The much-spoken-of Bajwa Doctrine was a critical step in the development of Pakistan’s security mindset, and it attempted to suggest a paradigm shift in how Pakistan is placed in international politics, initiated by the famously rationalistic and logical Gen Qamar Bajwa and his team from the top military command. The security leadership shared their assessment with the political leadership for policy formulation and expected the government to trigger a change management process with a holistic vision. As a result, the government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet mandated the National Security Division (NSD) led by Dr. Moeed Yousuf to rewrite the national policy framework with the help of relevant ministries and entities. The task required a demonstration that the state, government and society at large are on the same page. After this process, the redacted version has been released. Since its public release, the content, process and approach in drafting the National Security Policy has invited discussion and criticism from a large segment of political and intellectuals’ circles. To some, from a distance at least, it seems that the methodology, process design, and launching of the National Security Policy have unilaterally executed an existing security doctrine and negated a chance for Pakistan to be ready for todays’ geopolitical trends.
At the moment, the government leadership and government-organised intellectuals argue that policy is citizen-centric and focuses on the security of ordinary Pakistanis. However, in a surprising move, citizens, public representatives, and other stakeholders such as academia, civil society and media have been kept out of the consultative and drafting process. The analysis presented in the Bajwa Doctrine was a seismic shift requiring a responsible attitude from the political leadership and the National Security Division (NSD). It is unfortunate that an opportunity is not only missed but has probably blocked any discussion on future policy reset.
The journey of Indonesia in the post-President Suharto era is an inspiring example where that country, led by President Habibi and then by President Abdul Rahman Waheed adopted a transformative approach of “Million Friends and Zero Enemies.” As a result, Indonesia successfully managed long-standing internal issues such as the conflict in Aceh and East Timor and reset its global posture through its normalisation policy. As a result, Indonesian political, security and social leaders owned the national and international transformation process and stayed firmly behind the complex change management and transition task.
Many countries, including Indonesia, South Africa and the United States, have used pre-dialogues, as well as training or capacity-building activities to ensure that all parties understand concepts and approaches, and work out common language around critical issues to understand each other better
The journey thus far was not without challenges and hurdles. However, it was made possible owing to responsible and trustworthy leaders who managed to secure a new place for Indonesia and improve its international standing. Though the initial leaders are long gone, their legacy lives on with the strategic framework firmly in place. The world’s largest Muslim democracy, Indonesia, plays a significant role in peace within the Muslim world. It is considered a reliable player within the UN system and regionally within ASEAN. Indonesia’s credibility allows it to host multiple high-profile forums such as the Bali Democracy Forum, an annual intergovernmental forum on the development of democracy in the Asia Pacific. In addition, it generously shares experience and knowledge through the Institute for Peace and Democracy. It has been a leader for ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights and ASEAN Peace Institute. Indonesia’s role in managing conflicts promoting interfaith dialogues in the region and beyond is well known and respected today, due to its consistent and value-based leadership.
Indonesia did not adopt a paradigm shift overnight – it adopted an incremental and process-based approach with milestones regularly assessed to match the internal and external factors. The Indonesian leadership acted responsibly, managed their position against international pressures and assured the world and citizens that the policy was not going anywhere. For theoretical purposes, one can assume that after the departure of President Suharto, President Habibi had less international legitimacy and faced severe pressure from external actors. However, the balancing act has resulted in a global recognition that President Habibi is the father of democracy in Indonesia. When the political leadership enjoyed increased legitimacy globally, the focus had been to domestically orient stakeholders to anchor security for all citizens. Most recently, after twenty years of adopting the “Million Friends Zero Enemies” policy, president Jakowi launched a national orientation program in 2019.
What do we learn from Indonesia in the case of Pakistan specifically?
While designing a process, the mandate holder must remember that their primary role is to bring the parties together and should be prepared to work in an environment where internal and external actors have significant leverage due to their historical engagement. Therefore, the work must begin by listening to stakeholders, so as to understand climate and ensure that the decision-making remains with them for shared ownership. A critical choice is whether to adopt a comprehensive or incremental approach. For Pakistan, just like Indonesia, an incremental approach could have been more suitable for this complex challenge. In addition, the use of a ‘framework approach’ for various segments of the process would have been crucial to secure an acceptable and essentially doable policy.
Many countries, including Indonesia, South Africa and the United States, have used pre-dialogues, as well as training or capacity-building activities to ensure that all parties understand concepts and approaches, and work out common language around critical issues to understand each other better. Indonesia set up intergovernmental forums and bilateral cooperation to develop norms, yet keeping a cautious eye on its national sensitivities. For Pakistan’s National Security Division (NSD), a responsible approach could have been to build the drafting process with the previous attempts, as the experience has a more substantial impact on positions. While building on the background, the mandate holder should have made an effort to learn and share comparative knowledge from similar contexts and take inspiration to design a challenge specific process.
By running a selective consultative and secretive drafting process, the NSD is solely responsible for lack of legitimacy and rise of suspicion. Instead, the NSD should have used comparative experience and considered ways to balance the asymmetry in knowledge and power among the stakeholders and adopted effective measures to mitigate it.
Participation, in terms of who is allowed into the dialogues or consultation process, profoundly impacts the legitimacy and buy-in of the final product. Dialogues and meaningful participation are vital to ensuring stakeholders’ buy-in of a complex political process, such as developing a National Security Policy. However, the deteriorated relations and prevailing mistrust among stakeholders require a robust methodology, systematic outreach and dialogue and incremental process and preferably done through mandate holder with no baggage.
Partnerships must be formed with formal and informal structures such as parliamentary committees, state-owned universities, NGOs, global entities and multilateral institutions to bring legitimacy and acceptability. Given the political complexity, collaboration on the objectives, agenda and desired outcomes of the consultation is essential. In this model, partnerships are revised over time to ensure the goals still reflect the needs of all the parties involved.