dismal civil-military episode.
This gradual degradation of macroeconomic indicators and deteriorating political situation means that the present state of the economy and politics are ‘NOT’ in a position to face existential and looming security challenges. Such a development on the economic and political front breed civil unrest, social chaos, promote corruption, breakdown of law and order and absolute failure of governance, which pose serious threat to national security.
So in this situation what needs to be done?
In this contemporary world, economic and political factors play more dominant role in defining and molding the national security. Hence, for economy to thrive Pakistan needs to strengthen its economy through structural reforms in taxation system, providing business friendly environment, encouraging investments through ensuring ease of doing business, borrow prudently to prevent the growing debt level to unsustainable level and enhanced investment in human capital i.e. investing in education and health infrastructure.
For political stability, both political and military leadership of Pakistan should realize that only an economically independent and politically stable Pakistan can effectively deal with national security challenges. For that both civil and military leadership should continue to show patience and restraint for improved Islamabad-Rawalpindi ties. To ease the political tensions, political parties should refrain from politics of mudslinging and confrontation, and should strive for politically stable Pakistan.By doing so we can ensure our national security un-compromised.
The writer is the Public Policy and Political Analyst and work at Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad. He tweets at @taimur__ .
The views express in this article does not represent SDPI stance on the subject.
Note: This article first appear at Express Tribune.