Linkages between the military-industrial complex and Pakistan’s national security shortfalls

Internal security’ threats

As explained in previous chapters, Pakistan has used “proxy war” as a strategic tool of its foreign policy to protect its so-called national security interests. However, such proxy wars have created severe blowback, not reducing but increasing or creating internal and external security threats. The major consequences were home-grown terrorism and political violence in the country by

Islamist militant, sectarian, and separatist groups. The subsequent military operations against militant groups have caused massive collateral damage and injuries and uprooted millions of people from their homes, causing them to become internally displaced in the country.

The seeds of extremism in Pakistan were sown well before 9/11. Pakistan's northern part became the rallying point of the transnational jihadi groups fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The Soviet forces were defeated by the mujahedeen with covert military aid from the CIA-ISI. Brigadier Muhammad Saad (interview by author, Islamabad, 14 November 2017) said that,

With [the] collapse of the Soviet Union, a new radical Islam emerged after the breakup of Soviet Union. Groups such as Al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups came into being that threatened nation states. This was threat to the West and all the nation states emerged after Second World War including Pakistan. Subsequently, Afghanistan and Pakistan were in turmoil and central Asia was threatened.

So Pakistan had to deal with the new threat of radical Islam in the post-Cold War era, which became a bigger threat to the country in the post-9/11 security situation.

In the above context, the victory of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan influenced many radical Islamist groups in Pakistan who thought that they could achieve their objectives through an armed uprising. In June 1989, Maulana Sufi Muhammad, a hard-core religious cleric, launched the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM or Movement for the Enforcement of Sharia Law) in the Malakand division of KP province in the north-west of Pakistan (Malik 2008). The TNSM demanded the “imposition of Sharia” in the Malakand division even before the emergence of the Taliban as a political force in Afghanistan in 1994 (Ashok 2007). The TNSM protests forced the government to announce the Sharia Regulation of 1994. However, Sufi Muhammad was not satisfied with the regulation and staged an armed uprising in Swat district in May 1994. Many government installations, including Siadu Sharif airport, were occupied by the TNSM in the Swat district of Malakand. The government launched a successful paramilitary force operation in Swat to crush the TNSM armed uprising (Ali and Khan 2010). So the rise of Islamist militancy in Pakistan was a pre-9/11 phenomenon.

Furthermore, the TNSM raised an armed Lashkar of 10,000 people to fight against the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan following the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Most of the TNSM personnel were killed in the fight with the Northern Alliance’s forces in Afghanistan. However, Sufi Muhammad and Fazlullah, the future TTP central leader, returned to Pakistan. They were arrested by the Pakistani military for illegally crossing into Afghanistan (M. Ali, New American Foundation, September 2010). Fazlullah was released after 18 months in prison.

Similarly, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, the chief of JUI-S, demanded a Shariabased Islamic system in the 1990s. He was also the director and chancellor of the infamous religious seminary known as Darul Uloom Haqqania in the Akora Khattak area of Nowshera city in KP province. It is generally believed that most of the Afghan Taliban studied at the Haqqania seminary, including Mullah Omar, the founder of the Afghan Taliban. The seminary was used as a launching pad for the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, and that is why Sami-ul-Haq proudly called himself the "Father of the Taliban” (I. Ali, 2007).

The rise of the Afghan Taliban influenced many outlawed militant and extremist groups based in Pakistan, who demanded the imposition of the sharia law in the country. For example, sectarian and Kashmiri militant groups such as LeJ, JeM, LeT, and the Kashmir-based Jamati Islami increased their sectarian activities targeting minority religious groups in the country. In the post-Cold War era, most of these groups received a significant supply of weapons, manpower, military training, and funds from Afghanistan. It was difficult to distinguish between sectarian and other jihadi organizations as they were involved in both sectarian and jihadi activities at the same time. For instance, JeM was mainly a jihadi organization but it was also involved in sectarian violence, whereas SSP was a sectarian outfit but fought alongside the Afghan Taliban with the alleged support of the 1ST Therefore, the subsequent governments in the 1990s were unable to take action against these groups despite their involvement in domestic violence (Grare 2007). During the period 1990-1999, 1977 terror related incidents were reported, in which 4,338 were wounded and 2,405 killed (Saeed et al. 2014). Thus, the Islamist radicalization in Pakistan was a pre-9/11 phenomenon but it significantly increased post-9/11.

In the post-9/11 setting, Pakistani governments did not seem to learn from their experiences and continued with proxy wars in Kashmir and Afghanistan. General Musharraf joined the war on terror, but his policy was somewhat ambiguous and contradictory. For instance, Islamabad supported the Kabul regime after 9/11 but at the same time aided the Afghan Taliban (Siddiqa 2011). Also, Pakistan did not take proactive measures to stop the infiltration of transnational jihadi groups in border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan following the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Many members of Al-Qaeda and its affiliated jihadi groups and their leadership shifted to former FATA areas and other-parts of Pakistan. The militants were mainly Arabs, Central Asians, Chechens, and Afghan Taliban, along with their families. They have used their past connections in the Afghan war to settle in different parts of Pakistan, especially along the Durand line in tribal areas. Interestingly, Al-Qaeda operatives were escorted by their hosts to safe houses in major cities in the country as well (Rashid 2008). North Waziristan became the centre of the Haqqani Network, along with local militant groups such as Molvi Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur who were mainly targeting NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan and their supply routes (Waseem 2011). TTP and their affiliated militant groups established their writ in other parts of the former FATA areas in 2004. In this process, the former FATA and the adjacent areas of the KP province became safe havens for Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda and their affiliated militant organizations. They established many sleeper cells across Pakistan, mainly in big cities such as

Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, and Rawalpindi (Ashok 2007). Thus, the militant landscape shifted to the Pakistani side of the border, and this created a major security threat to Pakistan when the militant groups started targeting Pakistani government installations.

Meanwhile, in May 2002, Pakistan started half-hearted selective military operations in the former FATA area, but it was too late by then as most of the militant groups had found sanctuaries in tribal areas (Rashid 2008). Also the Pakistani military was trying to protect its proxy militant groups, especially the Afghan Taliban and other local groups which emphasize jihad against NATO forces in Afghanistan. For example, Al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups settled in the former FATA and the adjoining areas in KP province, while the Afghan Taliban and its command structure were located in Quetta, the capital city of Balochistan province, so that they could slip under the radar of US forces, which were chasing Al-Qaeda operatives. Moreover, Pakistan handed over Al-Qaeda and other anti-Pakistan militants to the US but kept the Afghan Taliban in their own custody as mentioned. Moreover, the recently emerged Pashtun Tahafuz (protection) Movement (PTM), from tribal areas in Pakistan, claimed that the military had turned a blind eye to Taliban activities in their areas and let them establish their writ in tribal areas in the post-9/11 period (Dawar, The Washington Post, 17 April 2019). This meant that because the Pakistan military leaders tried to protect their proxies, the militant activities shifted to the Pakistani side of the border, which posed a security threat to the country.

In 2004, Taliban militancy gradually spilled over into the Swat district of KP province. After releasing from jail, Mulana Fazullah restarted his militant activities in Swat and the neighbouring districts of KP under the banner of TNSM. Many Punjab-based militant groups such as LeJ, LeT, and JeM patronized in the Malakand division as they had a past connection with Swat-based militant commanders. These groups formed their own training camps following the crackdown on militant organizations by the government in 2002 and then following the earthquake of 2005 which had hit the areas where these militants had training camps and facilities (ICG 2013). Ibni Amin, a prominent Taliban commander, along with other Taliban commanders, was reportedly associated with JeM and Al-Qaeda. Subsequently, the TNSM has strengthened its control over Swat and neighbouring areas (Yusufzai, The News, Pakistan, 9 May 2009). As in the former FATA area, the government also completely neglected the TNSM's activities in Swat and responded only when the TNSM organization controlled the whole district. In March 2007, the government arranged the first official meeting with the military to discuss the Swat militancy (Roggio 2007). Therefore, the government either was incompetent to counter the Taliban uprising at the beginning or wanted to patronize their proxy militant groups in the Swat district and adjoining areas in KP province.

Like the military operations in the former FATA area, the Pakistani military began half-hearted military operations in Swat in November 2007. The operations continued until January 2009 without any major success. The military used conventional force that further alienated the local population from the Pakistani military due to massive collateral damage and injury. Ironically, the Taliban FM radio, which was their main source of communication with the local population but could have been jammed, continued to operate throughout this period. More specifically, Mulana Fazlullah, known as radio Mullah, used the FM radio very affectively in terrorizing the society in order to establish its writ in the area. The military failed to shut down the Taliban FM radio station until mid-2009 when the Taliban was dislodged from Swat and adjoining areas in the Malakand division of KP province. After consolidating its power in Swat, the Taliban extended then-control to the neighbouring districts of Buner, Shangla, and Dir (Zain 2009). In December 2007, Fazlullah joined the TTP and became the general secretary of TTP central and head of the TTP's Swat chapter. The TTP established their sharia courts and used their infamous police force known as the Shaheen Commandos to control the Swat district despite the presence of the district administration of the Pakistani government (Siddique 2012). As a result, Swat became the second stronghold and safe haven of the militants after the former FATA area. Thus, the Taliban militancy extended to settled areas in the north-west of the country. According to Brigadier Asad Munir (Express Tribune, Pakistan, 7 November-2012), “when General Kayani took command of the army, about 19 administrative units of former FATA and KP were completely or partially under the control of Taliban.” So Pakistan has almost given up the former FATA area, Swat, and its adjoining areas in the KP province to Taliban and other militant groups in order to protect its proxies.

After 9/11, thus, insecurity in Pakistan has deepened as a result of the activities of the home-grown armed groups across the country. There were about 58 religious political parties and 24 armed jihadi groups in 2001-2002. Many of the militant groups operated independently and have established links with religious political parties. After the Cold War, the ISI began to lose control over these groups, who gradually started to engage in anti-state activities following 9/11. Some groups of Pakistan’s military-jihadi complex turned against the state when General Musharraf apparently changed the country’s Kashmir policy due to international pressure. In particular, the ISI failed to predict the security threat arising from these armed groups (Abbas 2004). Many Kashmiri commanders and organizations joined anti-state TTP and Al-Qaeda groups. Ilyas Kashmir, a former ISI functionary and Kashmiri militant commander, became a prominent Al-Qaeda operative and ran the infamous operational wing of Al-Qaeda known as the “313 Brigade.” Ilyas was behind many high-profile attacks on well-protected military facilities in Pakistan due to his former links with the ISI and Pakistani military (Haqqani 2013).

The TTP became the most lethal group after making alliances with the leaders of Kashmir-based militant groups such as LeJ and JeM and their leaderships. They had attacked military headquarters, several ISI buildings and other government installations across the country. The major high-profile terrorist attacks included the Mehran naval air station in Karachi, the Kamra Air Force base in Wah Cantt, the ISI headquarters in Lahore, the GHQ in Rawalpindi, the Sri Lankan cricket team, the Marriot hotel in Islamabad, and the Pearl Continental

Explaining Pakistan’s strategic limitations 165 hotel in Peshawar (PIPS Security Report 2007). Besides this, the militants targeted political gatherings of anti-Taliban parties or groups or individuals, police stations, transport stations, hotels, educational institutions, banks, hospitals, gas stations, funeral ceremonies, and NATO supply caravans. After deadly assaults on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009, no major international cricket team visited Pakistan (Zain 2009). Benazir Bhutto, Bashir Ahmad Bilour, Maulana Hasan Jan, Dr. Muhammad Farooq, Mufti Sarfraz Naeemi, and Haroon Bilour are among the high-profile politicians and religious figures who have been killed in terrorist attacks. The estimated economic cost of terrorism was about US$70 billion during the first ten years of the war on terror (Saikal 2014), in addition to about 81,000 civilian deaths. The total number of casualties between 2004 and 2013 is given in Table 6.3.

Thus, the proxy wars in Kashmir and Afghanistan conducted by the Pakistani military have had significant negative consequences for Pakistan’s internal security and have largely destabilized the whole country. The internal security threat became almost an existential one to Pakistan in the post-9/11.

Since 2013, there has been a significant decrease in the number of terror attack due to successful military operation against the militant groups across the country. Nonetheless, the country witnessed another wave of terrorism during the last parliamentary elections in July 2018. On 15 July 2018, more than 150 people were killed and 186 wounded in a suicide attack on a political gathering in the Mastung district of Balochistan province. It was the deadliest terrorist bombing in the country after the APS attack in Peshawar in 2014 (S. A. Shah and Sheerani, Dawn, Pakistan, 15 July 2018). Overall, more than 200 people, including three electoral candidates, were killed in various terrorist attacks during the election campaign.

Additionally, religious extremism and radicalization is at its peak, which has led to sectarian violence in the country. The minority religious communities are more insecure than before. After taking office, Prime Minister liman Khan pointed out in an interview (Ratwatte, Daily FT, 25 August 2018) that:

Table 6.3 Number of fatalities resulting from terrorism, military operations, and drones

Civilians and Combatants


Pakistani civilians




Civilians killed by drones


Pakistani security forces






Source: JPPNJt', PSR and PGS 2015 Report: Casualty Figtires after 10 Years of the “Wai' on Terror” in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This country has been radicalized. We are more insecure than ever before. There is something like US $80 billion that this country has lost in war; US aid is about US $20 billion. The country is sinking into poverty, into chaos; the state is getting weaker. There is a consensus in Pakistan that there is no military solution therefore we will look for a political solution.

On 31 October 2018, the TLP started protests across Pakistan when the Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi after eight years on death row over a case of alleged blasphemy. Following the verdict, “the TLP leaders called for the judges to be killed and for army officers to commit mutiny against the army chief [if he supported the decision]” (Independent, UK, 2 November 2018). The TLP protests blocked major cities throughout the country. The government failed to maintain the writ of the state for three days and finally surrendered to the protesters’ major demands by illegally putting Asia Bibi on the exit control list and reopening her case in the Supreme Court. Nonetheless, she was set free and left the country in May 2019 (N. Siddiqui, Dawn, Pakistan, 8 May 2019).

Ironically, the military always took credit for improving the security situation and stability in the country while placing all the blame on the civilians for insecurity and political instability. Nonetheless, Pakistan has confronted internal security threats arising from the military’s flawed foreign and security policy under the military-first national security approach. The military diverts the attention of the public when there are massive security lapses. For example, the undetected US Special Force raid in Abbottabad that killed Bin Laden in May 2011 badly damaged the military's reputation in the eyes of the general public. Even so, the military successfully deflected attention from itself by exploiting anti-US sentiments. The DGISI blamed the US for carrying out a “sting operation” on an ally. The joint session of parliament and senate showed full confidence in the armed forces and strongly condemned the US for its unilateral actions on Pakistani territory (Fair and Gregory 2012). Hence, the military has maintained its control in state affairs despite a massive security failure in the country. Nonetheless, the militarization in Pakistan has not only created insecurity but it has destroyed the political and socio-economic fabric of the society.

External security threats

As argued previously, the policies of successive Pakistani governments proved to be self-defeating, as the country adopted a dual policy to protect its proxy militant groups and also participate in the US-led global war on terror. This ambivalent policy had negative consequences for Pakistan's relations with the outside world, especially with the US, India, and Afghanistan. Consequently, despite an opportunity to fight a common enemy, Pakistan-US relations failed to mature into a viable long-term relationship following the 9/11 terror attacks. Islamabad was often blamed by US governments for security setbacks in Afghanistan. The Afghan government and society also became very hostile towards Pakistan (Ejaz Hussain, interview by author, Islamabad, 14 November 2017). This has provided an opportunity to India to restore its old relations and establish a strategic partnership with Kabul, which has become another major security concern for the Pakistani strategists in the post-Cold War era.

In this context, Pakistan also lost its position of strategic depth in Afghanistan against India, for which it had invested in various warring factions in that country since the Soviet invasion of 1979. Moreover, the fall of the Afghan Taliban was a nightmare for Pakistani strategists who had actively pursued this proxy war policy in the post-Cold War era. Despite this failure, Pakistani strategists have continued to protect their proxies, which Pakistan could use for any future settlement in Afghanistan. Because of this strategic depth policy, Kabul has become very antagonistic towards Pakistan, while India has successfully increased its cooperation with the Afghan government. With Indian influence in Afghanistan, Islamabad is now confronted by a potential two-front war with India on both its eastern and western fronts. Islamabad has blamed India for the instability in Balochistan province and tribal areas in KP province on the western border with Afghanistan.

In addition, there was increasing international pressure on Pakistan to give up their pro-militancy policy in the post-9/11 setting, which Islamabad used to further its strategic interests in places like Kashmir and Afghanistan. At the same time, any strict actions against proxy militant groups would have severe repercussions for Pakistan. Due to external pressure from the US, General Musharraf had apparently revised his Kashmir policy and announced that “no organisation will be able to carry out terrorism on the pretext of Kashmir. Whoever is involved with such acts in the future will be dealt with strongly whether they come from inside or outside the country” (BBC, South Asia, 12 January 2002). Subsequently, Musharraf announced a crackdown on militant groups and banned LeJ, JeM, LeT, SSP, TNSM, Sepah-e-Muhammad Pakistan, Tehreek-e-Jaafria Pakistan, and Tehreek-e-Islami (Express Tribune, Pakistan, 24 October 2012). Many prominent leaders of the religious political parties, including Fazl-ur-Rahman and Qazi Hussain Ahmed, were arrested because of their protests against the US invasion.

However, the crackdown on militant organizations was just a face-saving exercise by General Musharraf to show the US that Pakistan was sincere in the global war on terror. Nevertheless, there was internal opposition to General Musharraf s revised Kashmir policy and his apparent agreement to work at the behest of the US and other Western countries. On 4 February 2004, General Musharraf clarified to senior journalists that “Pakistan has two vital national interests: being a nuclear state and the Kashmir cause” (Daily Khabrain, Islamabad, 6 February 2004; in Haqqani 2005, 6). This meant that Musharraf was reassuring his military and the religious groups that he had not abandoned the core policies towards Kashmir and was only making adjustments in some areas to regain US trust and support (Haqqani 2005). One can conclude that there was no major strategic change in the Pakistani policy towards militancy post-9/11. The leaders of such groups were just asked to keep a low profile until the situation had eased and then they would be allowed to resume their activities (Jones 2002). Consequently, such outlawed groups resurfaced when the pressure from the US receded. The militant groups later restarted their activities under new names.

In this context, Pakistan was accused of being a state sponsor of terrorism because of its support for various militant groups. However, Pakistan officially denied any link with such groups. According to Shabana Feyyaz (interview by author, Islamabad, 20 November 2017), “India very skilfully changed the world’s opinion of the Kashmir insurgency movement by labelling it as a terrorist activity being masterminded by Pakistan against India.” Farhan Saddiqi (interview by author, Islamabad, 13 November 2017) said that “the Indian narrative of presenting Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism won despite the country’s alliance with the US in the global war on terror. It is the failure of the Pakistani ruling elite.”

Pakistan had signed the UN Security Council resolution on anti-terrorist financing (Resolution-1267 of 1999) after becoming the US ally in the global war on terror in 2004. Under the resolution, Pakistan must take strict action against militant groups and individuals such as the Haqqani Network, LeT, and their leaderships. Nonetheless, Pakistan has not taken any action against these groups (Sirrs 2016). Consequently, Pakistan was put on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on money laundering during 2012-2015. Pakistan was removed from the list when Islamabad took significant measures to counter terrorist financing. However, Islamabad softened its policies once the pressure was reduced. According to the former Pakistani ambassador Hussain Haqqani,

Pakistan has been able to take one step forward to get relief from international pressure, followed by two steps back once the pressure is off and another step forward, when the pressure resumes. The fundamental change in attitude has not been forthcoming.

(N. Shahid, Asia Times, South Asia, 19 March 19, 2018)

In October 2016, the civilian leadership in the All Parties’ Conference (APC)6 warned the security establishment that Pakistan needed to act against militant groups in order to end Pakistan’s international isolation. According to foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, “the principal international demands are for action against Masood Azhar and the Jaish-i-Mohmmad; Hafiz Saeed and the Lashkar-e-Taiba; and the Haqqani network” (Almeida, Dawn, Pakistan, 6 October 2016). When this information was reported in Dawn news, the military establishment accused the civilian leadership of breaching national security, which led to a rift between them. As a result of military pressure, the government declared “the Dawn report is planted and fabricated and a breach of national security.” The government dismissed the Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid (The News, Pakistan, 11 May 2017). Hence, the civilian leadership was unable to take action against the militant groups but dismissed their own information minister to appease the military.

Despite the Pakistani military's denial, Islamabad was warned by the FATF on many occasions, but the Pakistani authority did not take any significant step to stop terrorist financing. As a result, Islamabad was put once again on the FATF’s

Explaining Pakistan’s strategic limitations 169 grey list in March 2018. At the FATF meeting, Pakistan’s close allies such as China and Saudi Arabia refused to vote in its favour. This meant that China and Saudi Arabia sent a message to Pakistan to crack down on the militants, as they are confronted by similar threats in their countries (Shahid, Asia Times, South Asia, 19 March 2018). Therefore, this policy of proxy war has created significant external pressure on Pakistan and the country has been accused of being a state sponsor of terrorism by the US, the UK, Russia, and India as well as Iran, China, and Saudi Arabia (Sirrs 2016). Thus, the proxy wars under Pakistan's militaryjihadi complex have perpetuated insecurity within the country and made the external environment more threatening to its state and society. In reality, Pakistan has become a diplomatic pariah state due to its alleged support for the militant groups in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

In addition, the recent flare-up between India and Pakistan started after a suicide attack on the Indian police force in Pulwama area of Indian-administered Kashmir on 14 February 2019 (Pandya 2019). Pakistan-based JeM claimed responsibility for the attack. India blamed Pakistan for the attack and carried out air strikes on alleged JeM training camp inside Pakistan in which India claimed to have killed many prominent militant commanders. The very next day, Pakistan retaliated and shot down Indian aircraft in its own airspace and captured an Indian pilot. The airstrike has significant strategic consequences for Pakistan as India is gone from its traditional policy of restraint following the 1971 war (Yusuf 2019). Soon Pakistan released the Indian pilot in order to deescalate the tension.

In this context, India’s response to Pulwama terror attack demonstrates a new Indian strategic aggressive posture towards Pakistan. India is now demonstrating itself as an assertive power in the South Asian region. India sent a clear message to Pakistan that they will not tolerate any further terror attack by alleged Pakistanbased militant groups on its soil, which they will chase across the border in case of further cross-border attacks. In its official statement, India’s foreign ministry said:

The air-strikes were not against any nation, but against terror. India did not attack its neighbour’s military installations whereas Pakistan did so. There can be little doubt that the Balakot airstrikes signal the advent of India as a more active - but still restrained - military actor in world affairs.

(Pandya 2019, 67)

This is a significant blow to the Pakistani strategists who relied on proxy wars and believed that India would not react beyond LoC and its borders due to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons capabilities. Previously, Pakistan has successfully used nuclear deterrence to prevent war with India in case of terror attacks. This showed Indian resolve to target inside Pakistan by using the strategic space above terrorism and below nuclear threshold. In fact, India has created a strategic space for conventional war below the nuclear threshold. This means that India will not continue its strategic restraint policy against Pakistan in case of any further cross-border terrorism (Chawla, IPCS, 8 March 2019). Thus, the Indian airstrikes questioned the Pakistani narrative of nuclear deterrence and its threshold by targeting inside

Pakistan. More importantly, Pakistan’s security has been declined due to its use of proxy war.

Furthermore, India is now using its growing global diplomatic clout and much greater financial strength by isolating Pakistan to impose sanctions and declare as a terror-sponsoring country. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that that “the United States stand[s] with India as it confronts terrorism.” Similarly, other US officials supported “India’s right to self-defense against cross-border terrorism” (Yusuf 2019). Despite Pakistan’s opposition, India was invited as a chief guest in the recent QIC conference of which Pakistan is a founding member state. More importantly, the Kashmir issue was not included in the OIC final declaration held in Abu Dhabi in March 2019. The UN Security Council also condemned the Pulwama attack and named Pakistan-based JeM as the main culprit behind the attack (Pandya 2019). Thus, Pakistan’s strategic space has also dwindled due to its proxy wars, and now there has been growing international pressure to change its foreign and security policy.

Regional security in South Asia

Unlike other regions, South Asia has confronted many security challenges such as terrorism, nuclearization, ethnic conflict, Islamic radicalism, abject poverty, growing human rights violations, enforced disappearances, refugee crises, and many other related human security problems in the contemporary world (Soherwordi 2005). India and Pakistan are stuck in the security dilemma in which their continuous hostility has a significant impact on the overall security environment of the South Asian region. Kaslunir has remained one of the largest military conflicts between India and Pakistan since 1947, while Afghanistan has remained fragile after four decades of continuous war, in which the two countries are fighting for their respective strategic interests.

In this situation, India and Pakistan have emphasized their respective regional security concerns and objectives, but they have chosen different paths. Islamabad is developing and deploying weapons systems below the nuclear threshold in order to counter India's conventional military capability, whereas New Delhi is building weapons to increase its strategic deterrence capability (Dalton and Tandler 2012). Although India says that its systems are intended to counter Chinese military power, Pakistan feels that they are more aimed at Pakistan than China. Consequently, both states have persisted with military competition that has led to an expensive arms race between the two countries despite chronic socio-economic problems such as abject poverty, illiteracy, and a low level of human development. Pakistan purchased Agosta 90B submarines from France in 1994, worth around US$1 billion. This was a huge amount for a poor country like Pakistan and could have financed “a year of primary school education for the 17 million children now out of school, safe drinking water for all 67 million people lacking this facility at present, and family planning services to an additional nine million couples” (Soherwordi 2005, 41). India spent USS4.5 billion on advanced military equipment, which could have financed “primary education for the 45 million children denied such education, safe

Explaining Pakistan’s strategic limitations 171 drinking water for the 226 million people with no access to such facility, and family planning services for an additional 22 million couples” (Soherwordi 2005, 41). Thus, military competition was prioritized over socio-economic development in the region due to hostile relations.

Afghanistan has been a threat to regional stability in South Asia because India and Pakistan have been competing there for their diverse strategic objectives. Afghanistan has become a battleground for Indian and Pakistani strategists to pursue their security interests in the region (Stobdan 1999). While India is trying to support anti-Pakistan elements in Kabul, Pakistan has continued its support for proxy militant groups such as the Haqqani Network in order to counter Indian influence in Kabul. Consequently, Afghanistan has remained destabilized due to the strategic interests of the regional countries, especially India and Pakistan.

The rise of Islamist radicalism has been a greater threat to regional security in South Asia. With the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, many Islamist groups and commanders gathered there in the mid-1990s. Moreover, Kashmir-based militant groups joined hands with TTP and Al-Qaeda, and this has become a very dangerous phenomenon in the post-9/11 period (Howenstein 2009). Nonetheless, Pakistan has continued with its proxy wars in Afghanistan in order to counter Indian influence there, whereas India has continued to support anti-Pakistan groups in Afghanistan. As a consequence, the South Asian region has remained insecure due to cross-border terrorism in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. Pakistan accused India and Afghanistan of causing unrest in Balochistan and the former FATA area, whereas India and Afghanistan alleged Pakistan’s involvement in terrorist attacks in their countries. The Kashmir uprising in 1990 and subsequent cross-border terrorism in 2001 and then 2008 Mumbai terror attacks brought the two nuclear states to the brink of nuclear war, which would have had devastating security implications for regional and international security (Qumber et al. 2018).

Furthermore, the India-Pakistan antagonism prevented South Asia from achieving its true economic potential and regional integration. South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) has remained ineffective and, in fact, South Asia is the least integrated region in the world. Interestingly, bilateral and internal security issues are exempted from the agenda of the SAARC, mainly due to the Pakistan-India rivalry and Indian hegemonic strength in the region. Consequently, SAARC has been unable to address any key issue confronted by the South Asian countries (Bailes 2007). Thus, South Asia has been largely destabilized due to the India-Pakistan enmity, both during and after the Cold War.

Most recently, the India-Pakistan relations deteriorated after India annexed Kashmir by revoking Article 370 of the Indian constitution on 5 August 2019. This article granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir including Ladakh area. Moreover, India also removed Article 35A which allowed the Kashmiri legislature to define permanent residents of the state. This change will provide New Delhi full control over Jammu and Kashmir. With the scrapping of the special status of Kashmir, New Delhi has altered its traditional position over Kashmir since the Shimla accord in 1972. Under this agreement, Pakistan and India need to resolve their outstanding issues including Kashmir bilaterally. Now India will consider the Kashmir conflict purely an internal matter rather than a bilateral dispute between India and Pakistan. Rajnath Singh, Indian defence minister, said that “any future talks with Pakistan will be on Pakistan-administered Kashmir only” (Sharma, South Asian Voices, 19 August 2019).

This annexation of Kashmir has provoked outrage in Pakistan and global worries over a fresh armed conflict between the two nuclear weapons countries. Pakistan responded by downgrading diplomatic relations with its neighbour and calling on international allies to take its side. Prime Minister Imran Khan accused the Modi-led Indian government of promoting a “racist ideology.” Imran Khan said that “I fear they may initiate ethnic cleansing in Kashmir to wipe out the local population.” The Pakistani senior military official said that “The Pakistan army stands firmly by the Kashmiris in their just struggle ... We are prepared and shall go to any extent to fulfil our obligations” (Parker, The Washington Post, 13 August 2019). So the Indian decision by revoking Jammu and Kashmir special status has further escalated the security situation in the region. This will provide an opportunity for the militant groups to regain its position in Kashmir.

Furthermore, Pakistan has intensified its diplomatic offensive to gain international support over the Kashmir conflict by initiating outreach to the UN, OIC, China, and the US. Moreover, Pakistan expelled Indian high commissioner in Pakistan and stopped cross-border trade between the two countries. The primary objective was to internationalize the issue of Kashmir. In the recent UN general assembly meeting, Prime Minister Imran Khan warned the world leaders about the risk of the Kashmir conflict between the two nuclear states. Imran Khan said that (Borger and Farooq, The Guardian, UK, 26 September 2019):

My main reason for coming here was to meet world leaders at the UN and speak about this. We are heading for a potential disaster of proportions that no one here realises. It is the only time since the Cuban crisis that two nuclear-armed countries are coming face to face. We did come to face to face in February.

The international community has raised concerns about the situation in Kashmir, with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urging “maximum restraint” by all parties. US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said that “We are concerned about reports of detentions and urge respect for individual rights and discussion with those in affected communities. We call on all parties to maintain peace and stability along the Line of Control” (Parker, The Washington Post, 13 August 2019). However, Pakistan wanted international community actions, not restraint. The failure of Pakistan is mainly due to India growing diplomatic outreach and Islamabad’s support of proxy militant groups. Nonetheless, the continued hostility between India and Pakistan has further destabilized the region.

Political instability

Backed by Pakistan’s military-industrial complex, the military has often intervened in the political sphere of state affairs, which has led to weak civilian institutions, and democracy has remained fragile in Pakistan. From Pakistan’s inception in 1947, the military elite have controlled state affairs directly and/or indirectly. The military ruled the country directly for 31 years, while maintaining its control over the civilian government from behind the scenes in the remaining years. The military has played a kingmaker role when not directly in power by nurturing loyal politicians, far-right groups, and political parties and manipulating elections to bring their favoured party into power to protect their institutional interests. So the military has been actively involved in the political engineering of the civilian administration which could protect their institutional interests. However, such military interference has often created political instability in the country.

Within the national security state, the Pakistani military elite have set a precedent to have a controlled form of democracy where the military has the power to take all key decisions of strategic importance. The military opposed any attempt by a civilian government to act independently in affairs of state during and after the Cold War. After Bhutto taking office in 1988, the military did not like her initiative to normalize relations with India and her criticism of the military’s pro-militancy strategy in Afghanistan. Moreover, Bhutto, being a liberal politician, had a very good reputation across the world, especially in the Western countries, and, had she succeeded, this would have marked the end of military control over state affairs in Pakistan. Therefore, the military was against her government from the beginning and used the IJI to derail her government. This fostering of extremist far-right groups has continued with the tacit support of the ISI in the post-Cold War era (see earlier section). However, it has largely destabilized the country and undermined the democratic process in the country.

Despite having a parliamentary system in the 1990s, Pakistan was ruled by a troika of the president, prime minister, and COAS. In practice, the prime minister had a very limited role in the troika due to the constitutional amendment introduced by General Zia, whereas the president was holding the most powerful position, exercising discretionary powers under the eighth amendment (Nawaz 2009). With the support and influence of the Pakistani military, presidents dismissed three elected governments in 1990, 1993, and 1996, and then General Musharraf imposed martial law in October 1999. No civilian government completed its full five-year term during the 1990s, a reflection of the political instability in the country. The military remained de facto rulers of the country despite civilian government throughout the 1990s.

In this context, Pakistan was unable to formulate a comprehensive strategy to deal with the changing global security environment in the post-Cold War setting. The civilian government and the military establishment fundamentally disagreed on issues of national interest. The ISI continued with their Cold War policy, adopted by General Zia. Subsequently, the military was keen to continue with its proxy war in Kashmir and Afghanistan, whereas the civilian governments were trying to find diplomatic solutions to the problems in the neighbourhood.

General Musharraf s dictatorial rule ended in 2008 when he resigned from his position as president. As in August 2008, the government was transferred to civilian leadership but the military continued to be the dominant power in state affairs. For example, General Ashfaq Kayani, successor to General Musharraf, projected himself as a pro-democratic general, but he continued to interfere in domestic politics during his prolonged six years as a CO AS. According to Kayani (Newsweek, Pakistan, 19 December 2008):

Military interventions are sometimes necessary to maintain Pakistan’s stability. Kayani likens coups to temporary bypasses that are created when a bridge collapses on democracy’s highway. After the bridge is repaired, then there’s no longer any need for the detour.

Kayani remained the de facto ruler and was responsible for Pakistan’s nuclear programme, operations against TTP and its affiliated militant groups, and dealing with foreign policy, especially the difficult relationship with India (Newsweek, Pakistan, 19 December 2008). So the military maintained its dominance in state affairs from behind the scenes under General Kayani. In other words, Pakistan persisted with its military-centric national security approach after the February elections in 2008 as well.

As with previous civilian governments in the 1990s, the major challenge was to establish a real democracy, where the civilian leadership takes all the key strategic decisions. Subsequently, President Zardari attempted to change the direction of the national security state, but he was largely unable to do so. Zardari successfully passed the 18th amendment in parliament and removed the constitutional means the military had used to interfere in the political sphere of government. However, the military maintained its control over other state institutions such as the judiciary, bureaucracy, and media. These institutions have been used by the military to undermine the political process in the country (Shah 2014b). The civilian government had tried to bring the ISI under the operational, administrative, and financial control of the interior ministry. On 26 July 2008, the prime minister approved “the placement of the Intelligence Bureau and the Inter-Services Intelligence under the administrative, financial and operational control of the Interior Division with immediate effect” (Raza, Dawn, Pakistan, 27 July 2008). But the military strongly resisted this decision. General Athar Abbas, the then DGISPR, said that the civilian government had not taken the defence authorities into its confidence before taking the decision. He explained that "the ISI was a huge organisation and the interior ministry could not have handled its financial, administrative and operational affairs” (Dawn, Pakistan, 27 July 2008). Consequently, the government withdrew the notification within less than 24 hours due to enormous pressure from the military.

Furthermore, it is the constitutional prerogative of the prime minister to appoint the COAS and other senior military officers. But the military resisted civilian interference in military promotions and their institutional matters. It is the military which decides the list of candidates for such positions (Shah 2014b). This implies that the civilian government failed to establish its supremacy over the military and intelligence security agencies. As in the 1990s, the military maintained its independence despite civilian rule in the post-9/11 period.

Under Pakistan’s military-industrial complex, the military interferes in state affairs in order to protect its commercial and institutional interests. Therefore, the military prefers to have a weak political government which provides justification for their interventions in domestic politics. Nevertheless, this often led to political instability in the country, though it has provided the military with an opportunity to influence the political process in their favour. For instance, PTI started a sit-in against the government in Islamabad over alleged election rigging in 2013. The sit-in continued for about 126 days and created a political crisis in the country. In order to end the political instability, General Raheel Sharif played the role of arbitrator between the government and the opposition PTI to end their sit-in in Islamabad (Sattar, The News, Pakistan, 19 May 2018). After General Sharif s intervention, the sit-in ended, and the military took full credit. After that, the PMLN government became veiy submissive and appeared to have ended its rapprochement with India. Thus, the military leadership used political crises as leverage to protect its military-industrial complex (Fair et al. 2010).

In this context, the military favours a hung parliament where the prime minister requires military support to run the state affairs smoothly. Moreover, the divided political leadership were not only intolerant of each other but there was also no consensus to oust the military from power. Prime Minister Sharif knew that the eighth amendment was the main obstacle to civilian supremacy as it provided disproportionate power to the president by allowing him to remove an elected government. Therefore, Sharif tried to create a political consensus with the other political parties to remove the eighth amendment from the 1973 constitution during his first term as a prime minister. Bhutto acknowledged this constitutional issue but did not come to support this move due to political differences with Sharif (Bray 1997). So the military took benefits from the divided political leadership and weak political government, which provided the military with a greater role in the government.

In the recently held parliamentary 2018 elections, the Pakistani military was alleged to have rigged the elections to produce a pro-military civilian government. Prior to the elections, the military establishment was accused of setting the stage for liman Khan's PTI to win. The military, with the support of the judiciary, initiated corruption cases, mainly against PMLN candidates, putting their leader Nawaz Sharif in jail on 14 July 2018. According to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui (Dawn, Pakistan, October 12, 2018),

The spy agency (ISI) had previously approached IHC Chief Justice Muhammad Anwar Khan Kasi and said: We do not want to let Nawaz Sharif and his daughter (Maryam Nawaz) come out [of prison] until the [July 25] elections. Do not include Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui on the bench [hearing Sharif s appeals].

However, the Supreme Court Chief Justice denied Justice Siddiqui's allegations regarding the ISI. Furthermore, there was a media blackout of the PMLN’s political gatherings during the election campaign. The secular political parties, such as the PPP and Awami National Party (ANP), were not allowed to hold public rallies, on the pretext of security thr eats in different parts of the country. So there was scepticism among electoral observers and political parties about whether a level playing field would be provided for all the political parties in the elections. The widespread allegations of military interference led all the opposition political parties to reject the election results. The opposition parties demanded a commission of enquiry to investigate the alleged pre- and post-poll election rigging (Raza, Dawn, Pakistan, 18 August 2018). Thus, the political process was undermined by the Pakistani military through alleged political engineering by rigging the elections in the country.

Economic insecurity

Thanks to the existence of Pakistan’s military-industrial complex, the military has prioritized and protected their commercial interests at the cost of economic and social development. In the post-Cold War era, economic growth and social development became very important for stability in the country but military competition with India remained the primary concern of the Pakistani military. In order to achieve military parity with India, economic growth and subsequent socioeconomic development were largely ignored. In the country’s history, Islamabad has never prioritized economic growth and socio-economic development over-defence building (Siddiqa 2002). The country allocated about 60 percent of its government expenditure to defence in the first ten years following independence in 1947 (Shah 2014b). Since then, the military budget has remained top of government spending. There was a 34.68 percent increase in defence spending from US $2,722 million in 1988 to US $3,666 million in 1995 (Mirza etal. 2015). The military budget was constantly increased under the PMLN-led government between 2013 and 2018. The total defence budget for 2018-2019 was PKR 1,100 billion, with a 19.5 percent increase over the previous financial year (Dawn, Pakistan, 28 April 2018). So the defence spending has placed tremendous pressure on the national treasury.

Despite this massive defence budget, the military finance their pension payments from the non-defence budget, leaving very limited financial resources for infrastructure and socio-economic development in the country. In the 2018-2019 budget, there was only PKR 90.8 billion for education, PKR 11.8 billion for health, and PKR 2.3 billion for the social sector (Budget in Brief 2018-2019). According to the former Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal (Express Tribune, Pakistan, 27 July 2017),

There are two major mistakes that we made ... One, Pakistan got too much involved in regional and global geo-political games instead of prioritising economic development. Second, Pakistan did not have sustainable political stability. The biggest casualty of these mistakes was the economy of Pakistan.

In addition, economic growth has become very important for national security in the post-Cold War era. However, Pakistan has been confronted by economic crises

Explaining Pakistan’s strategic limitations 177 throughout most of the post-Cold War period (Hussain 2012). Unlike Pakistan, India started an economic liberalization policy in the early 1990s that led to the rapid economic growth and trade expansion, such that by 2011, India’s economy was eight times larger than Pakistan’s economy. Consequently, the Indian government has been able to allocate a significant amount of its budgetary resources to military modernization and upgrading. Moreover, India has strengthened its military power through external arms purchasing and domestic production, and this has shaped regional security in its favour (N. Ahmad 2015). Due to its economic growth, India’s military spending is about seven times higher than that of Pakistan. India’s defence budget was USS53.5 billion in 2017-2018, which is almost the size of Pakistan’s total budget in 2018 (The Economist, 19 May 2011; Behera 2017). The military gap has increased to such a size that it has become very difficult for Pakistan to contemplate fighting a conventional war with India. To try to narrow the defence budget gap, Pakistan continues to upgrade its military, creating more pressure on the national treasury by cutting the development budget. The Indian economic transformation has thus aggravated the security situation for Pakistan, putting pressure on its budgetary resources and leaving less money for economic growth and socio-economic development.

In the post-9/11 period, Pakistan had to allocate more budgetary resources to conducting military operations against TTP, Al-Qaeda, and its affiliated militant organizations in order to maintain law and order. The military often asks for additional special grants to maintain existing infrastructure and for acquiring new equipment to deal with the emerging security situation in Pakistan (Anwar and Rafique 2012). The government provided PKR 4.5 billion (USS39 million) of extra-budgetary grants to the ISI for “strategic assignments” (Shakil, Asia Times, South Asia, 2 May 2018). However, the last civilian government led by PMLN refused to allocate further extra defence grants to the military, which created a rift between the civilian and military leaderships. Subsequently, Nawaz Sharif was removed by the Supreme Court for alleged corruption.

Additionally, the cost of doing business increased due to the uncertain law and order situation in the country. On top of this, there has been often political crisis in the country, creating uncertainty in the market for investors. Many foreign investors refused to visit Pakistan and invest in the country (Shahbaz et al. 2013). For example, the investment-to-GDP ratio has fallen from 22.5 percent in 2006-2007 to 13.4 percent in 2010-2011, which has affected the job market (Pakistan Economic Survey 2010-2011). Besides reduction in foreign investment, there was also a significant decline in the pace of the privatization programme, economic activities, import demand, tax collection, and the tourism industry (Cheema 2013). According to government estimates, the total direct and indirect cost incurred amounted to USS67.93 billion during the first ten years after 9/11 (Pakistan Economic Survey 2010-2011). Exports declined from 13 percent of GDP in 2006 to 9.2 percent in 2010 (Anwar and Rafique 2012).

In Pakistan, it is important to note that development spending on the social sector has been lower than some of the poorest African countries, who spend more on education and health than Pakistan does. According to Dr. Farukh Saleem (The News, Pakistan, 6 May 2018),

There are more than a hundred countries in the world which spend more on the health of their citizens than does Pakistan. The US spends $4,271 on health per citizen; Pakistan spends $18. Imagine: Iran spends $128. Even Sri Lanka, Burma and Zambia spend more on health than Pakistan.

Similarly, Pakistan spends less on education and other parts of the social sector compared to the least wealthy developing countries. As a result, most of the rural parts of the country present a gloomy picture reminiscent of the medieval period, with few opportunities to maintain a livelihood. In 2019, Pakistan was ranked 152 out of 189 countries in the HDI (UNDP 2019). Thus, the available resources were not utilized for the benefit of the general public, which resulted in chronic socio-economic problems. Moreover, worsening socio-economic and sociopolitical conditions exacerbate intrastate conflicts (Szayna et al. 2017). Poor education standards, lack of economic opportunities, and unequal access to avenues of social and economic mobilization are prevalent and contribute to radicalization among Pakistani citizens (A. Ali 2010). The neglect of socio-economic development has provided conditions conducive to militancy inside the country as well.

In sum, Islamabad has not prioritized economic growth under the national security state. Consequently, Pakistan has often faced economic turmoil, which is linked to Pakistan’s foreign and security policies. Like previous governments, the present PTI government is confronted by a severe economic crisis as the country’s imports have increased considerably and its foreign exchange reserves have been depleted to just US $10 billion, which is sufficient for less than two months’ worth of imports. The country is facing balance of payment challenges with a US $95 billion external debt and a US$ 32.5 billion trade deficit, together with a record current account deficit of US SI7.994 billion (5.7 percent of GDP) at the end of the fiscal year 2017-2018 (Dawn, Pakistan, 3 August 2018). At present, this is a major challenge for the new government that took charge in August 2018. Consequently, the new government was looking for an IMF bailout package to overcome its economic crisis. In July 2019, the IMF approved a US $6 billion package to Pakistan which is its 13th bailout package from IMF (K. Shahid, the Diplomat, Pakistan, 18 July 2019). The PTI government promises to make Pakistan a welfare state, but this cannot materialize without the transformation of the national security state by prioritizing economic growth and socio-economic development.

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