Pakistan under the non-traditional security threats

Sidra Ahmed

“Non-traditional security (NTS) challenges are threats to the survival and well-being of peoples and states that arise primarily out of non-military sources such as climate change, infectious diseases, natural disasters, irregular migration, food and water shortages and other forms of transnational crimes.”

   –said Dr. Mely Caballero-Anthony, associate professor and head of Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies at RSIS.

   The world we are living in today is more insecure and unsafe in its overall existence as compared to the world before us. Apart from the casual military disputes and the perceived nuclear threats with their ever-increasing intensity, the crisis-ridden world is also beset by some potential non-traditional security threats. These threats are more adverse because they are directly affecting the regular life of the common people.

  The historic end of Cold War brought about new issues and a range of questions related to human survival and global security with a wider agenda. All that is because of the fact that in a globalized world, it is highly likely that new challenges may take place in a single, distant part of any region. Such a situation has instigated multi-faceted serious challenges and threats of a newer nature such as menacing immigrant influx, resource management, food and water supply chain, drugs, weapons and human trafficking, etc. Then after September 11, 2001, non-traditional security issues have become increasingly common in almost all parts of  the world, both domestically and internationally: in the policy and the research agendas of governments, in non-governmental organizations, in academic circles, as well as in the general public and the media. The core of security agenda shifted from military powers to the economic, political, societal, humanitarian, administrative and governance spheres. The regions and the countries which are less responsive and less competent in dealing with these areas of security challenges are throttled into a dreadful condition.

  Aside from their non-traditional nature, these challenges share some common characteristics which have made the thinkers and the policy makers to take note of them with a solid working framework.

1)    Non- traditional threats are transnational in nature. These threats are not considered as domestic or an inter-state affair.

2)    They arise at very short notice and are capable of transmitting rapidly as a result of the revolution of globalization and communication.

3)     Just because of their complexity and dependency on varied domestic and global factor, they are hard to contain entirely, but can be alleviated through coping mechanism.

4)    Again, due to the involvement of external factors, a national solution is hard to achieve. An inclusion of regional as well as multilateral /international cooperation is essential.

5)    Last but the not the least, the object of security is not state ,its territorial security and sovereignty but the people, their survival, security, well-being and dignity on all levels – individual,  national and international.

   As it has been mentioned that the states which are less efficient in administering their given resources and which have a poor risk management trace are more exposed to the non-traditional security issues. The countries of South Asia are not an exception. If we take the case of Pakistan, similar to the other South Asian countries, has for quite some time been facing a number of non-traditional security threats ,that have slowed down its possibilities of a smooth development conversion. Besides the traditional setbacks to conventional security, Pakistan, like Bangladesh and India, has been having a stronger reaction to issues such as the climate change, increasing population, urbanization and water security. These issues have been even more concerning in the last few years, as the overpopulation and climate change have made habitation difficult as well as making water availability scarce.

Climate change: Since last two decades the uneven change in climate and its impacts on human life in Pakistan are quite evident. Unlike to its other south Asian neighbors, Pakistan is predominantly vulnerable to climate change and because its economy is largely agrarian and highly climate sensitive. The climate change is negatively affecting human activities and livelihoods in Pakistan through increasingly frequent extreme weather events and changes in temperature and precipitation.


Climate change triggering torrential rains and floods in Pakistan.

   A rise in extreme weather has already led to an alarming increase in the number of people died, injured, or made homeless due to severe heat wave; floods caused by heavy and unexpected rainfalls; drought in desert areas resulted in deaths and population flight to the urban areas; scarcity of valuable resources including water and food crops and livestock, etc. The effects of climate change can be even more dangerous as Pakistan is known for its speedy increase in population which could well increase the number of climate affectless as well as enhancing the challenges caused by it.

Population explosion: The rapid and consistent increase in population is South Asian states’ common problem. In Pakistan, despite numerous relevant initiatives taken by different governments, the goal for population control can never become a success story. Pakistan’s large population and high growth rate are adversely affecting all aspects of society, the economy and the environment. Population growth creates and exacerbates vulnerabilities by endangering basic civic amenities, leading to a lack of clean water and space for housing and ultimately burdening society.


Remarkably, while much of the world has seen a reduction in fertility rates and population growth, Pakistan’s growth rate has increased. Between 1991 and 2001, Pakistan grew 25 percent, a rate that increased by more than one-third (to 34 percent) between 2001 and 2011 (Figure 2). Pakistan’s total fertility rate (TFR — the number of live births the average woman has in her lifetime) is reported by the UN to be 3.2. This is well above India’s rate of 2.6 and far above the Bangladesh rate of 2.2 (which is only barely above the generally accepted replacement rate of 2.1). Pakistan’s fertility rate is the highest of any of the largest countries and one of the highest in the world outside sub-Saharan Africa.

   With a 350% growth in population since its independence in 1947, it is estimated that the Pakistani population is due to be the second largest population growth after China, with a contribution of 133 million people by 2025. Such rapid population growth results in the endangering of basic services and amenities, which then lead the lack of clean water and proper housing. Here, as with many other developing countries, growth happens to individuals in society  who live below the poverty line, survive in a subsistence economy and live in hazard-prone areas.

Water scarcity: Water  security is the most serious challenge to Pakistan due to several factors, particularly the increasing pressure of population and urbanization, massive expansion of tube well irrigation, reduced levels of precipitation caused by climate change and the accelerated retreat of Himalayan glaciers. By international standards, Pakistan was already a water-scarce country in 1992 at 1700 m3 available per capita, according to UNFPA/Ministry of Population Welfare. By 2003, Pakistan’s per capita availability of water declined to the extent that it was categorized as a water-stress country by the World Bank, surpassing Ethiopia and on par with African countries such as Libya and Algeria. Pakistan is now a water-scarce country at 1200 m3 per capita per year.  Water availability (per capita) will be 855m3 by the year 2020.

Natural disasters:  Pakistan is also facing a serious threat and great challenges from large-scale natural as well as anthropogenic disasters, such as, seismic events, landslides, droughts, floods, fog, torrential rains, tropical cyclones, dust storms, fires, locusts, oil-spills, depletion of Glaciers, etc. The human impact of natural disasters in Pakistan can be judged from the fact that 6,037 people were killed and 8,989,631 affected in the period between 1993 and 2002 (World Disasters Report 2003, Geneva).


A village under water in Punjab due to heavy rain.

  Pakistan is one of the five South Asian countries with the highest annual average number of people physically exposed to floods, which occur normally due to storm systems that originate from the Bay of Bengal during the monsoon from July to September. Besides monsoon floods, the country faces many types of floods throughout the year including flash floods in northern areas; floods due to canal breaches or river embankment; urban floods in major cities of Pakistan and coastal floods due to a tropical storm on the coast of Makran and Sind’s coastal belt. All these cause great loss of agrarian and residential lands along with the loss of human life and the animal livestock, plantation and administrative infrastructure.

   The drought has become a periodic problem of the country’s security. In recent years drought is reported to have brought extensive damages to Balochistan, Sindh and southern Punjab where average rainfall is as low as 200-250 mm. Severe drought periods in years 2000 , 2002, 2010 – 2014 affected livelihoods, resulted in human deaths, pushed tens of thousands of people to migrate and killed large numbers of cattle. This drought led to 120 deaths and affected 2,200,000 people. The main arid rangelands are Thar, Cholistan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Tharparkar, Kohistan and western Balochistan. Except Balochistan, all of these areas are within the range of monsoon rainfall, which, however, is erratic and scattered. Hence, 2 to 3 years in every 10 years in these areas are drought years.

   Due to topographical structure, most part of Pakistan has high vulnerability towards the landslide. Attabad Lake (also Gojal Lake) is a landslide dam lake in the Hunza Valley of northern Pakistan created in January 2010. The lake was formed due to a massive landslide at Attabad village in Gilgit – Baltistan on January 4, 2010. The lake flooding displaced 6,000 people from upstream villages, stranded (from land transportation routes) a further 25,000, and swamped over 12 miles (19 km) of the Karakoram Highway.

Terrorism: At present, the gravest problem that Pakistan is facing is terrorism. It has become a sour tooth for federation and a nightmare for the people of Pakistan. Becoming a partner of the US in the war against terrorism has made Pakistan suffer a lot. The 9/11 was only one terrorist incident in the US territory but inside Pakistan numbers of such incidents have been observed, which deteriorated the law and order situation in the country. No part of the country is safe due to bombing and suicide attacks of terrorism. Pakistan’s troubled economic conditions, fluid political setting and perilous security circumstances present serious challenges to its security. Besides military security, the problem of terrorism has branched out numerous issues which are equally serious. Pakistan, as a nation has failed to share its soft image to the global community, it has to bear much pressure from the world community and organizations to pursue a more direct policy in order to curtail terrorism from the grass root levels. Pakistan’s domestic trade and economic activity as well as foreign investment trend has been widely declined due to the internal instability and frequent terrorist attacks from different terrorist wings, both indigenous and infiltrated. No part of the country is safe due to bombing and suicide attacks of terrorism. Feeling insecurity from terrorism and the worst kind of law and order situation, the intelligentsia of the country is moving in search of a better and safe future to Western countries.

An incident of terror in Pakistan.

   Talibanization promoted the culture of terrorism in Pakistan that includes ambushes on armed forces by Tehrik-eTaliban Pakistan (TTP); targeted killing of religious, political and civil society figure;, scholars and doctors; blowing up schools; offices of NGOs; bridges; suicide attacks in mosques and other important places. So far more than 50,000 Pakistani have lost their lives in different incidents of terrorism including 5,000 soldiers.

How to deal with non-traditional security threats?

Like any other developing country, Pakistan too has its multifaceted issues which should be dealt with an unfathomable concern, with an iron hand and with a team of competent professionals. It is already too late to just appear on official seminars and conferences and spread a word of concern about the non-traditional security threats which are inflicting damages on this nation and on its overall existence. It is a high time for the government and all the authorities associated with the relevant fields to take charge and own the responsibility for all the damages. So far, any noteworthy measure of improvement in any of these mentioned problems is not discernible. There are legal frameworks, policies and agendas and working committees/ departments assigned to the each one but regretfully none of them has brought any fruit.

   If the government of Pakistan and the military sincerely want to put off the tag of ‘incompetence and ill will’, they should work on a parallel agenda, and that is, to make Pakistan safe and secure for its people. This agenda should start with curbing the evil of corruption at any cost and from every level with a top-down approach. The other essential steps that have to be taken to bring on a difference are: good governance; making and implementing an extensive domestic policy (especially related to the human development sector); discouraging and curtail terrorism and extremism with all other crimes by adopting a more direct and effective strategy; efficient management and maintenance of resources and infrastructure; proper allocation and monitoring and accountability of funds to the departments. Last but not the least, the government should educate the people so that they acquire better employment opportunities.

The writer is the op-ed editor  at The Asia Watch.




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