IN the public domain, ‘internal security’ is a much-discussed, but not very well understood subject. Simply put, ‘internal security’ encompasses everything a state does to protect lives and property within its geographical limits. The dynamics of internal security are dependent upon various factors, including geographical location, cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity.
The quality of the criminal justice system (CJS), governance, legal framework, institutional development, the economic situation, dispute resolution mechanisms, communication networks, the use of technology, the state of fundamental human rights, rights movements, freedom of media, external outlook of a state and the ability of a state to keep itself away from direct and indirect involvement in armed conflicts are other factors that impact internal security.
After independence, Pakistan made some half-hearted attempts to revamp the colonial criminal justice system, but such efforts lacked political ownership and public support. Even after seven decades of independence, Pakistan’s policing system still functions on a model that is unable to meet public expectations.
In the 2022 Rule of Law Index, Pakistan had an overall ranking of 129 out of 140 countries. In rankings for order and security, Pakistan was ranked 139; for criminal justice, 97; and for human rights, at 123. The poor rankings highlight a dire need for well-coordinated reforms that have political ownership, public support, and generous financial backup.
Due to its geopolitical location, Pakistan has faced numerous security challenges. Including Pakistan, the region has three nuclear powers. Three of the five most populous countries — ie India, Pakistan and China — are located within this region, and six of the world’s 12 largest cities are nearby.
The presence of Soviet troops in Afghanistan after 1979, and US and allied forces after 2001, also kept Pakistan busy responding to challenges emanating from its north-western borders. Unresolved issues like Kashmir further aggravated the situation.
Recognising the connection between internal security and administrative reforms has always been a challenge. Pakistan’s provinces seem to be demarcated on ethnic identity instead of any administrative basis. Further, these provinces vary greatly in area, population, and socio-economic indicators. Balochistan constitutes 44 per cent of the area, while Punjab leads in demographic strength.
The decision to merge Balochistan’s B and A areas in 2003 was reversed in 2010, which reflected a certain nostalgia for tribalism. The merger of Fata in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, on the other hand, has not only reduced space for militants but also guaranteed fundamental rights to the residents of former tribal areas. It also introduced the different components of the CJS, including police, which will gradually result in an improved internal security situation.
Pakistan’s policing system fails to meet public expectations.
Elsewhere, the unplanned and haphazard urbanisation of Karachi has resulted in vertical and horizontal expansion and has increased the challenge for law enforcement. Slums without access to basic services further complicate the challenge.
They are weakly governed areas that provide a safe haven for criminals and terrorist groups. Internal instability, militancy, and military operations in Balochistan, KP, and tribal areas have resulted in demographic transitions and haphazard urbanisation. The ineffective and dysfunctional local government institutions have made the situation further complicated.
Meanwhile, globalisation has enabled terrorists to conduct operations with greater ease. The presence of violent non-state actors on the internet and the dissemination of disinformation on social media pose serious security challenges. Encrypted communication has rendered LEAs completely helpless.
The internal security apparatus follows a legal code that requires amendments with changing realities. Our legal system, including the Criminal Procedure Code and the Pakistan Penal Code, are imperial-era recipes. An effective legal framework ensures institutional accountability and guarantees the protection of civil liberties.
A living state has the ability to draw a clear line between internal and external security threats and create linkages between foreign and internal security policies. Pakistan is an over-legislated country.
A transition from mere lawmaking to an implementation-centric, public service approach is needed. Readjustment of provincial boundaries, including newly merged districts, will bring administrative ease while tackling internal security issues.
The redefining of the role and functions of the Council of Common Interests and the reconsolidation of the internal security apparatus will earn positive dividends for national security.
The writer is author of Pakistan: In Between Extremism and Peace.
Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2023