Syed Ahmed Ali Shah
Maritime security is of utmost importance for Pakistan’s economic development, trade, and national security. Pakistan has a 1,050 km coastline along the Arabian Sea, which provides access to important sea routes connecting the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. However, piracy, terrorism, smuggling, illegal fishing, and maritime border disputes pose significant challenges to the country’s maritime domain. Piracy and terrorism are major threats to Pakistan’s maritime security, particularly in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. Pirates frequently target ships passing through these waters, causing significant disruptions to trade and shipping. Pakistan has taken a variety of anti-piracy measures, including participation in international naval task forces and the implementation of anti-piracy measures on its own vessels. However, more needs to be done to address the underlying causes of piracy, such as poverty and political instability in the countries where pirates operate. Terrorist organizations operating in the region have the ability to target ships, ports, and offshore oil and petrol installations, causing significant damage and disruption.
Pakistan has taken steps to combat terrorism in its maritime domain, including increased intelligence gathering and law enforcement. However, the threat’s complexity necessitates close coordination and cooperation among various agencies and international partners. Smuggling is an ongoing issue in Pakistan’s maritime domain, with drugs, arms, and other illegal goods being smuggled through Pakistan’s ports and coastline, making smuggling a persistent problem. This endangers national security while also undermining efforts to promote legal trade and economic development. Pakistan must strengthen its border security and law enforcement capabilities, including through the use of technology and intelligence sharing, to address this challenge. Illegal fishing is also a defiant challenge for Pakistan’s maritime security, with foreign vessels frequently entering the country’s waters to fish without permission. This not only deprives Pakistan of vital natural resources, but it also harms the marine ecosystem and jeopardizes the livelihoods of local fishermen. Pakistan has taken steps to combat illegal fishing, including increased surveillance and the imposition of fines on violators. However, more needs to be done to improve monitoring and enforcement, as well as to address the root causes of illegal fishing in neighboring countries, such as poverty and overfishing. Maritime border disputes have long been a source of concern for Pakistan’s maritime security, particularly in the Arabian Sea, where Pakistan shares borders with Iran and India. These disagreements can spark tensions, conflicts, and even military clashes. To address this challenge, Pakistan must engage in constructive dialogue with its neighbors in order to resolve maritime boundary disputes and promote regional maritime cooperation. Pakistan has established the Maritime Security Agency (MSA) back in the 80s to monitor and enforce maritime laws and protect its territorial waters. The MSA works with other national security agencies and international partners to share intelligence and coordinate efforts to combat terrorism, piracy, and smuggling. Pakistan has also taken steps to improve border security and law enforcement capabilities, including the use of modern surveillance technology such as drones and the establishment of Joint Maritime Information Coordination Centers (JMICCs) to coordinate law enforcement efforts across various agencies.
To deter illegal fishing by foreign vessels, Pakistan has increased the surveillance of its territorial waters. In addition, the government has imposed hefty fines on violators as well as established a system for licensing fishing vessels to ensure that only those with permits are allowed to operate in Pakistani waters. Despite these efforts, much more remains to be done to address Pakistan’s marine security challenges. One crucial step would be to invest in maritime infrastructure, such as modern ports and terminals, as well as expand the navy’s fleet and capabilities. This would not only improve Pakistan’s ability to defend its maritime interests, but it would also boost economic growth by making commerce and investment more accessible. Furthermore, there is a need to increase public awareness and participation in maritime security concerns. This could include educational initiatives to promote awareness of the importance of marine security and the issues that the country faces. The government might also encourage increased public participation in measures to safeguard the country’s maritime interests, such as promoting sustainable fishing practices and reporting suspicious activity.
Pakistan can effectively address these challenges and protect its maritime interests through a combination of practical measures such as improved border security, law enforcement capabilities, and increased regional cooperation, as well as investment in maritime infrastructure, public awareness, and engagement.