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Charting Pakistan’s Internal Security Policy

SR368-coverFrom September 2014 to March 2015, I was a senior Pakistan expert in residence at the United States Institute of Peace. This opportunity gave me the time to take a break and do some writing. In May 2015, my report was published.

Can be downloaded here

Traditionally ruled by military or quasi-military regimes, Pakistan is struggling to strengthen its democratic governance but the military remains in charge of country’s security policy. This period of incremental democratization corresponds to the unprecedented rise in terrorism and domestic insurgencies that have challenged state capacity and taken a toll on both the morale of the country and the economy. This report reviews Pakistan’s progress in devising and implementing counterterrorism policy frameworks in recent years. In highlighting key related strategic and operational issues, it offers Pakistani policymakers ways forward on how best to ensure internal stability and security, reminding us that a balance in civilian and military institutions is vital for effective policy outcomes.


  • Pakistan’s recently announced National Action Plan focuses on combatting both terrorism and militancy and addresses endemic insecurity and radicalization. The plan follows in the wake of the National Internal Security Policy, which has been in place for more than a year.

  • These two policy frameworks underscore the commitment of the government to implement counterterrorism operations. Implementation of both, however, is affected by the civil-military divide that defines Pakistan’s power landscape and by the altered governance architecture since the onset of devolution reforms of 2010.

  • Pakistan’s historically entrenched civil-military imbalance puts the military in the driver’s seat on all issues related to national security. The current civilian government has enabled the military to take the lead on internal security arrangements as well.

  • Internal security challenges of Pakistan are directly related to its external security policy, especially with respect to India and Afghanistan.

  • Centralized management of internal security policies, however, is fraught with difficulties. It is unclear whether the provincial governments “own” the National Internal Security Policy and how far the central government is enabling reform to achieve results.

  • Progress to date remains mixed. In fact, recent decisions indicate that key counterterrorism goals, such as action against proscribed militant outfits and madrassa regulation, may have been diluted to prevent backlash from religious militias. Counterterrorism efforts cannot succeed without dismantling the militias that have operated with impunity.

  • To effectively counter internal militancy and external terrorism, Pakistan’s policymakers will need to harness both civilian and military institutions. To do so, they need to develop a multifaceted strategy that incorporates a national intelligence directorate, an internal security adviser, enhanced jurisdiction of the National Counter Terrorism Authority, parliamentary participation in counterterrorism, increased financial commitments, education reform, provincial counterterrorism strategies, and altering public narratives. Such measures need to be implemented in letter and spirit with complementary institutional reforms.


June 6th, 2015|governance, Pakistan, Published by USIP, terrorism|0 Comments

Recognising the shift in Pakistan’s India policy

An Editorial for the Express Tribune

The silver lining of the current Pakistan-India stand-off is that Pakistan’s Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif remains committed to his visionary policy of making progress in peacebuilding with our traditional rival. PM Sharif has been consistent about his resolve to build bridges with India and bolster economic cooperation between the two countries and in a gesture of goodwill, his government  has taken the right decision to release 365 Indian prisoners, which include 340 fishermen and 25 crewmembers of Indian vessels. Prior to the 2013 elections, PM Sharif made exceptionally bold statements on moving forward with the peace process. In particular, he assured India that Pakistani soil will not be used against India. This was a tacit message that earlier cases of Pakistani militants’ carrying out terrorist attacks in India would be addressed by his regime.

The recent escalation at the Line of Control (LoC) started when five Indian soldiers were killed. Initially, the Indian government claimed that the attackers were militants dressed in the Pakistan Army uniform. However, within days, the official stance changed and once again the Pakistan Army was blamed. Since then, the two sides have indulged in reckless behaviour by firing at each other, resulting in the death and injuries of soldiers on both sides. The public opinion in India, fuelled by irresponsible sections of the media, is restive and unforgiving. This has jeopardised the future of composite dialogue as well as the potential of the two prime ministers meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September. At the heart of the matter is the asymmetry between the domestic approaches to the peace process in both countries. In Pakistan, there is a near-consensus that peace has to be secured. The army has deferred to this growing public mood. As PM Sharif said in his interview given to the UK’S Telegraph a few days ago, India-bashing is out of fashion in Pakistan. The elections of 2013 and even the by-elections completed on August 22 did not mention India as an issue. In fact, the by-elections took place amid heightened tensions and not a single party or its candidate made an issue of it.