The Traditional and Non-Traditional Threats of Pakistan

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In International Relations, the term ‘security’ is extremely diversified, and a single definition does not cover all its domains. Due to the emergence of terrorism and proxy warfare, the concept of security has become even more diversified than before. Baldwin states that states have begun to focus on not just traditional military threats but have also included non-traditional threats like poverty, trade, economy, human rights and environment in their lists. Security implies protection from any kind of threat be it external or internal. States feel threatened by existing forms of security and opt for increase in their power in order to overcome the threats. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah once said, “the weak and defenseless, in this imperfect world, invite aggression from others.

Pakistan is currently facing both traditional and non-traditional security threats. Traditional security threats include the ones in which military is the referent object. While Non-traditional security threats include other domains of security like economy, politics, human rights, trade etc. Traditional security threats are directly related to the national security of the state and are focused on increasing the military power of any state. The threat can be the armed forces of any state or non-state actor. Non-Traditional security threats mainly focus on internal threats that the civilian population faces domestically and individually. The state increases its economic strength and trade and takes steps to ensure implementation of laws that protect the rights of the citizens in order to overcome these threats. As we move further, more measures will be discussed for both traditional and non-traditional security issue faced by Pakistan.

Traditional Security Challenges of Pakistan: Traditional security threats originate from military and doctrinal intent of opposing states comprising of threat of armed conflict and internal security dilemmas. Due to the advancements in technology, the warfare has become information centric and digitalized. The capabilities of cyber operations have opened the doors for new threats from not just neighboring states but from other regions as well. The dependence on technology creates many vulnerabilities in states with advanced cyber security. However, Pakistan is not a technologically advanced state, so it is not as vulnerable as the 1st world states but it is well on its way to becoming digitalized with time. The evolution of weapon systems in terms of destructive capabilities and increase in range has allowed for extra regional forces to threaten the security of Pakistan as well. The evolved weapons allow for an adversary to threaten the national security of Pakistan without moving closer to its borders. The greatest traditional security threat faced by Pakistan is from India, which has also led to three wars. India has a history of provoking conflict against Pakistan which ends in military build ups on both sides and gets stuck at prolonged stalemates.

One of the main reasons for this is the conventional asymmetry between the two. India has about five times the total defense budget of Pakistan and has a greater number of conventional military forces and weapons. This asymmetry including the growing economy of India puts a lot of pressure on Pakistan in terms of rivalry and threat perception. India has also engaged in a game of doctrinal gimmicks against Pakistan by introducing multiple threatening concepts like ‘limited war under nuclear overhaul’ and ‘cold start doctrine.’ The changing concepts keep Pakistan in a guessing game as to what the true intent of India is. Pakistan had introduced a Nuclear Restraint Regime to India but later changed its stance to one of credible minimum deterrence in a response to the cold start doctrine of India that was clearly aimed against Pakistan. Along with such doctrines, Indian government has also allocated around $120 billion in its defense sector to increase its arsenal which will create an even greater conventional asymmetry between Pakistan and India. Pakistan needs to gain some leverage against Indian conventional forces till it can come up to par with them.

Non-Traditional Security Threats of Pakistan: Since independence, Pakistan has faced both internal and external threats to its national security and existence on all levels. The internal threats in Pakistan include threats like poor economy, increase in population, decline in education, decline in mortality rate, unavailability of clean water, lack of food resources, environment degradation. All these issues have been on the rise during recent years in Pakistan. Pakistan is quickly running out of resource of clean water which is an essential element to sustaining life. So far, there is no indication of any alternate source of drinkable water. The population explosion of Pakistan poses another grave threat to its sustainability as it is leading to poorer labor and a higher number of mouths to feed. The production of goods cannot keep up with the consumption. While there have been some social gains over the past two decades, mortality rates – infant mortality, under 5 mortality and maternal mortality – remain unacceptably high. Large number of people continue to suffer from malnutrition. The increase in population also leads to increase in unemployment. An increased population and weak economy simply does not allow for enough jobs to accommodate everyone. Steps need to be taken to control the population increase in the country before it becomes an uncontrollable issue.

Decline in quality education is misleading the youth of Pakistan. Improper education is worse than no education as it ends up destroying the talent of the young generation. Kids are forced to learn only specific factual information from certain books and no broader education is provided. This confines their minds to a single line of thinking thus wasting their natural potential. Moreover, not everyone has access to it. People living in faraway villages do not have schools and colleges for their kids to go to. As a result, many children are left completely deprived of any form of education whatsoever except for what their parents teach them. These are the kind of people who then become susceptible to the propaganda of terrorist ideologies.

One of the largest non-traditional security threats that not only Pakistan but the whole world is facing is environmental degradation. The environment of the globe is rapidly declining, and it is creating increased health issues among the populace. Even though some efforts have been made to plant new trees and clean up parts of the country, it is still not enough to restore the climate to what it was. Restoration of forests is crucial to the survival of everyone living in not just Pakistan but around the word. Pakistan is blessed with a lot of irritable land and people need to learn how to properly utilize it in order to increase production of food products and also for re-growing forests.

One of the major non-traditional security threats that has left Pakistan with many scars is the war on terrorism. Different states carry different definitions as to what terrorism actually is. Pakistan has suffered a lot due to terrorism, both economically and militarily. The highest death toll in the war on terror is that of Pakistani soldiers. The death count of civilians involved in the war as collateral goes all the way up to 37,000. The number of armed forces that lost their lives is around 6,700. Economically, Pakistan has lost around $78 billion. One of the blames that Pakistan frequently faces is that Afghan forces launch attacks on NATO forces from within the boundaries of Pakistan. These are the kind of non-traditional threats that Pakistan has been facing over the years and needs to cope with.

There is an abundance of both traditional and non-traditional issues that Pakistan is facing currently. With the constant shifts in Indian doctrine, Pakistan has to shift most of its forces along the borders to keep an eye on enemy movements. The forces of Pakistan are stretched extremely thin. Pakistan has fought a long and hard war against terror and has paid dearly. Pakistan needs to get its mind straight before making any other big moves to avoid further damage to both economy and integrity. The most important thing to do is to build up credibility within the international system and gain the support of both regional and non-regional actors of the world. This will help form better relations and increase trade agreements between states which will further improve the economy of Pakistan. Pakistan also needs to come up with a workable solution to Kashmir issue which has been a bone of contention between Pakistan and India for decades. Resolving that issue will lead to better relations with India and the support of a strong neighbor. Threats to national security cannot be taken lightly and an economically weak state like Pakistan that holds much strategic importance for world powers needs to tread very carefully in the international system if there is to be any hope of having a prosperous future for this nation.

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Kamran Afzal
About Kamran Afzal 1 Article
The author is a graduate of BS Strategic Studies from National Defence University, Islamabad

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