Even if our western borders may temporarily stop being hostile, simmering hostility by disparate groups inimical to Pakistan would still persist. Consequent to this, the evoking of dormant activists within Pakistan can also not be ruled out. We have to retain credible deterrence capability for both Eastern and Western fronts. The difference between the two fronts lies in the nature of their threats. Notwithstanding the four-decades-long proxy war conducted by India using different players with Afghanistan as a platform, viz the Soviet Union (1980-90) and then the US (2000-21), the Eastern front demands capability to handle the full and broad spectrum of conventional threat.Enhancing our security potential should not only be confined to containment. We should also pursue a reorganising/upgrading of the Armed Forces with mobility and agility while ensuring a minimum teeth-to-tail ratio in light of the US-Afghanistan experience and force-multiplying the capability of our Frontier Corps (FCs) and Rangers to eliminate likely threats from gaining muscle. We must also beef up the capability of our civilian LEAs. This includes having a “Military Secretary’s Branch” in GHQ for career planning, postings and promotions etc for the police. Not having it is patently ridiculous. It leaves the ground open for politicians to manipulate and the criminal feudal system to persist!The area’s geography, the disparate components of the population straddling the border, religious extremism, the developed capability of hostile forces, coupled with the (emotionally desirable) exit of the US forces from Afghanistan reinforces the necessity of increasing caution. Despite a lot of lip service and rhetoric about the “National Action Plan,” it has not been fully implemented. Terrorist sleeper cells have largely been ignored because of a lack of political will. These can be activated almost effortlessly with dire consequences for the urban population. Out-of-box solutions are, therefore, urgently required to handle the pressing inherent and immediate challenges.
To enhance operational efficiency, we must have the capability to collect real-time information through electronic coverage of crossing points and the fence border.
Inaction by the quarters responsible will be criminal neglect of their duties.Raising new FC wings will not only enhance border security but also maintain law and order in adjacent tribal areas in both KPK and Balochistan. Coupled with that is the need to enhance the Rangers’ capability and reinforce the intelligence potential to contain and eradicate possible terrorist activities in Punjab and Sindh. Unfortunately, we do not have much time left to carry out new raisings and train recruits. Since the Command’s structure on the Western Front is in place, raising a few additional FC wings to double the existing strength will plug the essential gaps. One more FC HQ should be raised in the north for FATA and Sindh similar to what has been done in Balochistan in the South. For internal security, essential raisings must be undertaken for the LEA’s, not only for the Rangers but also the police and the lower judiciary (i.e. round-the-clock magistrates at all police stations).A fact normally glossed over is that our soldiers retire at a young age (between mid-thirties and early forties) while those with the rank of major retire before touching mid-forties. In the civilian sector, nearly everyone needs a job, while the market is not vibrant or large enough to absorb the large number being retired. This huge reservoir of trained manpower can conveniently be utilised for the necessary raising of additional FC wings and LEA’s. Those due for retirement can be given the option of continuing their service up to 55 (or even 58) years as a part of FC’s or LEA’s. This option will be very attractive for these men as at this stage of life, they are cast out in the cold and in dire need of starting a new career. As part of this scheme, if these men are adjusted in their province/districts, this option will become even more attractive. The next issue is conversion training for these people from all three services to their new job. For the job requirement pf FC or Ranger of normal infantry or mechanised infantry rank and file, they really do not need any training. Specialists retiring from the Engineer Corps and Signal Corps can easily fill specialist jobs. Because of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism experience, the composite service potential of already trained manpower is invaluable. Filling of posts in local magistracy or investigative police may require short courses of two to three months, which should be sufficient to impart this training. This will incur minimal expenditure by saving the enormous training costs of new recruitment.This will take care of another major problem. For Pakistan, the defence-related expenditure has swollen phenomenally. My article “The Ticking Pension Bomb” of Oct 16, 2020, alludes to some pragmatic solutions. Of great concern is the expense of pensions, which currently stands at Rs 470 billion. Whatever head this expense is parked in for accounting purposes: where are the revenues to meet the expenditures in the near future? While plans to make the pension fund self-sustaining needs a separate and detailed study, we have to enhance our defensive capability, particularly on the western front. Notwithstanding these constraints, present-day challenges have to be met. To enhance the operational efficiency of this set-up, we must have the capability of collecting real-time information through electronic coverage of crossing points and the fence border (a well-constructed brilliant idea). Intelligence collection through electronics is becoming efficient and the domestic industry can contribute to this. This should be coupled with human intelligence, intelligence personnel being available in good number, to cover both borders and towns in depth. Human intelligence (HUMINT) requires developed skills and good facilities.A separate Force HQ under GHQ may be raised as “Homeland Security” to take over command of the new FC and Ranger HQs. This force can operate under the Ministry of Interior (MoI), operational and administrative control remaining with GHQ. The implementation of this proposal will accrue many advantages: (1) It will defer by about 15 years the amount spent on commuted pension (this time can be gainfully used to revamp the pension system to become self-sustaining);(2) utilise the full productivity of personnel who have been fully trained; (3) enhance the capability of our forces to immediately handle the threat from the western front (if it materialises as a consequence of poor law and order situation in that country);(4) save cost on creating training institutions by utilising existing centres and schools; (5) ensure a continuous stream of trained manpower for FC’s and other LEA’S;(6) incentivise enrollment of men in the Armed Forces, and (7) ensure implementation in minimum time with minimum expense. Presently, we (1) must learn from the 21st-century war experience and (2) have the capability of defending both our ideological and territorial integrity. We cannot depend on anyone else. It will be in the interest of all world powers to support our efforts.Proposed steps taken in due time will display our resolve to guard our frontiers. It will deter any adverse initiatives by anti-Pakistan forces who still retain their networks to operate from across our western borders. Already trained manpower will be much more efficient and inexpensive compared to new raisings, which remains both cost and time prohibitive option.
The writer is a defence and security analyst, Chairman (Karachi Council of Foreign Affairs) and Vice-Chairman (Board of Management Institute of Nation Building at
Quaid-e-Azam House Museum).