Fear and External Military Security vs. Internal Human Security:The Case of Pakistan

  • Syed Shah

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


States exists in an anarchic global structure. This structure creates security dilemmas among states regarding each other’s intentions. This security dilemma is a source of anxiety for the policy makers within states. This fear influences different levels within the international structure. At the highest level, the superpowers fear each other’s intentions and policies. At the regional level, many states are living in fear of each other. At the domestic level, the elites within these states used fear for two purposes. Firstly, these fears prompt them to resort to policies of self-help mechanisms for state security. The prevalent paradigm for ensuring security is realism, which fosters the acquisition of power and self-help. To the elites of these countries, this translates to the acquisition of military power. These measures work for developed countries due to their stable resource base and governance. However, for under-developed countries, the sole pursuit of military power for security has been challenged by critical security. The pursuit of power also draws these states towards alliances with the powerful states thus extending superpowers fear of each other to regional politics. Secondly, fear is used by the elites in third world states to control the humans within its boundary for personal or institutional power. The focus on state-level security and the elites uses of fear for political power results in the neglect of political and economic development, which creates internal insecurity due to declining regime legitimacy, lack of state’s policy capacity and integration. Thus, policies pursued under the shadows of fear backfire resulting in violence and civil wars. These states in turn use fear through brutal military actions to subdue the uprising. This creates cycle of violence which makes the state insecure. This state insecurity leads to regional insecurity, which in turn provide ideal conditions for the breeding and propagation of domestic and international terrorism. Thus, the fear created by the structure ultimately results in damaging the very structure. This phenomenon has been termed as “Theory of Fear”, developed through the investigations of this thesis.
To understand the historical dynamics of how the phenomenon of fears unfolds into insecurities at multiple levels, this thesis will take a case study approach, focusing on the extreme case of Pakistan. Since inception, Pakistan’s policy makers have been preoccupied with one overriding issue i.e., territorial security. Pakistan’s border disputes with India and Afghanistan, coupled with its attractive geopolitical position for superpowers during and after the Cold War, created cycles of insecurities which engrossed the state in the quest for procuring the means and ends of security. This one-dimensional emphasis on state security plus the Pakistani elite’s exploitation of security fear for enhancing political power led to the neglect of vital areas of human development e.g., economy, education, health, political and human rights etc. These neglects have in turn constructed conditions of deprivation which made the ‘human’ in Pakistan more insecure and destitute. The people retaliated with violence which was reciprocated with the instruments of fear from the state in the shape of violence and repression on multiple occasions, culminating in insecurities for both the state and the inhabitants. Furthermore, policies pursued
by Pakistan for territorial security inadvertently led to instability and the establishment of terrorism in the region, resulting in international terrorism.
This thesis fills the gap of thorough historical investigation of the impact of fear at multi levels. The short termism approach to decision making adopted by some states due to the prevalence of intense fears and their paradoxical outcomes. During this thesis analysis all three mechanisms of internal insecurity in the third world that critical security scholarship has theorized (legitimacy, policy capacity and integration) were concretized and sophisticated by the analysis of Pakistan’s history.
This thesis conducted historical analysis through qualitative and quantitative data of Pakistan’s policy measures adopted under the conditions of existential fears throughout its history. Their negative outcomes for Pakistan and the world are presented as evidence of the weakness of a state-centric approach to security.
Date of Award1 Nov 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorTimo Kivimaki (Supervisor) & David Galbreath (Supervisor)


  • Fear in International Relations
  • Pakistan
  • Critical Security Studies
  • War
  • Peace
  • Human Development

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