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Defining national interest

By Saad Hafiz:

Having struggled for decades, Pakistan has an opportunity to replace its incapacity for strategic thinking with political realism and use the concept of national interest as a guideline in its policy-making. The national interest is the preferences of a nation’s leaders, or put differently, the goals that are sought by the state, which are usually expressed in terms of physical survival, economic prosperity and political sovereignty. These preferences, or set of objectives, are related to general societal goals, persist over time, and have a consistent ranking of importance in order to justify using the term. Hans Morgenthau described the ‘national interest’ as a composite declaration derived from those values that a nation prizes the most: liberty, freedom, security. Carl von Clausewitz said that all states’ behaviour is motivated by their need to survive and prosper.

The overriding reality of political life is that peace, security, and freedom require economic strength and social cohesion, not overwhelming military power. Thus, adeptness at identifying the national interest and pursuing it in a creative way is part of the challenge of governance and state leadership in the current global arena. When ideology and national interest are at odds, a country caught up in ideology is typically unable to pursue a policy of national interest, which requires a calm, uncluttered view of reality. In this context, there are three imperatives that could help define Pakistan’s national interest. First, there should be no compromise on the primacy of the rule of law, civil rights and representative democracy; second, religious control of the state and of politics must be firmly opposed; third, national interest should be defined through a broad economic and social rather than a narrow security prism.

Pakistan, unlike many Muslims countries, is able to build upon its specific and working features of democracy, including institutions such as a free press, judiciary and multi-party elections that serve as cornerstones of democratic systems. Power in a democracy is exercised by co-option, instead of by coercion; it is premised on cultural values and political ideology; it operates through persuasion and example; and it is perpetuated within a network of institutions that defines the rules and modes of legitimate behaviour. By embracing pro-democratic, pro-market and pro-modern ideologies, Pakistan can hopefully remove the psychological refuge of many developing societies that eschew any responsibility for their shortcomings.

Pakistan also needs to think of itself as a forward looking South Asian country, not a backward looking society influenced by the ideals of a nebulous Pan-Islamism. The country needs to shake off its religiosity that is fundamentally unsuited for democracy and pluralistic thinking. The creeping religious control of the state and of politics must be firmly opposed. Religious practice in a democratic society requires religions to practice a degree of restraint (and tolerance for other religions). Secularism holds out the best hope of a world that tolerates diverse viewpoints and prospers in peace.

Pakistan’s greatest national interest is to formulate a comprehensive economic strategy. The country’s future ultimately depends upon regaining economic strength. It needs to break out from its shackles of foreign aid as Pakistanis, particularly the elite, have become accustomed to its corrupting influence. Strategists should rescue economic questions from a limbo and place them at the top of Pakistan’s strategic agenda. Future economic policies should be founded on the goal of competing and advancing the country’s techno-economic position. In particular, export-oriented nations such as Pakistan depend on open world markets. Therefore Pakistan’s security is inseparable from the way in which global markets work. Pakistan’s national economic interest is best served by open markets, which require amicable relations with the global powers, because it represents the ultimate guarantee of an open international economic order. The preservation of an orderly international system that promotes the free flow of capital and goods and the guarantee of international financial stability is in Pakistan’s vital national economic interests.

In a democracy, the national interest is what a majority, after discussion and debate and through a representative parliament, decides are its legitimate long-term shared interests. The people have a responsibility to assist and guide the state in determining the country’s national interest. This requires continuous vigorous debate and broad participation through membership of political parties and participation in an organised civil society. This is necessary to ensure that the country’s policymakers manage the affairs of state effectively and in the interest of the broad population rather than for the sake of political expediency. When left unchecked, power-hungry individuals and centralised decision-making structures open the door to excessive control over and manipulation of the national interest.

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23 Responses to "Defining national interest"

  1. Milestogo United States Safari iPhone says:

    The country needs to shake off its religiosity that is fundamentally unsuited for democracy and pluralistic thinking.

    “Shake off its religiosity” – why because religion has served it’s purpose. If only shaking off Islam was that easy – good luck.

  2. AKB Pakistan Opera Windows says:

    @ saad

    You evil wishes will never be fulfilled. Only by aspiring such things as you mention as ingredients of democracy you might please your colonial lords….and later ask them for reward!!


    Democracy has different faces and it is not ESSENTIAL for anyone to follow the democracy in Amrika. First deserve then desire is the rule.
    Religion cannot be ousted from state as Pak is a declared Muslim state with Muslim majority. Pak democracy cannot be liberal as it is bound by the ‘code of life’ prescribed by Muslim faith. Though this code is not fully employed in Pak but the majority Muslims more or less do practice it in their private lives…
    Pak is not a place for the minorities to rule…it is embodied in its constitution. If the minorities want to change the rule they must out this clause by 2/3rd majority vote in the Parliament and have their way!!But this only seems like a mad man;s dream, especially that hurts the handful followers of Murja Ghulla of Qadian’s cult. No other religious minority in Pakistan craves for power more than the wretched lot of heretic Mirzai;s

    PTH is a good forum for Mirjai lot but their bad they have not been able to convince a single person there of their evil thoughts worse than the Wahabi’s or Deobandi’s. They are trying to shoot at their own feet…..the more they bicker the more they will suffer.

  3. saadh Canada Internet Explorer Windows says:


    How can being progressive be evil?

    I certainly hope for the sake of future generations that your parochial world view does not prevail.

  4. AKB Pakistan Opera Windows says:

    @ saad the bad


    did i say being ‘progressive’ was evil?? Switch over to pornography if you want to be a real progressive, an honestly convicted ‘liberal’ and a dedicated ‘secular’.
    It’s the religious agenda you are working on which is offensive, undesirable and uncalled for.

  5. saadh United States Internet Explorer Windows says:


    You are beginning to sound like a real nutter! much like your german friend rex manure! Who gave you guys the monopoly on religious interpretion?

    If you think that labels like progressive, liberal and secular have pornographic connotations go see a shrink.

  6. Rex Minor Germany Google Chrome Windows says:


    What Pakistan needs now is a cultural revolution, since the legislators have now progressed to make education available for children upto the age of sixteen. The cultural revolution to teach the Arabic language and the Quraan suras for those who profess to be muslims. This I am afraid is the only way to combat the so called elite few who want to accuse religion for the decadent in the country and dictate and not submit to the peoples wishes. The world watches with envy today what the chinese have achieved after the Mao’s cultural revolution for socialism.

    Rex Minor

  7. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @ Rex
    the problem with Pak is that it is a multicultural and multisocietal country, Unless both culture and society are made to unify or brought into concordance nothing can be expected to improve and the only way, in my opinion, is carried by a dictatorial role. Democracy has given rise to these handful of ‘liberal’ kinda tadpoles (calling them cowboys would be an insult to the West) and it’s these so called ‘liberals’ who have ruled Pak for most part of its history and ruined it to touch its present state.

  8. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @ saad
    Could you tell how your craving for ‘liberalism’ or ‘secularism’ does not conflict with the teachings of your faux frofet>>??/ Comparing them with the tenets of Quran will only disturb you most,,,,
    In the way of Bush, Either you are a Muslim or a non Muslim…you can’t be both at the same time!!

  9. Rex Minor Germany Google Chrome Windows says:

    I would not worry about this little ausgeblassener jew who is telling us about the zionist morgenthau politics(the co-partner of Kissinger) who is regarded a war criminal for his part in Vietnam. He writes about secularism which tolerates diverse view points but abuses those who differ from his view point. The nameless individual who is neither a Sayyed(Saad in Pashto) nor a Hafiz, the one who has visited a Madrassa and has memorised Quraan suras. An imposter!

    Pakistan people must absolve the cultural revolution to be able to interpret what is stated in Quraan suras with the knowledge of the language and the geist(mind and soul) which they were born with and last but not least with the use of brain mass they carry on their shoulders but in practice make very rare use of it. What the people of Arabia are struggling for is to rid themselves of dictatorship and to gain freedom and dignity; whreas people of Pakistan must regain their dignity and confidence in their midst.
    Remember the people of Pakistan who are mostly illetrates and are at the mercy of priests for their faith on one side and are the victims of the indoctrination which comes from the news paper columists who write about the fancy world of fairy tales.

    Rex Minor

  10. saadh Cayman Islands Google Chrome Windows says:

    Rex Manure:

    I am not of the Jewish faith but do not consider that to be a crime. I consider odious rubbish uttered about any faith absolutely abhorrent. You can continue to dream about the people of Arabia magically ridding themselves of dictatorship if you like. Just leave the people of Pakistan alone to fight nihilist Talibanism and religious obscurantism so they do not end up like the glorious people of Arabia.

  11. AKB Pakistan Opera Windows says:

    @ saadh


    There is NO difference between you( Mirzai;s) and the Wahabi’s—Both are fundamentalists and extremists,


    Which world do you live in??? Haven;t you heard Talibans are being freed by Pak??? What does this mean?? Talibans are not as you think about them …mainly from media propaganda. It’s the Mirzai manure which is spreading its stench all over this forum.
    Not to speak of Saudia which place would behead you for apostasy without notice, you are not fit for any country,,,,,you will remain untouchables in Muslims countries while in non Muslim countries you can only survive by camouflage…You evidently suffer this fate because your Murja ghulla and you are liars, traitors and Imposters!

  12. Rex Minor Germany Google Chrome Windows says:

    I did not say you are of a jewish faith, but a little jew. There is a hell of a difference between a jew and the jewish faith! post ends.

    Rex Minor

  13. Rex Minor Germany Google Chrome Windows says:

    you are sick but treatable! Any Arsch Hu is treatable.

  14. saadh Cayman Islands Google Chrome Windows says:

    AKB and Rex Manure:

    Both you guys need physiological help with

  15. saadh Cayman Islands Google Chrome Windows says:

    AKB and Rex Manure:

    Both you guys need treatment for serious psychological disorders related to your fixation with the ahmadi faith and little jews whatever that means. I predict that the same Taliban vermin that were released today will comeback to kill and maim Pakistanis once again.

  16. Maggu India Google Chrome  GT-N7100 Build/JRO03C) AppleWebKit/535.19 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/18.0.1025.166 Mobile Safari/535.19 says:

    while in non Muslim countries you can only survive by camouflage…You evidently suffer this fate because your Murja ghulla and you are liars, traitors and Imposters!”
    In a non muslim country no one gives a damn. Followers of spongebob squarepants can call themselves muslims and nobody cares.

  17. xd United States Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:


    I suspect you’ve never met a Chinese. Mao’s “revolutions” succeeded in exterminating two generations of intellectuals, scientists & engineers, alienating ethnic minorities like Tibetans & Uyghurs, turning China into a least developed country & destroying the reputation of communism in China. Another thing I’m curious about is that if you hate secularism & democracy so much why the h*** are you living in a secular democracy?

  18. AKB Pakistan Opera Windows says:

    @ Maggu


  19. AKB Pakistan Opera Windows says:

    @ Saadh paad
    the talibs will catch you, not rex or me, I have a bushy beard and maybe Rex wears a topi on his head!!

  20. AKB Pakistan Opera Windows says:

    xd :

    China is an old civilization and it’s present status should be enviable but the gora still leads!! Poor Muslims still bicker among themselves over trifles of decency!! Let’s be fair. China is also a patriarchal society. I wonder if they treat their women kindly??
    Communism has changed its shape…and doesn’t occur in its original shape even in China>>???

  21. saadh Cayman Islands Google Chrome Windows says:

    Worth pondering AKB!\11\21\story_21-11-2012_pg3_6

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