What is national security? Walter Lipmann’s defines national security as,“A nation has security when it does not have to sacrifice its legitimate interests to avoid war, and is able, if challenged, to maintain them by war.”This definition is too old school and does not fit within this age of multidimensional security challenges.Then there is Harold Laswell’s classic definition of national security, where he outlines that it is:“freedom from foreign dictation.” This perhaps unwittingly captures the essence of national security. A nation that is capable of retaining its political and economic sovereignty is the one that is truly secure. Relate this definition with Pakistan’s current economic predicament and the concept of security will become clear. Pakistan would be truly secure if she can ward off the economic strictures of IMF.The time has come to securitise our water scarcity, energy shortage, sectarian strife, terrorist threats, corruption, and organised crimeSimilarly, Pakistan would be truly secure if she could chart its political course without latching on to any dominant regional or global power. National security in this age is not defined by a negative peace which is merely absence of war but by a positive peace wherein the structural reasons for war are removed National security in this cyber age driven by technology and knowledge has expanded to include economic, climate, political, food, and health security. The threats have expanded from the one-dimensional enemy at the gates concept to the multidimensional internal security threats spanning a wide gamut from non-state actors, extremism, organised crime, social deprivation, ethnic polarisation, sectarianism, and institutionalised corruption. In short one can safely conflate the classic notion of national security with the human security. Barry Buzan in his book “People, States, and Fear” expands the notion of national security to include military, environment, social, economic, and political security. Ole Weaver, another proponent of the Copenhagen School of thought introduced the concept of “securitisation” of threats which meant that by characterising a challenge or issue in terms of security the issue is taken away from normal discourse and is treated as a threat that has to be tackled at priority even if it means taking away some of the human liberties. In other words, if a threat is deemed existential then extraordinary steps are taken by the state even at the cost of suppressing political rights and normal civic liberties to counter that threat. An example is that of the terrorism threat in FATA in Pakistan. The security steps like check posts, screenings, raids, and protective custodies are deemed kosher as the issue of terrorism is securitised.Should Pakistan securitise some of its palpable security threats? Before answering this question, one needs to identify those security challenges. Pakistan today is beset with several security challenges both internal as well as external. The biggest challenge is political. Pakistan has a weak polity with deep structural vulnerabilities which unless addressed would yield an ineffectual governance by a corrupt clique elected by a gullible electorate. People nowadays are enthused about the emergence of PTI as the harbinger of change. Little do they understand that the deep structural fissures in our political system act as veritable bulwarks to good governance. The first bulwark is the absence of the checks and balances between the judiciary, executive, and the legislature. In the absence of these checks and balances each institution tends to encroach on the domain of the other. The Westminster polity bequeathed to us by the British is a recipe of disaster. In this system a head of the government remains unstable at the mercy of the parliamentarians who seek their pound of flesh for political support. There have been ludicrous examples of entire provincial assemblies comprising provincial cabinets as a political bribe. The first past the post system of election disenfranchises a majority of people while a minority vote getter gets elected. The feudal proclivity of self-aggrandizement reigns supreme in our political conduct where the provincial governments do not cede powers to local governments. The trouble with people is their illiteracy and feudal bondage. People vote for ethnic ties bound in a slave-master like relationship irrespective of the merit. In such a system even if one holds 100 elections the results would hardly change. Next big challenge is the absence of institutionalized decision making.Robert Kaplan had introduced the concept of a hybrid democracy wherein a developing nation without strong institutions for rule-based governance needs support of non-representative institutions like Army for good governance. A symbiotic relationship between judiciary and Army is suggested by Kaplan for such “Hybrid Democracies”. Another serious security challenge at this time is the recrudescence of praetorianism. Since no political leader displays gumption to climb the high moral ground we are fated to see a replay of praetorianism or the “Hybrid Democracy”. For a country staring drought, water scarcity, energy crisis, economic insolvency, and extremism in the face the democratic niceties invariably give way to securitisation of these challenges.The securitisation of the threats mentioned above unless accompanied by an actionable strategy leads to public disaffection and lack of faith in democracy. Under such lack of public faith, the wily political leaders try and win over the public loyalty by boondoggles like metro bus and orange train projects. A culture of patronage and political bribe is fostered to divert attention from the real problems. The above of course, does not stave off the looming security threats, forcing ultimately an intervention by the non-representative institutions, in either the “Hybrid Democracy” or the praetorian mode. Our external challenges emerge from a US-China rivalry and a US fixation for regional surrogacy through regional gendarmes like India. The greatest challenge to our diplomacy nowadays is to win back the US favour without alienating China. The thaw in Indo-Pak relations is going to be a sub set of the US-Pak thaw for which Pakistan needs to convince China to lend a helping hand.The mantra of strategic convergence and divergence vis a vis China and USA needs to be replaced with a “Strategic Bridge” theory according to which Pakistan should position itself as a bridge between China and USA and between China and India leveraging its unique geostrategic advantages. Pakistan’s internal fissures and weaknesses would never be fully tackled unless Pakistan unlocks itself from the global as well as regional strategic rivalries. A new peace offensive needs to be launched by Pakistan to cool its Western as well as Eastern borders besides seeking a new cooperative engagement with the USA. The time has come for tough decisions. Our security challenges are not amenable to placebo solutions like political engineering in the hope of efficacious governance. Problems like water scarcity and debt burden have reached a stage where elusive political consensus might have to be sacrificed for speedy decision making.The time has come to securitise our water scarcity, energy shortage, sectarian strife, terrorist threats, corruption, and organised crime. The post-election assemblage of odds and sods is not going to lead us into our golden sunset of peace and prosperity considering the moral compromises and the structural limitations of our political system. We need institutions that are capable of tackling our above-mentioned security challenges with efficacy and celerity overriding the structural limitations of our political system.The writer is a PhD scholar at NUST and can be reached at email@example.com)Published in Daily Times, July 22nd 2018.