Capital suggestion: Economic security | Farrukh Saleem


National security, in the simplest of terms, is “the safety of a nation against threats”. A threat is “an intention to inflict pain, injury, damage or other hostile action”. A threat matrix is “an intelligence-based measure used for evaluating perceived external and internal threats which challenge a country’s national security”.

Pakistan’s current threat matrix has five major elements: military, nuclear, terrorist, cyber and economic. Of the five, economic security is the most neglected element of Pakistan’s national security. Economic security “is the condition of having stable income to support a standard of living now and in the foreseeable future”.

For way too long, we have focused on Pakistan’s military security. For way too long, we have focused on Pakistan’s nuclear security. Yes, the two are important. And yes, the terrorist threat is a ‘real risk’. But, for way too long, we have also neglected Pakistan’s economic security.

Economic security has at least six components: commercial, financial, energy, industrial, technical and food security. Pakistan’s commercial security depends on two factors: our import-export balance and the diversification of our import-export base. To be certain, our commercial security is under serious threat as never before. Never in history has our import bill skyrocketed to $52 billion. Never in history have our exports suffered a five-year, 20 percent decline. Never in history has our trade deficit touched a colossal $32 billion.

Pakistan’s financial security depends on two factors: national debt and budgetary deficit. Imagine: our national debt has gone from Rs30 billion in 1971 to a massive Rs22,000 billion in a mere 46 years. In the first quarter of 2016-17, two-thirds of tax revenue collected went into debt-servicing. Second, the top-limit allowed under the Musharraf-drafted Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act of 2005 is 60 percent as oppose to the current debt-to-GDP that stands at 75 percent.

As far as the budget deficit is concerned, the incumbent government claims that they have halved the PPP-era budget deficit. The truth is that the government is trying hide to at least three elephants in the room. First elephant: the government owes the private sector power plants at least Rs400 billion. Second elephant: the government owes the private sector refunds of at least Rs300 billion (the two should be part of the budgetary deficit, but are not).

From 1984 to 2004, under the Sundarji Doctrine, the Indian Army fielded seven ‘holding corps’ and three ‘strike corps’ tasked to “penetrate deep into Pakistani territory” through “sledgehammer blows in a high-intensity battle” with the goal of “cutting Pakistan into two halves.” The Sundarji Doctrine failed because the long mobilisation lacked the all-important element of surprise.

From 2004 to 2014, under the Cold Start Doctrine, after the failure of the Sundarji Doctrine, the Indian Army came up with eight Integrated Battle Groups that conducted offensive operations to invade Pakistan for ‘shallow gains’ (as opposed to the ‘deep penetration’ under the Sundarji Doctrine). As a reaction to Cold Start, the Pakistan Army put forward a battlefield ballistic missile carrying a sub-kilotonne nuclear warhead – the Hatf IX (Nasr) – and checkmated the Cold Start Doctrine.

What next? On May 26, 2014, Narendra Modi assumed the office of the prime minister of India and gave birth to the Modi-Doval Doctrine. Back in 1991, the Soviet Union was in possession of 7,000 nuclear warheads. Back in 1991, the Soviet Union split into 15 republics – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Our economic security is vulnerable like it has never been in our history. And our economic security continues to be the most neglected element of our national security. To top it all, the Modi-Doval equation also has political chaos, anarchy and lawlessness in its stockpile.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad