Author Interview: Human Security in Pakistan by Dr. Hafiz A. Pasha

What is the concept of human security and why is it important? Listen to Dr. Hafiz A. Pasha, the author of the FES report "Human Security in Pakistan". He also shares his findings and recommendations on the level of human security in Pakistan.

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FES Pakistan spoke with Dr. Hafiz A. Pasha, Senior Economist about his report: Human Security in Pakistan which represents the first step at quantification of the level of human security in Pakistan and its trend after 2001-02.

Dr. Hafiz A. Pasha is Professor Emeritus at Beaconhouse National University (BNU) in Lahore, Pakistan. He is also the former Federal Minister and United Nations Assistant Secretary General. In this interview, Dr. Hafiz A. Pasha explained the concept of human security, why we need to pay attention to it and situation of human security in Pakistan.


What is the concept of human security and why is it important?

Dr. Hafiz A. Pasha: Well, I must say first of all that I greatly appreciate the support that has been given to my team and me to prepare this, what I would now call (the report Human Security in Pakistan) a book because it's been published as such byFriedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Pakistan. This was a very appropriate area to select for research and then publication because issues of human security are increasingly important in developing countries, especially in Pakistan. Now, what is human security?

Human security is a broad concept of security of the people, as opposed to the traditional notion of security linked to military security. It is human security in its broadest manifestation, and not just arms and territorial security. And it has basically 4 dimensions to it, key dimensions. We say that the people of a country or of a region have a semblance of human security when they have freedom from fear. Now, what does this mean? Freedom from fear. fear relates, for example, particularly to the country's vulnerability to the external environment financially.

It also deals with natural disasters, the environmental impact of this on people's lives, and the third, on crime, and so on and so forth. So freedom from fear is a broad concept which means that people have some semblance of peace and security in their lives. The 2nd dimension is to the extent possible; the people should have freedom from want, which means that their basic needs should be satisfied. And what are those basic needs? Basic needs are, of course, that they should have the requisite skills and the human capital. They should be able to get good employment; they should be able to get a reasonable income, be able to eat and live comfortably and have good shelter.

So the 3rd dimension is that the society must be, in a sense, egalitarian and balanced in such a manner that there is freedom from exploitation or inequality.  Finally, the 4th and perhaps most important dimension is that people must have access to a broad range of human rights. So, you have these four dimensions: Freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom from oppression, inequality and access to human rights.


Where does Pakistan ranks in terms of human security globally?

Dr. Hafiz A. Pasha: Well, you see, one of the motivations, as I told you, was that Pakistan was beginning to have serious problems with the various dimensions of human security, which was a common perception among the people, not just the professors.

The motivation also is due to the fact that for the first time in the 76-year history of Pakistan, in 2022, Pakistan finally came out with a national security policy, a policy for four years from 2022 to 2026. And the greatest breakthrough in that was it was not focused on military security, which has always been the prime concern in Pakistan.  It was based on a very broad concept of national security and made the key point that the heart of security is economic security.  So, what we have done is to see where Pakistan stands internationally, and in order to do that, we took a sample of countries which are developing countries from all over the world with a focus specially on South Asian countries and East Asian countries. So, I will give you an example of these countries.

We have tokened a total of 11 countries. These are relatively large countries in terms of population because Pakistan, as you know, is the 5th largest country in the world today. And the countries that we have included in South Asia are basically India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and so on. And then for the other countries which we have included are Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Egypt and Turkia. So, 11 countries were taken by us. Now, as it turns out, it is very interesting that you know, you must have heard of the very famous index called the Human Development Index, which has been produced for the last many years by the United Nations Development Programme annually globally, Pakistan among these eleven countries is ranked the last 11th.

And it is significant that even in South Asia, Pakistan today, among the five South Asian countries, is ranked the lowest in the Human Development Index. But I have some good news for you. We constructed a Human Security Index for these eleven countries with 27 indicators, whereas the Human Development Index has five indicators and the result was Pakistan's ranking turned out to be better than two South Asian countries, Bangladesh and Nepal. So Pakistan, of course, is below the other countries like Thailand, Philippines, Egypt and India. But it's above these two countries. In the Human Development Index, it is below them, but in the Human Security Index, it is higher.


What are the key achievements in terms of human security in Pakistan?

Dr. Hafiz A. Pasha: The key thing to note is out of the four dimensions of human security that I described at the beginning of our discussion, Pakistan has done very poorly in the first dimension, which is freedom from fear. And there are two fundamental reasons why that has happened and I in recent years particularly number one, our external financial position is extremely vulnerable and Pakistan has been considered as a country which came close to default and continues to be under that threat.

You see, the risk of this default has a huge impact on the lives of the people because what it does, it leads to a quantum depreciation of the value of the currency and leads to shortage of foreign exchange to import basic food and other items. It has a devastating effect on the lives of the people. This is what happened to a country with twice the per capita income of Pakistan, Sri Lanka. When they went default, their inflation rate went up to 71% and their GDP declined by 7%. So Pakistan's negative side, the most negative side, is freedom from fear.  Also, the natural hazards have increased. Last year we had one of the worst floods in our history and Pakistan is considered as one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of the impact of climate change.

The second dimension over the last 20 years, the period during which we have constructed this index from 2001 effectively until 2021. Fortunately, in the freedom from want, there has been some improvement in the standard of living of the people of Pakistan, significant, particularly up till 2015. Sixteen and then it's flattened out a bit, but nevertheless there has been a significant improvement, particularly in various dimensions like energy, like housing, like education to some extent and food intake. The third dimension of inequality, freedom from inequality I am afraid has somewhat worsened in Pakistan.

And that is because out of the four major provinces of Pakistan and, unfortunately, the largest province in terms of area but the smallest in terms of population, Balochistan has slipped behind, and it is a source of worry to all of us in Pakistan. We don't want the gap among the four provinces to widen too much. The last index, sub-index, if you like, is the dimension of governance. Here there is some improvement. And why is there some improvement? Because way back in 2000 up until 2008, Pakistan had no semblance of democracy. Fortunately, and this is unprecedented, we have had a number of democratic governments since then, from 2008 until now, and we have seen elections taking place democracy in action in 2008, 2013, 2022 and 2024. So the end result is Pakistan is done better in two of the dimensions and somewhat worse in the other two dimensions of freedom from fear and freedom from inequality. If you look at the overall trend of the index over the last 2021 years, it rises steadily from about 0.43. The index value ranges from 0 to 1. So the value starts in 2001 at 0.43, rises to 0.5253 up till 2015 and 2016. And then I'm sorry to tell you, particularly because of the external financial vulnerability, it falls to 0.44 in 2021.

So, over the last 20 years, there has been negligible improvement in Pakistan's Human Security Index.


Where do you see the biggest challenges for improving human security in Pakistan?

Dr. Hafiz A. Pasha: I think I've already in some ways I've told you what is the number one concern, the financial viability of the country. Today, Pakistan is a country which is got the lowest credit ratings, of course. But very importantly, we have reserves of only $8 billion and that is only because we IMF program is in operation currently. This $8 billion provides cover for only one and a half months of imports. For a country to be considered relatively safe, it should have an import cover of at least three months. So, you can see Pakistan is perilously placed.

This is a formidable area where security is a matter of great concern for reasons I've told earlier. The second area of course I've mentioned is the natural disasters and so on and so forth. And the third area is inequality.


What are your key proposals to improve human security in Pakistan?

Dr. Hafiz A. Pasha: Given that these three are the principal concerns, let me start by first saying that it is extremely important for Pakistan to preserve the democratic fabric.  We are a country which has seen changes from democracy to extreme dictatorial governments and Pakistan should mature now as a country 76 years after its existence.

Unfortunately, we have had democracy now for almost 15 years, so that process should continue and we should really strengthen democracy. The second major concern is on the economic side. As I've highlighted the perilously placed group Pakistani Position Internationally. We own internationally $132 billion and our annual financial requirement to finance our trade gap and our debt repayment is $22 to $25 billion annually. And our reserves, as I've told you with great difficulty, are only $8 billion. How do we resolve this? Pakistan has no other option but to continue under the umbrella of an IMF program.

Once this present standby facility comes to an end literally next month, we will have to move towards a three-year IMF program and use the three-year period to make the necessary structural reforms and policy changes to reintroduce a semblance of financial solvency in our country.  This, the last and very important area is unfortunately because of the floods which hit us in 22 more recently 2022 and earlier on the COVID-19 disaster pandemic. Pakistan's poverty levels have increased, and today, our estimate is that over 40% of the population of Pakistan has become poor once again, compared to 33% or so before COVID-19. So, almost 110 million people in Pakistan are poor today.

Unfortunately, Pakistan, like many other countries developing countries, is characterized by a semblance of state capture by the elite. And this elite consists of the feudal Lords, consists of the, you know, the establishment, the richest capitalist families, and of course, the senior elements of the bureaucracy, and just so on and so forth. Result, Pakistan's taxation effort is very poor. We hardly generate 10% of our GDP through taxation.  The time has come for progressive reforms on the taxation front.

And the reforms that we do on the taxation front should raise our tax to GDP ratio by about 5% of the GDP, which will take give us an additional 5000 billion rupees, which is about $20 billion. And that will help us in a very strong and committed social protection program to provide relief to the 110 million poor people of my country. This is something we have to do. We have to do these three things if you want to take our country ahead. Thank you.

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