14 Oct

Presence of non-state elements in Pakistan has complicated the international security situation, which could further deteriorate if such elements are not neutralized. Raheel Sharif

Since the World War II, the idea of nation-state emerged as the strongest political entity, state was started being seen as ultimate authority and which, according to Max Weber, had monopoly over the use of force. This claim, however, did not go unchallenged. Right from there, international as well as domestic politics have been strongly affected and shaped by Non State Actors (NSAs) as entities that participate or act in international organizations. They have long influenced the political structure  of a state by using violence, mobilized masses by invoking social norms, and accordingly claimed the distribution of wealth. They increasingly challenge the traditional state system and underlying structure of international politics. The NSAs can be defined as an organized political actor not directly connected to the state but pursuing aims that affect vital state interests. There is a wide variety  of Non State Actors such as warlords, Private military corporations (PMCs) criminal and terrorist networks, organized crime groups both domestic and transnational youth gangs, multinational corporations, and the United Nations, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to name just a few.

Definition :

The concept of non-state actors is generally understood as including any entity that is no actually a state, often used to refer to armed groups, terrorists, civil society, religious groups, or corporations; the concept is occasionally used to encompass inter-governmental organizations. In the specific context of post-conflict peacebuilding, the expression non-state actor is being used in specialized literature to refer to a range of armed groups that operate beyond state control.

A dictionary definition of non-state actor can be made simple. Non-state actor implies any entity that is not actually a state. From a legalistic or 'technical' point of view, UN experts Biro and Motoc (2005: 7) report that : 'a non-state actor can be any actor on the international stage other than a sovereign state.'

Non-State Actors Defined in International Texts :

For completeness we mention here some examples of the use of the term non-state actor in texts adopted at the inter-governmental level. First, with regard to terrorist groups the Security Council adopted Resolution 1540 (2004), which created binding obligations on UN member states. It decided that 

'all states shall refrain from providing any form of support to non-state actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery ' and also that: all States, in accordance with their national procedures, shall adopt and enforce appropriate effective laws which prohibit any non-state actor to manufacture, acquire, possess, develop, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery, in particular for terrorist purposes, as well as attempts to engage in any of the foregoing activities, participate in them as an accomplice, assist or finance them.

The Council included an indefinite definition 'for the purpose of this resolution only ... Non-State actor: individual or entity, not acting under the lawful authority of any state in conducting activities which come within the scope of this resolution.' The context means that any entity lacking state authority to deal with these weapons of mass destruction ins considered  a non-state actor. In other contexts, however, one can imagine entities authorized by the state to carry out certain activities: say running a retirement home or hospice. Such entities could still be considered non-state actors in formal legal terms before national or international courts (Olive and Fedtke, 2007). The security council's definition is therefore very context specific.

A second international text is the Cotonou Agreement between the Members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Community and its member states. This treaty uses the term several times to refer to civil society organizations (which are to be identified in the relevant country strategy paper). Part 1, Chapter 2, Article 6 contains a definition:

1.     The actors of cooperation will include :

          State (local, national and regional);

  •      Non-State:
  •      Private sector;

   --      Economic and social partners, including trade union          --      organizations;

   --      Civil Society in all its forms according to national                         characteristics.

2.     Recognition by the parties of non-governmental actors           shall depend on the extent to which they address the needs      of the population, on their specific competencies and                whether they are organized and managed democratically           and transparently.


Non-State Actors do have certain things in common : they all emerge in response to inadequacies, deficiencies or shortcomings in many states and to one degree or another seek to compensate for those shortcomings. The incapable states fail to meet  the needs of their peoples and the gap is filed by other actors and they illegally undermine  the weak states and try to capture the power and come with alternative governance. Philip Williams also highlighted certain key dimensions responsible for the  rise of NSAs such as the absence of legitimacy-absence of loyalty and agreement, states with capacity gaps, primacy of individual interest over collective interest. While talking about the legitimacy of the state he then quotes David Ronfeldt, "as a society degenerates ... the more its states, market, and civil society systems falter and fall apart --- people are sure to revert to the tribal form. It again becomes the driving form." ("Violent Non-State Actors and National and International Security"- Philip Williams) We can add that VNSAs are result of poor state governance but they further try to undermine the governance  of the state. The role of Non-State Actors in the international security got attention after the 9/11 attack. The United States is also responsible for the rise of NSAs when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the US trained and armed the unarmed youth to resist the Soviet Invasion (R.Frost, Zaman 2015, Steve 2004).

It was the United States of America who sought our help in thwarting Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan. The USSR's Pursuit to get access to warm waters of Arabian Sea was the main cause of the invasion. Pakistan would have been the next target  of USSR after conquering Afghanistan. Our political and military leaders decided to become a front-line  ally of US in Afghan proxy war. Afghan mujahideen were supplied  arms and weapons to prevent communist expansion further  south. Afghan jihadis were used to move freely across the porous Pak-Afghan border,  getting trained in Pakistan and fighting for their homeland against foreigners who invaded their country.

The Soviets backed out in 1989 and left a power vacuum in Afghanistan resulting in civil war. The alliance we had made with Afghan jihadis (renamed as Taliban) helped them to gain power in 1996. Pakistan quickly recognized  the Taliban government and provided  the much needed diplomatic  support. After 9/11 we found the US again knocking our door and this time demand was to sever ties with Taliban government. Under the growing US pressure, Pakistan acquiesced and joined America's War on Terror. The American led coalition forces attacked Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban government. A lot of Taliban leaders crossed the Afghan-Pak border and settled in FATA.

The elements of Jihad, our military brewed in the 80s and 90s for Afghan proxy war had their after effects. Those elements imbued perfectly with the ideology inculcated in the country under the garb of Islamization. A number of Sectarian organizations were formed in that era. Those organizations glorified jihad and spread the teachings of hatred and intolerance among Pakistani youth. Pakistan used the same model of proxy was for Kashmir and tried to fuel further the indigenous struggle for freedom.

Unfortunately, these policies of fighting proxies developed a culture of Kalashinkov and religious extremism in our country. The non-State actors created for these proxy wars  have organized themselves and are still active on their own. These NSAs are a cause of utter embarrassment for Pakistan internationally. Pakistan is being blamed for exporting terrorism in the region and harboring terrorists in its territory. Pakistan are being humiliated in the world.

Non-State Actors: Threat to Pakistan's National Security :

Pakistan today is faced with asymmetrical threats posed by non-state actors as they were acting today under state patronage  being used as proxy  by neighbor country. Pakistan had condemned terrorism in all its forms not only within Pakistan but in region and beyond. War on our  Western borders has hit us for last 17 years.

Pakistan had suffered economic losses in excess of 123 billion US dollars direct and 500 billion dollars indirect  since 2001.

Religiously inspired actors have been taking full advantage of the state's policy of using them to achieve national political and strategic  interests. a reversal in the policy would not put the genie back in the bottle. The past is only painful, it also obstructs the way to constructing a new future.

Challenges facing Pakistan's security and stability are manifold and can be compared to a four-layered pyramid with four critical threats to internal security, three folds of radicalization that exist in society, two border-related insecurities and one grand religious-ideological narrative.

The four critical security  threats  emanate from or are linked to the tribal areas, madressahs, Afghan refugee settlements and prison. The tribal areas are important for militants to keep their networks intact and to expand their infrastructure. Certain madressahs and banned militant outfits provide human resources, ideological support and more critically the hidouts for terrorists, which are crucial for latter to carry out their attacks.

Many Afghan refugee settlements --- both legal and illegal --- provide space to criminals involved in smuggling arms, explosives and communication tools, besides serving as recruitment centers for potential terrorists. Also, it has been observed that in many cases militants used these settlements as their hidout.

Prisons play a critical role where militants' networking, recruitment and running of cells are concerned. Prisons in Pakistan hold thousands of militant detainees, many of whom have not been tried in court as yet. Prisons also serve as safe havens  for terrorists besides providing  them with an opportunity  to radicalize  their fellow inmates.

Internal security threat from militants, sectarian and pseudo secessionist forces which has devastated the country for more than a decade, is now being dealt with a clear policy of zero tolerance for violence. The first ever National Internal Security Policy (NISP2013 initially provided policy guidelines but torn between dialogue and military  action, resulted into long initial gestation period of inaction. The failure of talks with Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) led to military operations in FATA. The Peshawar  Army Public School  massacre of children in December 2014 renewed national resolve and resulted into formulation of National Action Plan (NAP). the political government prioritized military effort i.e. operation Zarb e Azb over the civilian action to reform Madaris and to rid the society of extremism.

The successful military operation being prosecuted  in FATA  and supported efforts in Balochistan and Karachi as well as teh support to civil government to prevent backlash in major urban centers is displaying positive effects and teh terrorist attacks  are down since 2014. the security operations in Balochistan pickedup resulted in substantially improved security situation, albeit some political repercussions. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the people of Sindh expect better governance  form the provincial government to transform the success into a stable security situation. The current predominant focus of government on internal security, economic development, fiscal stabilization and addressing resource security especially power and gas sector has resulted in according lower priority to some critical sectors like education, health and social security. Today 58.7 million Pakistanis are malnourished with 46% in  rural and 18% in urban centers. While it may be argued that after 18th amendment and 7th National Finance Commission (NFC) Award on more equitable basis, these subjects fall in provincial domain and the provinces require capacity building. Yet, it is the overall governance which needs to ingest financial devolution at provincial and local.

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