Securitising human security
The post colonial state journey of Pakistan took the country through a roller coaster ride of totalitarianism to democracy punctuated by interregnums of hybrid democracy
by Raashid Wali Janjua
Securitising human security
Why is it that we securitise everything in our neck of the woods except the human security? The answer perhaps lies in the country's unique political trajectory begotten out of the cataclysm of a struggle for liberation from colonial bondage. A colonial bequest of exploitation and resource rent extraction drove a wedge between the state and societal needs that placed survival needs at premium against the development needs. A colonial experience pitch forked into an independent polity based on religion based identity politics put paid to any preferential treatment to human development and governance. National security trumped human security from the early 1950s when the nation confronted with existential threats of water denial, territorial violation, and irredentism by aggressive neighbours opted to piggyback on the politico-military support of United States to neutralise the looming threats to national survival.
When water reservoir development becomes a national security priority through a process of securitisation, all state organs and agencies should treat it with the desired urgency pressing all national resources to develop the required facilities
Dr Ishtiaq avers in his book The Pakistan Garrison State, Origins, Evolution, Consequences, that a Garrison state is a state that is obsessively concerned with threats to the exclusion of other factors essential for national and human development. In such a state not only the military but the civilian leadership also comes to believe in the primacy of defence needs over developmental needs, keeping the general population in thrall of external threats who indirectly imbibe the national security narrative to the detriment of a national development narrative. Dr Ishtiaq differed with Harold Laswell's classic notion of a garrison state that developed only in advanced industrial societies. According to him, such a state can easily develop in a post colonial society heavily dependent on a foreign ally with which it could seek a client-patron relationship to arm itself, making full use of a threat based regional and international environment.
The above model of national security centric politics and governance was followed by Pakistan where Indian threats, US patronage, and Cold War combined with a domestic leadership vacuum hurtling Pakistan in a vicious spiral of defence spending at the cost of development. Hamza Alavi, another big name in Pakistani sociology lore, ascribes a conflict between the over developed administrative and political structures of a post colonial state geared towards resource extraction, and the indigenous bourgeoisie class, which lacked the leadership and administrative skills of the colonial metropolitan leadership class, as the main reason for the neglect of the human development interests of the indigenous population. A radical realignment of new classes as a consequence of the politico-administrative imbalance results in domination of the population by a new elite that appropriates the national resources as per its own political needs and vision. Ayesha Jalal also argues in the same vein in her book, The State of Martial Rule in Pakistan, explaining that the military rule and the political economy of defence spawned by it were sustained by a conflict between the centre and the provinces that effectively separated state from the politics. A strong centre premised on colonial model was fearful of the political independence of the provinces that had been the main catalysts of a struggle for independence construed as fissiparous by a centre dominated by ex symbols of colonial politico-administrative superstructure i.e. bureaucrats and politicians with feudal roots. Under the reign of first military ruler, Indus Water Treaty was signed between India and Pakistan. A water accord that was to act as the harbinger of peace had in fact securitised the water use and apportionment between the two countries as well as within the country itself. Due to the compulsion to bring land earlier irrigated by eastern rivers under cultivation canals and water regulation structures like dams, headworks, and barrages were constructed on war footing. Mangla, Warsak, and Tarbela dams were some of the projects that were developed by a state threatened by water denial by an aggressive upper riparian.
The post colonial state journey of Pakistan took the country through a roller coaster ride of totalitarianism to democracy punctuated by interregnums of hybrid democracy. The focus on national security resulted in securitisation of several fields like journalism, information dissemination, defence industry, communication infrastructure, national logistics, and even agricultural lands. The result was the rise of a 'Warrior State' in the words of Professor TV Paul that spent liberally on the defence infrastructure and other securitised sectors to the exclusion of public spending on health, education, housing, public sanitation, and civic infrastructure. Human security therefore was sidestepped in a race for the threat amelioration by a Garrison State indoctrinated in the primacy of national security needs over human security needs. What if Pakistan had factored in the marginalised and impoverished masses in the threat matrix of its national security calculations? The act would certainly have resulted in securitisation of human security needs.
Pakistan's 207 million people need a new development paradigm premised upon a new threat assessment model. If we have to reap the full benefits of a demographic dividend we need to replace national security with human security in our national strategic thinking process. Let us securitize three existential threats to our national stability and development i.e water shortage, public health, and education and see the results after few years. It will certainly usher in a revolution ensuring water availability, enhanced agricultural output, and availability of educated and healthy human resource ready to leverage full advantage of a CPEC-fueled economic growth. Conversely with a disaffected and illiterate population, short of drinking water and food resources at the mercy of disease and destitution, no amount of nuclear missiles and munitions of war would protect us.
When the water reservoir development becomes a national security priority through a process of securitisation, all the state organs and agencies should treat it with the desired urgency pressing all national resources to develop the required facilities. Lack of provincial consensus, shortage of resources, and technical challenges would certainly dwarf in the face of a national resolve that has wrought miracles in fields of conventional and nuclear defence for the nation. Our national security committee should henceforth be seized with these weightier issues of human security than mulling constantly over military and espionage threats.
Now when we securitise the human security threats could we do without the most organised and disciplined national institution i.e. the military? The answer is no. Military like its erstwhile single minded focus on military threats should lend a willing hand with the same military precision and efficiency as in case of wars and insurgencies. Without civil military cooperation the human security development of a country like Pakistan will remain a pipedream. In our armed forces we have a tremendous reservoir of trained and motivated manpower that can be suitably employed to act as the backbone of our human security endeavour.
The writer is a PhD scholar at NUST; email firstname.lastname@example.org