National Security Decision Making Process — Pakistan’s Experience

Columnist Hamid Hussain makes a comprehensive study of this important facet of good governance.


The fifty short year history of Pakistan has confirmed the age old rule that during the autocratic rule without sustainable institutions and a mechanism for the continuity of policy, even the most sincere decisions will come to grief. This applies to all areas of national life. Ayub took power in 1958 to set right the politics of Pakistan and to build up the economy.  When he left the scene, political scene was extremely polarized and economy in tatters. Yahya Khan took charge with the aim of reversing the polarization and protecting the integrity of the country.  He left in extreme humiliation after the defeat of armed forces at the hands of the arch enemy and emergence of country’s eastern wing as an independent country.  Bhutto claiming to be a popular leader, proclaimed the dominance of civil rule with the exclusion of civil bureaucrats and military elites. In five short years, the very policies he followed paved the way for the coming of generals to power with ease.1 Zia attempted social re-engineering by co-opting new elite under the umbrella of ‘Islamization’.  When he disappeared from the scene suddenly,  the state was extremely polarized with added ideological confusion.  The ten-year shaky and corrupt democratic facade crumbled without much noise when the civilian Prime Minister thinking that he was the supreme ruler and tried to sack his army chief. General Musharraf took charge of an isolated country.  He was happy to visit the backwaters of the world, namely Vietnam and Burma.  September 11 attacks in United States proved for him what Afghanistan was for General Zia. He is basking in the limelight and hobnobbing with the high and the mighty of the world.  He has embarked on the plan of ridding the nation of the menace of extremism.  The only thing common with all the rulers of Pakistan is the highly personalized nature of the decision making process. In the fifty year history of Pakistan, the ruling elites firmly defended ‘a no representative, unaccountable decision-making process’ as this served their self-interest.2 This personalized decision-making has severely curtailed the ability to formulate and execute policies of national security in a consistent way.  In every society, there is never a complete agreement about any course of action. The need is to have a mechanism where various plans are discussed at different levels to reach some consensus. It is the process of decision-making, which is critically important. In a modern nation state, even a right decision if adopted for wrong reasons or implemented in a clumsy way will not bring the desired outcome.

National Security as a Comprehensive Entity

Pakistan’s successive government legitimacy problem, weak political institutions, internal polarization and dominant military coupled with external threats due to its geo-political situation makes the task of a balanced policy of national security very difficult for any government. This also creates the double edge sword of difficulty in getting public support at home for the policies and hesitation of potential allies to come too close to a government whose legitimacy and durability is in serious question.  National security is a broad based concept, which encompasses social uplift of the citizens to improve internal cohesion, stable institutions for economic and political growth and protection of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.  Defence policy is only one aspect of the overall national security paradigm. Stable polity, sound economic instruments, effective foreign policy, stable and professional defence establishments and strategic intelligence are vital components of national security. In addition, national security is a dynamic process, which is constantly updated in view of prevailing national, regional and international environment to serve the national interests.  In case of Pakistan, due to the dominance of the military elite on decision-making process, national security is considered synonymous with only the defence of the country.  The major drawback of this thought process is that other areas, which have an important effect on the overall defence of the country, are neglected. The adverse effect is that the overall risk to the nation increases despite disproportionate growth of the defence establishment. The 1971 crisis in East Pakistan, 1973-77 disturbances in Balochistan, unrest in rural Sindh in 80s and in urban Sindh in the 90s is an ample proof of the hazards of narrow definition of national security.

The strategy for national security should be ‘dynamic moulding itself to the changing national interest, not embedded in the concrete of permanent passions’.  In case of Pakistan, the decisions about country’s security and strategy are based on ‘permanent passions rather than pragmatic ideas’.3 Majority of the decisions made about national security was mainly reactionary. They were in response to something, which occurred regionally or internationally.   There are no fresh ideas or new ventures. This approach extremely restricts any manoeuvrability by the government.  In addition, as the decisions are made usually in an acute situation, there is no long-term planning or more extensive discussion of all pros and cons of a particular decision.  Genuine concerns about the designs of a huge neighbour are one thing but taking it to the extreme of paranoid obsession does not serve any purpose.  Knee jerk responses without thinking bring only embarrassment to the government and dampen the responses of potential allies.  General Musharraf while commenting on the visit of Pakistan’s foreign minister to United States said, ‘I hope the visit of our foreign minister will certainly balance out the visit of the Indian foreign minister to United States and the United State’s under-secretary of state’s visit to India’.4 If this perception of balance seems to be the only purpose of the visit, then one should not be surprised by the results. 

Dreams vs Realities

The new nation of Pakistan emerged with a security dilemma.  Nestled among three large countries, a large, hostile neighbour, thousand mile of hostile land between two wings and a territorial dispute with a neighbour can be a security nightmare for even a well-developed and economically strong country.  A multiethnic society with poorly developed social institutions compounds the security dilemma faced by Pakistan. It needed a vision on part of the leadership to think and plan about the goals.  The mediocre civilian and military leadership looked for short cuts.  Pakistan has tried to offset the geopolitics through religion right from the beginning. As most of Muslim countries ‘lay to the west of Pakistan, lending the western part of the new nation depth vis-a-vis India’5 It ‘fervently desired to emerge as the kingpin of an Islamic bloc but the idea was a non-starter because of antagonisms and cleavages among the countries concerned’.6 In the first two decades after independence, Pakistan’s rhetoric about Muslim Ummah (community) but active participation in western sponsored defence pacts was resented by many Muslim countries. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan came to the centre stage again and got a large sum of money from some Muslim countries to help some of its economic woes. After the Soviet withdrawal and continued civil war in Afghanistan, Pakistan receded to the background and Palestinian issue came to the centre stage of Muslim world.  After the collapse of Soviet Union, Pakistan became euphoric about the newly independent Central Asian Republics (CARs) as most of them happened to be Muslim. Once again, Pakistan hoped for economic gains and some stretching of strategic depth.  People involved in this wishful thinking had not taken the time to study their potential allies. CARs were primarily concerned with their economic growth, which for them meant that somebody with money will come to them and help explore the oil and gas reserves. They didn’t have the money to spend on imports from other countries. Turkish Prime  Minister, Turgat Ozal had already committed $1.0 billion to help these countries acutely short of foreign exchange. Their second concern was security.  They saw turmoil in Afghanistan with great apprehension and feared its spillover in their territories. ‘Militant Islam’ which was actively supported by Pakistan in Afghanistan and Kashmir was seen by most of the neighbouring countries as a destabilizing force.  When Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto during her address at the World Economic Summit at Davos, Switzerland spoke of Pakistan as the gateway to Central Asia, their representative challenged her.  He stated that Central Asia had many gateways and spoke of his fear of fundamentalism coming through the Pakistan gateway.7 This meant that the Pakistan’s Afghan policy was perceived as a threat by them.  The formation of Shangai Five Group (China, Russia, Tajikistan, Kazakhistan, Kyrgystan) was to address the issue of destabilizing effect of the turmoil of Afghanistan on its neighbours.  In addition, they had more historic, cultural and linguistic ties with Iran and Turkey rather than Pakistan. 

Some experts talk about vague ideas with no concrete plans of how to implement a given plan.  Some are urging the government to ‘evolve a consensus amongst other Muslim states of the region’ and developing ‘a broad community of power of West Asia and Gulf region’.8 Pakistan imports oil and its products from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.  Pakistan’s trade with even the Gulf countries where a large number of Pakistanis work is only a fraction of their economies.  While there is no dearth of usual press statements from Muslim countries, in reality no significant economic, military or diplomatic support has been forthcoming to make a difference for Pakistan’s security.  There is a wide gap between the dream and the actual ground realities.  Each Muslim country is embedded in its own social, economic, political and regional problems that it has neither the wish nor the resources to contribute anything positive to the security of another nation.  The present regime has publicly acknowledged this fact but has to tread carefully due to emotional attachment of masses to a mythical bond.  Religious bond is an important one and can be utilized for the mutual benefit.  It cannot be taken for granted without taking into consideration various factors, which work, in the inter-state relationships.

Military’s Dominance of Decision-Making Process

Very early after independence, the military leadership became dominant in all decision-making process, especially regarding the national security.  With time the idea became such entrenched in the armed forces that even discussion about defence matters by the civilians was resented by the defence establishment. Even under civilian rule the defence budget details were never discussed in the legislature. Critical decisions about foreign military aid and participation in international defence pacts were not seriously discussed. Military training encourages cohesion and working in an organized hierarchal way to achieve results.  Independent thinking and frank discussion is a casualty in the thought process of the military leaders.  Soldiers universally have intense sense of nationalism.  In countries like Pakistan, the image of armed forces is inflated to unrealistic heights. The expansion of this image damages the professionalism of the organization and it ‘succumbs to a kind of narcissism’.  This in turn produces ‘a strong sense of self-righteousness and self-complacency’.9 Military leaders sincerely believed that they alone were competent enough to make the best decisions for the security of the country.  General Zia has summed up the opinion of the officers corps regarding national security.  About the integrity of the country, he stated that, ‘it will not be safeguarded by politicians, I am sorry to say this, but you can take it from me, that the country’s integrity will be safeguarded by the Armed Forces alone’.10  During direct military rule, vital decisions about national security were made by few people with no in-depth evaluation or discussion. 

In 1965, three higher bodies for defence of the country were in existence.  Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC), the Defence Council (DC) and Defence Services Chiefs Committee (DSCC). DCC did not meet before or during the war. Operation Gibraltar was neither discussed nor approved by DSCC11, the body composing of leaders of armed forces who will be executing the war. DCC is chaired by the Prime Minister and its permanent members include defence, foreign affairs, interior and finance ministers. ‘Although the entire structure is woven around politicians and technocrats, yet the military leadership generally carries the last word’.12 In 1965, when Pakistan planned and executed Operation Gibraltar, they did not fully appreciate the international scene and the possibility of an all out war with India. The military leadership lamenting the 1962 missed opportunity, thought that Operation Gibraltar was relatively low risk, Pakistan had an edge over India in terms of equipment, which may not last the Indian build up in near future. This decision-making process led to rapid escalation.13 Having done that, when India attacked the international border, Pakistani military leadership now expected that American troops will come to their aid. Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington, Ghulam Ahmad asked Secretary of State Dean Rusk on September 30, 1965 about US support against Indian aggression.  Rusk very appropriately told the ambassador that, “the US was being invited in on the crash landing without being in on the take off”.14 Pakistan swung to the other extreme.  Pakistan had recently developed friendly relations with China.  They exaggerated the China factor, hoping to get some pressure on India.  The secret visit of Ayub may have influenced the Chinese decision to move some troops on the western sector of Sino-Indian border. It is not clear what real military value this troop movement had but this gesture of China boomeranged. Ayub Khan and his generals found to their dismay that the ‘Chinese military movement only rallied the United States and Soviet Union to India’s support leaving him with no option but to accept Soviet mediation at Tashkent’.15 In the middle of the raging war, the ministries were asked now to prepare paper on the question of political objectives and assess Pakistan’s defence needs and current conflict.

In his address to nation on March 6, 1971, General Yahya Khan stated, ‘It is the duty of Pakistan Armed Forces to ensure the integrity, solidarity and security of Pakistan — a duty in which they have never failed’.17 How he was trying to achieve this goal is self-evident from his actions. General Yahya was in-charge of defence, foreign affairs, economic affairs and planning.  His Principle Staff Officer (PSO) General Peerzada and National Security Advisor, Major General Ghulam Omar were giving their inputs regarding foreign affairs. His Chief of Staff (COS) General Abdul Hameed was incharge of home ministry. Air Force Chief Air Marshall Noor Khan was running Education, Labour, Health and Social Welfare.  Naval Chief, Admiral Ahsan took control of ministries of Finance, Industry, Commerce and Planning.  When the highest authorities of the defence forces are involved in such activities, the results of any war should not surprise anybody.  Later, Yahya erected a facade of civilian cabinet.  Its role in any decision pertaining to serious problems of the country is well narrated by one of its member, G.W. Chaudry.  He states, ‘Never in my two years as a member of the cabinet did I find any real and meaningful discussion on vital matters as defence, foreign affairs or political policies and programmers.  The cabinet was a ceremonial body, its members often touring as VIPs in the four principal cities, Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Dacca, inaugurating public functions, presiding over innocuous meetings, sitting at the head table at banquets in the President’s house’.18 The military regime lacked the analytical vision to appreciate the grave danger to the national security.  They made the usual fatal mistake of being too confident of their abilities and failed to comprehend the complexity of the problem. 

In early 1981, the critical US-Pakistan decisions about the cooperation regarding Afghanistan were concluded.  There were lot of misgivings among the general public about the agreement of strategic consensus between Pakistan and United States and its negative implications on Pakistan in long run.  The government’s approach was to allay the fears of key civil and military elites rather than any open and frank discussion. James Buckley concluded the critical talks with Agha Shahi and left on June 16, 1981. Five days later, Agha Shahi embarked on a marathon tour visiting Peshawar and briefing Air Force brass. Then he went to Lahore and addressed army and civil officers.  This was followed by meeting with army officers in Multan, Quetta and Karachi. General Zia initially tried to get legally binding US troop commitment in case of direct aggression against Pakistan but he knew the futility of this exercise. US ambassador, Arthur Hummel later said that, ‘while they pushed the idea of a commitment on India and NATO type treaty, they knew very well they wouldn’t get anything like that.  They were genuinely concerned about provoking the Russians’.19 Pakistan tried to get maximum military hardware from US just like Ayub did in 50s.  The Director General of Institute of Strategic Studies, an institute established by Zia, which generally elaborates the defence establishment’s themes, gave the shopping list of Pakistan. ‘Pakistan’s priority must be to develop the necessary infrastructure in Balochistan and N.W.F.P. ...  together with raising an additional eight to ten divisions and the replacement of its obsolescent aircraft and tanks’.20 This was the deja of 1950s.

During arms negotiations with US in 80s, Pakistan insisted on

F-16 aircraft.  Pakistan’s aim was to get some balance against India.  Air Chief Marshall, Muhammad Anwar Shamim who headed Pakistan Air Force from 1978 to 1985 in an address to Institute of Strategic Studies on December 16, 1985 clearly stated the role of F-16.  He stated that the aircraft was sought to increase capability to strike deep inside India and the threat of Pakistan’s retaliation against Indian nuclear facilities if India decided to strike against Pakistan’s nuclear facilities at Kahuta.21 In fact, Pakistan was dreaming about F-16s long before any Soviet soldier crossed the Amu River but knowing the dismal relationship with US, it hoped for getting modest F-5s.22 For both US and Pakistan, F-16 became the symbol of a new strategic relationship and Pakistan turned down the offer to co-manufacture the Northrop F-5 G, an advanced but shorter range aircraft.23 US went along with the deal with understanding that if Pakistan has some role in the wider area of Gulf Security, then its personnel have to be familiar with the new weapon systems especially F-16 fighters which will be used by Gulf countries and Rapid Deployment Force (RDF).  Aggressive lobbying to get state of the art equipment from US was based not on realistic assessment on the requirement and appropriateness of the equipment over long term but to use it as a symbol of country’s power and modernity and to show to the adversary (India), the strength of US commitment.  The example of construction of a cantonment for an armoured division at the hefty cost of $65 million in 1960 is the classic example of colossal waste.  Kharian earned the title of the most expensive military camp in any underdeveloped country.24 After the September 11 attacks in United States, the military government took some very difficult decisions.  Now that the large-scale operations are completed in Afghanistan, there is a need for deep soul searching on Pakistan side. The internal, regional and international effects of close cooperation with United States need to be critically evaluated.  Musharraf’s highly visible close association with United States may hamper his ability to manoeuvre.  While it may be true that only a small fraction of the society may be radical or rabidly anti-American, it is no secret that it is not a fringe minority, which is suspicious about United States. Due to variety of reasons, some real and some hypothetical, that average Pakistani is very skeptical of any good coming out of the close relations with US.  This factor has to be kept in  mind and lines need to be drawn by Pakistan about what it can and cannot do in close relations with US. Successive Pakistani military elite haunted by the crisis of legitimacy, ‘have found, from experience, the value of American political, economic and military support as a viable substitute for any domestic political base, at least in the short run’.25 The Pakistani experience has clearly showed that long term negative fall out outweighed the benefits.  As in any other case of the relationships between a large power and a smaller country, the wide difference between Pakistan and US security interests, roles, commitments and capabilities had resulted in disappointments on both sides.  Those who think that it will be different this time may have strong compelling reasons of their own but they have not been spelled out.  The 1999 Kargil Operation is another example of the lack of any coordination at the highest level.  In early 1999, Lahore Process was started by Nawaz Sharif government to improve relations with India. Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee visited Pakistan in February 1999 amid loud cheers.  At the very same time, military was giving final touches to it’s plan of occupying the strategic Kargil heights.  It seems as two parallel governments were executing their plans with no idea of what the other party is thinking.  The contradiction of two simultaneous processes, ‘Lahore Process — a major foreign policy initiative aimed at resolving outstanding disputes through diplomacy — and Kargil — a reflection of Pakistan’s defence policy aimed at pushing a military solution’ is quite stark.26 A Pakistani general summarized the operation as ‘tactically brilliant’ but strategically it was ‘poorly thought out’.27 Rhetorical and unrealistic comments by prominent commentators of defence and security experts did not help the situation.  Some were of the view that, ‘if India embarks upon aggression against Pakistan, then this war would be fought mainly on the Indian soil, and Kashmir will be liberated sooner than expected’ and in case of war, ‘China, Afghanistan and Iran will support Pakistan meaningfully and particularly Afghanistan who may be directly involved in Pakistan’s war against India’.28 Others saw this as a ‘blessing in disguise for Pakistan’ and ‘golden opportunity’ to ‘settle the Kashmir issue once and for all’.  They were banking on the illusion that, ‘about 75,000 —100,000 well-trained battle hardened volunteer Afghan Mujahideen are only a day or two’s drive away from the LOC (Line of Control)’.29

In 80s, when Pakistan was receiving unlimited economic and military favours, the myopic leadership never thought of the future.  They were devoid of any vision and strategy for future.  Nobody bothered even to calculate the risks inherent in such ‘strategic relationship’ between a small underdeveloped country and a superpower.  Afghan policy was considered as military’s prerogative.  In one commentators words, ‘the struggle against the Kabul regime matters too much to the officers corps to be left to politicians’.30 How an officer involved in vital decisions affecting the nation perceives things is evident from then in charge of Afghan Cell of Interservices Intelligence (ISI) Brigadier (r) Muhammad Yousaf’s statement.  While commenting about the decision to launch operations inside Soviet territory during Afghan covert operations, he states that there was ‘real fear among the politicians’, ‘US had got cold feet’, ‘Even the CIA was shaken’ and ‘I believed they (Soviets) were bluffing’.31 The officer stretched the scope of effective covert operations to an extreme ignoring adverse military, strategic and diplomatic consequences for his country.  Some senior officers like General K.M. Arif who were involved in the decision-making process in 80s with hindsight admit that, ‘Washington pulled the political rug from under the feet of Islamabad once her own purpose had been served in Afghanistan.  This last aspect did not get priority it deserved’.32 While accepting the folly, he did not put the blame on the military leadership for their shortsightedness. The most negative impact of this relationship was the exaggerated self-opinion and unrealistic expectations on part of Pakistani military leadership. 

In countries where civilian authorities are supreme, the military view of national security is balanced with other factors.  Internal harmony between groups, appreciation of fault lines, regional and international scene and economic health get careful consideration.  In Pakistan, the military strategist view is supreme in national security with all its pitfalls.  Their limited perspective on state affairs is directly injected into state’s foreign policy decision-making.33 Exploration of different avenues of information and participation of various groups of the society is essential if Pakistan is to avoid its previous mistakes.

Personal Vs Institutional Process

One commentator of Pakistan’s policy gives an interesting comparison of Pakistani individual and the state by stating, ‘The great importance of personal relationships in most of Pakistani society is reflected in the behaviour of the government that tends to see other governments in personalized terms as friends or enemies. China is a friend and India is an enemy.  Pride, honour and revenge are also considerations for Pakistanis... Pakistan practices international relations largely on a personal basis’.34 Over the last fifty years, various bodies and organizations were formed by various governments.  The institutional spirit was lacking in this exercise.  They were used mainly for formalities and to pretend that an institutionalized decision-making process exists in the country.  The defence ministry which was supposed to be controlling the services was used as ‘post office’ to formalize the decisions already made by the military brass.35 With the dominance of military view, the critically important factors of a representative polity to ensure internal cohesion, sound economic base and international and diplomatic scenarios affecting national security were not given full attention. ‘The central element of Pakistan’s policy has been to reach outside South Asia to find support that might offset Indian dominance’.36 This resulted in Pakistan’s participation in many US sponsored security pacts under the direct guidance of military leadership starting in 50s.  Decisions with far reaching consequences about the security such as provision of bases (Badaber base near Peshawar for surveillance missions over Soviet Union) to US were made in a clandestine and highly personalized way.  In view of highly personalized nature of decision-making process, a thick wall of secrecy is erected around the subject. There is no broad discussion and appraisal of views of others, which may not conform to the official line.  The major drawback of this approach is that no one is held accountable when a given plan goes wrong. 

In the first two decades after independence, C-in-C, Ayub Khan was dominant in all security related decisions. In August 1958, when Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Abdul Qadir pointed to the possible negative effects of the American aid on the economy, Ayub got angry.  He wrote to Prime Minister, “Is this man saying these things with the approval of the Government, if not, does he realize the amount of harm he is doing to our stand with the Americans and encouraging our enemies to take greater liberties with our security?  I believe that this man is talking through his hat but in a highly irresponsible manner, and if government likes to be considered in command of the country, it should take steps to curb his nefarious activities... from several sources, I am told that the army is fed up to teeth with this man’s fulminations”.37 These few lines tell a lot about the thought process and perceptions of the military elite.  Ayub was the principle architect of the defence doctrine that the defence of East Pakistan will be done through West Pakistan.  Ayub had declared in January 1956 that, ‘The defence of East Pakistan does not lie in that part of the country.  So long as the western base is not strong, it remains indefensible’.38 He got infuriated when the idea was discussed among the senior members of defence establishment. (Vice Admiral Choudri wanted to discuss the idea more in depth).   After presiding a meeting of Joint Chiefs of Staff on July 13, 1958, he wrote, ‘A heated discussion followed in which he (Vice Admiral Choudri) continued to show stupidity and obstruction’.   Ayub wrote to government that, ‘There is no doubt about it that this man is unworthy of his position... I have to regretfully report to you that as long as Vice Admiral H.M.S. Choudri remains the Commander-in-Chief and a member of the Joint Chief’s Committee, no tidy and speedy deliberations, planning and execution of the inter-services nature is possible’.39 Such attitude by the senior most officers suppressed the meaningful debate even among the defence establishment. Ayub was personally involved in many agreements between Pakistan and United States. Ayub Khan had personal relations with Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director Allen Dulles,  Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, Admiral Radford, General Twining B. Nathan and US ambassadors to Pakistan.  He was also at good terms with Presidents Eisenhower, Johnson and Vice President Nixon.  Yahya Khan had close personal relationships with President Nixon and Henry Kissinger.  General Zia and Chief of ISI, Lt. General (later General) Akhtar Abdur Rahman had cordial relations with CIA director William Casey.  According to a former chief of Afghan cell of ISI, “They (Akhtar and Casey) worked together in harmony, and in an atmosphere of mutual trust”.40  Recently, during a joint press conference at White House, when President Bush used the word ‘my friend’ for General Musharraf, he was well briefed about the nature of leadership of Pakistan.  He has not used the word friend even for the most trusted ally of US, Britain and its prime minister Tony Blair. US policy makers are well aware that Pakistanis see relationships between states on personal rather than national and institutional level.  Pakistan’s leaders have failed to recognize the severe limitations of cordial personal relations between government functionaries. Personal relations may help to speed up a one particular administrative nag but they are detrimental to the country’s long-term interests.  Lack of involvement of legislature, government bureaucracy and public opinion prevents continuity of cordial relationships between nations.  Ayub Khan’s  offer of ‘No War Pact’ and ‘Joint Defence’ in 1959,  General Zia’s offer of ‘No War Pact’ in September 1981 and Mussharraf’s offer of no war pact during his meeting with Vajpayee in July 2001 were personal decisions of military chiefs who as rulers of the country had realized the severe constraints of the ruler of an underdeveloped country.

All organizations in Pakistan, which deal to some extent with national security and defence related issues are government sponsored.  Institute of Strategic Studies (ISS) was established in 1973 and is funded by foreign office.  Institute of Regional Studies (IRS), Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) and Defence and Strategic Studies Department of Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad were established by General Zia-ul-Haq and funded by the government.  The major drawback is that being government sponsored, these organizations simply justify the government policies about national security and defence.  There is lack of original research or frank discussion about various critical issues of national security.  In a society where frank discussion and debate is not encouraged and tendency is more towards conformism, the government institutes cannot provide the leadership in the academia.  Difference of opinion and healthy debate need to be seen as an essential element of the society to reach the decisions best for the country.  As long as this is seen as a threat, every effort will be made to suppress it rather encourage it. 


An air force officer is of the view that major problems of Pakistan’s higher defence organization is ‘lack of integration with civil intellectuals and think tanks’, ‘excessive military involvement in defence policy formulation processes and ‘absence of research facilities’.41 The fact is that there is no new or dynamic input regarding Pakistan’s course of action in troubled times. The reality is that ‘Pakistan holds very few high cards’ which limits its choices in international dealings.  This means that the policy makers have to be ‘extremely creative’ to ‘maximize the assets’.42  This situation requires that the government has some legitimacy and there is some consensus among the population about a particular course of action.  Independent individuals, think tanks, media and various government agencies need to be involved in meaningful discussion at various forums about goals and means and ways to achieve those goals pertaining to national security.

It will be worthwhile to recall the year 1986. In December 1986, General Zia invited a group of 150 academics, lawyers, retired civil and military officers and religious scholars and posed the question that what is the greatest problem facing the nation today and how is it to be resolved?  The most interesting recommendations came from group seven comprising of two former chiefs of staff of army, a former chief of staff of air force, a retired three star general, a retired chief of civil intelligence, Chairman of Institute of Strategic Studies and former ambassadors to Soviet Union and United States.  This group stated that the core problem was of ‘national survival’ and there could be no solution to the problem without replacement of the existing government by a fully civilian government which is supported by the people.43 Policy makers of a country should always remember the following words:

“Sometimes we see time adorned
with green foliage;
As pleasant as an angel;
And suddenly he changes
and becomes very strange;
Never does Time persist in
one state.”


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3The Friday Times,  February 17, 2001
4The Guardian, May 16, 2001
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38Dawn,  January 18, 1956
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