Pakistan's Internal Security Environment

37 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2014

Date Written: July 23, 2014


Pakistan faces numerous internal security challenges including sectarian, communal, and ethno-nationalist violence as well as terrorist and insurgent violence. The varied groups engaging in this wide array of political violence have targeted ordinary citizens; political leaders and government officials, as well as Pakistan’s security forces. Here, I argue that many of these threats — but no means all — stem from Pakistan’s founding ideology, the Two Nation Theory, and the particular ways in which the Pakistani state — under civilian and military governance — has sought to employ stylized versions of Islamism to manage Pakistan’s religious, sectarian, and ethnic differences. While the communal appeal of Two-Nation Theory had utility in generating support for an independent Pakistan to be carved from the detritus of the Raj, once Pakistan came into being the same ideology became dangerous because the new state was home to many minorities, including Hindus, Parsees, Christians, and Sikhs. Arguably, the divisive rhetoric that successfully tweezed apart the subcontinent, after 1947, should have been tempered if not outright jettisoned if Pakistan’s varied peoples were to live harmoniously within a new nation with a precarious political geography and strained resources. However, the political elites of the new country opted not “to promote an inclusive Pakistani nationalism that would have accommodated the divisive forces of ethnic and cultural diversity of the people of the new country” (Hassan 2014: 42). The consequences of this enduring choice and the enormous failures of managing the deleterious outcomes of this choice have been — and are — horrendous.

In this background paper, I first aim to provide a historical overview of political violence in Pakistan’s recent past. Second, I provide a thumb-nail sketch of the key organizations providing this violence. Third, I exposit how Pakistan’s internal and external security environment are intrinsically interlinked. Here, I detail what is known (or suspected in most cases) about the linkages between these groups and Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies and even political parties as appropriate. I contend that this linkage between external security policy and domestic security management poses enduring problems for the Pakistani state unless it adopts fundamental changes in the ways in which it manages its external security environment and even the fundamentally ideology of the state. Fourth, I provide an overview of security governance in Pakistan and the key roadblocks that prevent Pakistan from better managing its internal security despite systematic impediments operating in Pakistan (e.g. Pakistan’s commitment to jihad under its nuclear umbrella as a tool of foreign policy). I conclude with a discussion of implications.

Suggested Citation

Fair, C. Christine, Pakistan's Internal Security Environment (July 23, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

C. Christine Fair (Contact Author)

Georgetown University ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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