THE primary responsibility of a modern state is the promotion of the welfare of its people in a peaceful atmosphere which is free of fear and coercion and in which the citizens can fully realise their God-given potential.
The achievement of this objective certainly necessitates the protection of the state from external aggression. However, excessive focus on external security takes away precious resources from the tasks of the development and welfare of the people to the military sector.
Therefore, when the state leadership becomes obsessed with the objective of safeguarding external security leading to the phenomenon of the security state syndrome, it fails in its primary purpose which is the promotion of the welfare of the people.
Unfortunately, Pakistan, due to a variety of internal and external factors, has been a victim of the security state syndrome during most of its chequered history. The state machinery has been dominated by the military because of repeated military takeovers and the consequent stunted evolution of the political system. Even when the army was not at the helm of affairs, it manipulated the government machinery from behind the scenes. A hostile neighbour in the form of India accentuated the feeling of insecurity among our policymakers.
The security state syndrome from which Pakistan has suffered basically had five main features. Firstly, it resulted in the sacrificing of the objectives of economic development of the country and raising the standard of living of the people at the altar of state security. It is interesting to note that during the 1980s when a military dictator was ruling the country, 6.5 per cent of the GDP was allocated for defence as against only 0.3 per cent of GDP for education on which the future of Pakistan depended. (The international norm for expenditure on education is four per cent of GDP.)
Expenditure on health was only 0.8 per cent of GDP during that period. Expenditure on education improved to 2.3 per cent of GDP during the 1990s when civilian governments were in place but still defence continued to claim a high proportion of national resources amounting to 5.6 per cent of GDP.
The situation worsened again during Musharraf’s military rule with expenditure on education declining to 1.9 per cent of GDP in 2005-06 while 3.2 per cent of GDP was diverted for military purposes. Defence expenditure would have been much higher had military pensions been added to it as was the practice before the military takeover in 1999 and the amount of Rs60bn paid annually by the US directly to our military establishment for anti-terrorism operations.
As for the current financial year, defence has again claimed the lion’s share amounting roughly to Rs430bn if one adds military pensions, contribution by the US for anti-terrorism operations, etc. to the budgetary allocation of Rs275bn.
The neglect of economic development, particularly human resource development, has not allowed the country to realise fully its potential for economic growth. This factor combined with growing inequalities of income and wealth has resulted in the growing incidence of poverty in the country. The frequent cases of young men and women committing suicide because of poverty show the miserable conditions in which the majority of the people live.
Secondly, the military exaggerated the potential threat from India by playing up the Kashmir issue from time to time to justify the massive allocation of resources for defence. In the process, it led the country into a major war in 1965 and a minor one in 1999. In retrospect, both failed to achieve their objectives and the latter unquestionably was a strategic blunder of monumental proportions.
Thirdly, Pakistan also presents the classic case of a country whose leadership, because of the security state syndrome, has failed to adopt a comprehensive approach encompassing political, economic, diplomatic and military elements of state power in right proportion in dealing with external threats to its security. We have traditionally over-emphasised the military at the expense of other elements of state power thereby neglecting the contribution that political stability, economic strength and pro-active diplomacy can make to the strengthening of the state’s security.
Fourthly, in the long run, military power can be sustained only on the basis of economic strength. The over-emphasis on military power at the expense of the building up of economic strength in Pakistan provided for short-term security of the state at the expense of its long-term security. The net result was that Pakistan’s overall security vis-à-vis its potential enemy weakened with the passage of time.
Fifthly, our leadership and policymakers failed to understand that the nature and intensity of the external security threat could be altered by employing the right combination of the means at state disposal. The case of our good friends, the Chinese, is particularly instructive in this regard. After taking a decision at the highest level of their leadership in 1980, China in pursuit of its supreme objectives of development at home and peace around its borders embarked upon a number of initiatives to engage the erstwhile Soviet Union and India in negotiations to defuse tensions in its relations with its two major neighbours.
As a result of these initiatives, China was able to transform the security environment in its neighbourhood and concentrate on economic development achieving amazingly high economic growth rates. Our military, on the other hand, vitiated the improving atmosphere of Pakistan-India relations following the Lahore Declaration by blundering into the Kargil adventure.
The formation of new governments at the federal and provincial levels after the February elections provides a golden opportunity to the new political leadership and the civilian-military elite to get rid of the security state syndrome and transform the country into a welfare state.
Accordingly, economic development and the welfare of the people should become matters of top priority not just in statements but also in terms of the allocation of resources. Our security planners would have to revise their thinking and devise a new strategy for dealing with issues of external security keeping in mind the resources available after meeting the essential requirements for development and public welfare.
Let us hope that our leadership demonstrates the wisdom to choose the right path for the long-term survival and progress of the country.
Source: Daily Dawn, 30/4/2008