Lahore, 20th April 2011 – Speakers at a special seminar on the ‘National Security State’ organized on Wednesday at the Kissan Hall on Mozang Road urged a broad consensus of all political and social forces on the need to reorient the priorities of the Pakistani state away from ‘national security’ to ‘human security’ and warned that religious radicalization, ethnic polarization and imperialist influence in Pakistan would all intensify if this transformation does not take place. The seminar was organized by the Worker’s Party Pakistan (WPP) and featured the participation of a large number of political workers, students, trade unionists and intellectuals.
Speaking on the occasion scholar-activist Dr. Aasim Sajjad said that since the creation of the country, the permanent institutions of the state – the military and bureaucracy – have maintained a dominant political position and siphoned off a disproportionate share of public resources under the guise of ‘national security’. He said that public opinion had been forged to grant legitimacy to this ideology by emphasizing the threat posed by neighbouring countries. The national security ideology over time became the justification for military coups, state repression against underrepresented ethnic groups and the patronage of religious militancy. He noted that the power of the military establishment had historically been reinforced by American imperialism.
Farooq Tariq of the Labour Party Pakistan said that even after the events of September 11, 2001, the Pakistani state’s historic policy of supporting militancy has not ceased. He said that simply introducing the notion of ‘terrorism’ into the public discourse and conducting arbitrary military operations against ‘extremists’ has had virtually no effect on the wider social environment within which militant ideas are circulated. Farooq Tariq said that only when the state makes a clear effort to reform the educational curriculum and the media cooperates by discontinuing sensationalist reporting on the ‘foreign hand’ will religious militancy be curtailed.
Deputy General Secretary of the WPP and renowned lawyer Naeem Shakir said that if Pakistan is to be a viable state in the 21st century then the political process needs to flourish and the dominance of the military establishment needs to be rolled back. He said this is only possible when a public movement emerges within Punjab that declares the incumbent strategic and foreign policies obsolete and a vision and identity for Pakistan is fostered. He said that if this does not happen then the forces of division will become stronger and the deprivation of the working people of this country will become even more acute. Shakir warned that certain liberal sections of society that were looking to the US and other western governments to do away with religious militancy in society under the guise of the ‘war on terror’ were making a grave error as only a home-grown political movement can undo the nexus of imperialism, the religious right and the military establishment.