Presence of a uniform policy on internal security allows the government to have a pre-emptive approach to resolving national internal security concerns. Thus, National Internal Security Policy (NISP) is a necessity that helps diagnose the limitations to ensuring security of citizens. It gives the government a roadmap to determine their area of focus, and to help devise policies pertaining to similar national security issues in future.
The NISP gives a multi-dimensional approach to resolving extremism and terrorism in the society. The reforms are versatile ranging from judicial incentives, prison reforms to educational alterations and cyber space. One of the standout features of the policy is the priority list that summarizes and highlights the areas of policy that require immediate attention. It gives the government a better chance at developing an emergency response to an internal security crisis.
However, the extensiveness of the policy is an impediment on its own considering the limited availability of resources. While NISP does suggest multiple approaches to countering the internal security concerns followed by wide-ranging reforms, the economic and administrative incapacity of the state to execute these reforms has not been taken into account. The state being far too focused on viewing India as the only enemy has overlooked internal state building and security — leading to loopholes that permit lack of transparency, corruption, and inconsistency. Therefore, five years is too short a time for the innumerable reforms mentioned in the policy to see the light of the day. In addition, continued tensions between the provincial and federal governments further complicate the initiation and implementation of reforms, limiting the extent to which the policy can be successful.
The NISP also fails to take into account the variation in ability of provinces to execute the policy. It does not address the disparity between the provinces with Punjab having the greatest technological and infrastructural capacity in comparison to all other provinces especially Balochistan.
Raza Rumi writes in Charting Pakistan’s Internal Security Policy that the policy gives NACTA a plethora of roles, challenging its status as a specialised body. The organization is used for strategic, tactical and research purposes. Such extensive responsibilities hamper the efficacy of the administrative entity resulting in poor outcomes at the expense of funds being spent on its functioning.
Further, the absence of incrementalism proves counteractive to the anticipated policy outcomes. The new governments fail to build on past policies and make inadequate efforts to ensure that the propositions made by the previous governments regarding the national internal security policy are followed. This leads to dormancy of administrative bodies and the eventual death of any plan initiated by the government before it. This is a stark feature of the Pakistani political system that continues to corrupt the process of policy implementation, and which has hampered the enactment of majority of the reforms suggested in the national internal security policy.
The NISP also fails to take into account the variation in ability of provinces to execute the policy. It does not address the disparity between the provinces with Punjab having the greatest technological and infrastructural capacity in comparison to all other provinces especially Balochistan. The policy does not suggest a strategy that would ensure uniform implementation in all provinces. Similarly, no mechanism has been proposed to collect feedback or carry out an assessment regarding the success of the NISP at both the national and provincial level.
The 2018 NISP is deficient due to its exclusion of non-traditional threats such as climate change, food and water scarcity and population explosion and infectious diseases. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped states identify the significance of addressing non-traditional threats. Hence, this loophole within NISP requires policy revision and incorporation of strategies to tackle such threats in the future. The non-traditional threats such as population explosion and resource scarcity are indirectly responsible for the flourishment of extremist narratives that emerge from the unaddressed grievances of the public. Hence, the issue of extremism must be analysed and resolved in relation to these non-traditional threats.
The success of the policy can be studied using the following factors: media regulation, cybercrime religious groups.
While the policy is quintessential on paper, it seems inapplicable in reality considering the various infrastructural, governmental, technological and economical gaps present within the system. Unless these gaps are bridged, no policy is likely to be successful in resolving the internal security concerns of Pakistan.
Rather than regulating the media to control hate speech, fake news and glorification of extremist narratives, the government has only succeeded in taking steps to curb freedom of speech. The vague definition of national security in Pakistan gives the government a justification to restrict the spread of any information they deem unfit. Rather than decreasing tendencies to hate, they have led to journalists being victims of kidnappings, beatings, and murder.
The final draft and the drafting process has been kept a secret, without the participation of stakeholders, which suggests that the government is only looking to silence dissent and placate religious constituencies.
This brings us to the second factor: religious groups. The government continues to dilute regulations to prevent backlash from religious militias. An example is of the TLP which after recurrent protests has succeeded in convincing the government to not only release 2000 right-wing activist but has now also been allowed to contest elections. This is an apparent failure of the 2018 NISP. It is highly likely that the released activists will be rehabilitated in the society and will sustain and spread their extremist tendencies.
On the other hand, cybercrime is on the rise. Various national websites including that of HEC, FBR, NBP, NAB have faced data breaches. In the last three years, according to a news report, the accumulative ratio of cybercrimes involving fake profiles, harassment, defamation and financial frauds has increased manifold.
In short, while the policy is quintessential on paper, it seems inapplicable in reality considering the various infrastructural, governmental, technological and economical gaps present within the system. Unless these gaps are bridged, no policy is likely to be successful in resolving the internal security concerns of Pakistan.