Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) was a famous American writer who introduced the concept of the Cold War. He was also a member of the post World War 1 Board of Inquiry ordered by the then famous 28th US President, Thomas Woodrow Wilson. While defining national security, he said:
“A nation has security when it does not have to sacrifice its legitimate interests to avoid war, and is able, if challenged, to maintain them by war.”
National security is not only confined to ensuring territorial integrity of a state, it has both external and internal dimensions. Externally you not only keep the hostile military forces at bay but also defend your sovereignty and political independence by not allowing any coercion by foreign powers. At the time of the creation of Pakistan, we inherited a modest military contingent with zero defence production infrastructure because all 16 ordinance factories functioning in India at that time were not located in either East or West Pakistan. Every civil and military ruler of Pakistan, therefore, undertook tremendous endeavours to make our defence formidable against any aggression. Acquisition of nuclear capability was also a defensive measure after Indian aggression in East Pakistan in 1971 and subsequent nuclear explosion in 1974. Undoubtedly all Pakistani politico-military leaders after the fall of Decca who devotedly furthered nuclearisation of Pakistan get credit for this extraordinary national security measure, however the decisive role was played by Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif who was faced with a ‘now or never’ situation. Had he buckled under pressure and not taken the crucial decision of nuclear explosion in time, we would have been under tremendous pressure to roll back our programme.
Today, Pakistan’s defence has significantly improved and our potential enemy cannot dare to ingress into our territory as they did in Lahore and Sialkot sectors in September 1965 although both prongs had been effectively blunted.
Internal dimensions of national security are numerous and equally crucial, if not more. These interalia include economic security, energy security, security against terrorism, food security, water security, cyber security, and ever aggravating climate challenges. Pakistan’s internal situation undoubtedly got worse in General Musharraf’s era when there were serious attempts made even on his own life. Later, under the PPP government (2008-2013), Swat operation was conducted successfully. When PMLN took over the government in 2013, internal environments threatening our national security were still falling short.
Target killings in Karachi, bomb blasts in almost all populated cities, suicidal attacks on army convoys, and even in mosques was the order of the day. Foreign investors were not even ready to visit Pakistan. Human lives and properties were all unsafe; the situation was so grave that even the annual national Parade could not be held. Comprehending the gravity of the situation, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif immediately called an important cabinet meeting in Karachi on 3rd and 4th September 2013, where it was revealed that, since 2001, 13000 people had already lost their lives to target killings in Karachi alone while 33000 were injured. One third of the casualties unfortunately pertained to our law enforcement agencies. Nawaz Sharif held numerous Apex Committee meetings in Karachi which were attended by the interior minister, Intelligence heads, Governor, PPP CM, Corps Commander, DG Rangers and the police chief. In an Apex meeting in KP, it was revealed that from 2008 to 2013, 2500 people were torn apart in over 350 US drone attacks in our tribal belt, including many innocent civilian The PML N government took immediate measures including launching of operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan in the very first year of their take over and later in the Khyber Agency.
Our brave army, under General Raheel Sharif, broke the back of foreign funded terrorists. Besides, APC was called to finalise the National Action Plan after merciless beasts killed 132 innocent children along with 10 teachers in KP province. Later, in February 2017, operation Radd-ul-Fasaad was also launched under General Qamar Javed Bajwa which was successfully conducted by his able commanders and soldiers. PAF pilots also played a critical role in destroying terrorist nests in the inaccessible mountains. Our navy kept monitoring not only the 1100 km long coastline but detected enemy intruding submarines in the deep sea. This dramatically controlled the security situation, and suicidal attacks and bomb blasts became things of the past due to the extreme sacrifices of the entire nation including army, police, CAF and all segments of society under the leadership of the PML N government. This surprised even some of the foreign powers. The French President asked Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of a conference in Europe as to how it was made possible and how could Pakistan help France in that context.
The second major contribution for national security by the PML N government was to swiftly overcome the energy crises and gas shortages. To get rid of the daily 20 hours load shedding as soon as possible was undoubtedly a very tall order for any government. However, this was done with incredible alacrity. Energy plants in Punjab were completed with lightning speed. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s dynamism played a pivotal role in this context. This, along with quick arrangements by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for induction of LNG from Qatar to overcome gas shortages, turned the tables and miles long queues on CNG stations disappeared. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar did a superb job in keeping the economy on track while meeting all defence needs for anti-terrorist operations being conducted for national security. This had a healthy impact on our industrial and agricultural growth. The master stroke of the PML N government under MNS was, however, the finalisation of CPEC projects with Chinese leadership. Chinese President told Mr. Nawaz Sharif that CPEC was a personal gift for him.
This was a game changer, giving confidence to investors, improving Pakistan’s image, and boosting economic activities in the country. Resultantly GDP shot up to 5.8 percent (now heading to minus point 4), size of the economy swelled from 280 billion dollars to 315 billion dollars (now shrunk to 264), revenue collection increased by 100 percent from Rs 1900 billion to Rs 3850 billion (now stagnant). Inflation went down to less than 4 percent (now 12 percent) and large scale manufacturing registered growth. Similarly, the development budget was raised to about Rs 1.1 Trillion. These indicators boosted national morale and fortified national security.
Brig. Asif Haroon Raja, a renowned defence and security analyst, international columnist, and the Director Measac Research Centre and chairman Thinker Forum Pakistan, sums up PML N’s contributions to national security in these words:
“The five years rule of PML N was much better. The feathers it added to its cap were overcoming energy crises by adding 12000 MW electricity in national grid and ending 20 hour load shedding, tackling gas shortage, controlling rural and urban terrorism, launching biggest development programme, lifting GDP to 5.8 percent, and above all signing the historic CPEC agreement with China which attracted an investment of 46 billion dollars. All these achievements were made in spite of political agitation by PTI and PAT as well as judicial activism which slowed progress