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Old Thursday, June 13, 2013
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Default Security reforms needed

Security reforms needed
By Moonis Ahmar

THE new government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will face a daunting task in dealing with the critical issues of governance and the rule of law.

For years, Pakistani society has not just been facing the challenge of militancy and terrorism; the hard task which the PML-N government will have to tackle in the coming days is to introduce meaningful security sector reforms.

The focus of Nawaz Sharif during his election campaign was good governance, rule of law and a better quality of life. But without taking bold and courageous steps to establish a culture of accountability, efficiency and responsibility in areas which are supposed to provide basic security to the people, the situation on the ground may not change for the better.

The concept of security sector reforms aims to pursue a non-traditional approach in dealing with issues which augment a sense of insecurity in different segments of society. In February 2007, the UN Security Council came up with an innovative definition of security sector reforms when it stated that “security sector reforms are critical to the consolidation of peace and stability, promoting poverty reduction, rule of law, good governance, extending legitimate state authority and preventing countries from relapsing into conflict. The Security Council encourages states to formulate their security sector reform programmes in a holistic way that encompasses strategic planning, institutional structures, resource management, operational capacity, civilian oversight and good governance.”

Strategically speaking, security sector reforms cover both the military and civilian components of state and non-state institutions which are carried out in a democratic set-up with proper transparency, accountability and vision. Security sector reforms are badly needed in post-colonial and fragile states where dysfunctional state organs cause the threat of instability, chaos and disorder.

In order to prevent a conflict and its escalation, state actors in collaboration with civil society can formulate a strategy to use police, intelligence agencies and military and paramilitary forces in a planned manner so that the situation is controlled peacefully and without the loss of innocent lives.

Without reforming institutions which are responsible for maintaining law and order and ensuring good governance, the state cannot maintain peace, stability and provide basic security to its citizens.

In 2004, the British government issued a policy document on security sector reforms specifically dealing with conflict prevention, management and resolution. Following a comprehensive approach on security sector reforms, the policy document argued that the “main purpose of the security sector reforms’ strategy is to support governments of developing and transitional countries so that they can fulfil their legitimate security functions through reforms that will make the delivery of security more effective and democratic, thereby reducing the potential for both internal and external conflict.”

Human security is considered pivotal as far as security sector reforms are concerned because extremism, militancy, violence and terrorism deepen their roots if unemployment, illiteracy, poverty, and social and economic backwardness are not eradicated. It is the internal rather than external security dynamics of a state which are a cause of widespread popular discontent and instability.

By enhancing capacity building of educational, judicial and administrative institutions through security sector reforms, one can expect better management of conflicts and unresolved issues.

Why are security sector reforms needed in Pakistan and how can the PML-N government deal with the issues of human security, good governance and the rule of law? What are the major challenges in reforming security sector institutions which are either not performing properly or are reaching the stage of total collapse?

Although Pakistan cannot be termed a failed state, it certainly comes under the category of a fragile state. Failure of security agencies to prevent large-scale acts of terrorism and violence means there exists an absence of viable security architecture in the country.

According to a report entitled Election 2013: Violence against political parties, candidates and voters released by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies recently, “a total of 148 terrorist attacks were reported across Pakistan between January 1 and May 15 killing as many as 170 people [while] 743 [were] injured in these attacks.”

Furthermore, around 50,000 people, both civilian and in uniform, have been killed in Pakistan since 9/11 in terrorist and other violent acts. On Sept 6 last year, then federal interior minister Rehman Malik told the National Assembly that “a total of 1,363 people lost their lives at the hands of target killers in Karachi during the past five years.”

These facts reveal the failure of the state to protect its people despite spending billions of rupees on the law enforcement agencies.

Civilian and non-civilian security organisations have not performed because of large-scale corruption, nepotism and political interference. By inducting accountability, transparency, efficiency and depoliticising the police, intelligence agencies and bureaucracy, one can expect better results.

Likewise, by focusing on merit and best practices the new government can in a short span of time ensure basic security to common people. The first 100 days of Nawaz Sharif’s government must concentrate on dealing with issues which augment a sense of insecurity among people either because of terrorism, targeted killings, energy crisis and a fragile economy.

While the PML-N may have done its homework to put things in order and deal with serious challenges of governance, rule of law, economy and energy, it needs to improve the performance of those organs of the state which are responsible for protecting the lives and property of citizens.

Pakistan cannot afford to plunge into another phase of corruption, nepotism, violence, terrorism, economic collapse and severe energy crisis.

The writer is professor of International Relations at the University of Karachi.
"Nay! man is evidence against himself. Though he puts forth his excuses." Holy Qur'an (75:14-15)
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