The US Navy SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound on May 2, 2011 brought into question the Pakistani army’s domination over nearly all aspects of the state. Pakistanis wondered how these events could have occurred right under the nose of the military. This issue paper examines the prospects for security sector governance in Pakistan and identifies the reforms necessary for the government to make meaningful strides in this area. The paper examines persistent shortcomings in security governance; however, it also highlights key areas where there have been recent improvements, including disaster management and control of nuclear arms.

Improved security governance in Pakistan is identified as a growing priority for the country’s citizens and its government, the region and the international community, but there is a lack of political will for such change. Real progress in this area will require Pakistan’s military to step down and its civilian institutions to step up. This paper outlines several ways in which the international community can encourage much-needed reforms, including conditions on military assistance and support for civilian institutions.

Authored by prominent practitioners in the field, policy makers, academics and informed observers, the SSR Issue Papers series combines analysis of current problems and challenges, and examines thematic and geographic topics relating to the most pressing SSR issues.