Pakistan is currently whirled with innumerable hybrid security challenges which are adding to the National Security threats already facing the state. Hybrid warfare is a catacomb of multiple warfare techniques which include psychological, cyber, information and economic to other conventional and irregular warfare, with subversion being its most sinister method. Bernard Fall argued,”When a country is being subverted it is being out-administered not out-fought”. One of the most salient characteristics of hybrid warfare is that it demands more time and space.
Enemies of Pakistan understand that in order to pursue their objectives in the region to which Pakistan is a resistance, merely conventional methods of warfare are not enough. Indo-USA-Afghanistan trio is bent on exploiting Pakistan’s internal and external policies in their favour. Pakistan was placed on grey list of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which was, beyond any doubt, a partial approach towards Pakistan. Furthermore, Pakistan has been incessantly alleged of supporting terrorism despite its commitments to eradicate terrorism internally and externally. These reflections are sufficient to prove that Pakistan is a theatre of a very sophisticated Hybrid Warfare.
The famous Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu had said,” The best victory is the one which is attained without direct confrontation”. In the modern times, similar strategy is being adopted by the states. In hybrid warfare enemy often uses weak policy areas of a state and embark upon exploiting them against it. Following are some hybrid threats which incumbent government will have to tackle solemnly in order to avoid any catastrophic repercussions.
Firstly, the spread of disinformation via fake news is a massive threat. Media, no doubt plays a key role in propagating information, shaping public opinion and agenda setting but keeping fake news unchecked makes the media a double-edged sword and instead of contributing to the nation building process, it starts posing an enormous security challenge to the state.
A recent example in our case is Dawn leaks, which remained a hot potato for quite a long time, damaging civil-military coordination. Pakistan’s military was blamed for harbouring terrorists on its soil. Similarly, the news of Mumbai attacks and Pakistan’s role in it not only dumbfounded Pakistani nation but startled international community as well. Also anti-CPEC propaganda is being hatched at social media and by some news channels, despite the fact that article 19 of the code of conduct of PEMRA, restricts media from propagating news which may harm country’s security and integrity. Thus, in order to cope with this challenge government must bring about an efficient and proactive media strategy.
If Fake News remains unchecked, Media becomes a double-edged sword and poses an enormous security challenge to the state.
Secondly, terrorism is another great challenge facing Pakistan for more than a decade. In the 9/11 aftermath, Pakistan has been one of the biggest victims of terrorism. Pakistan indulged in a war, in Afghanistan, which was not its own. Consequently, Pakistan suffered enormously and lost its resources and people. Almost 70000 individuals lost their lives and economic destruction added insult to injuries. Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty was compromised as USA used drone strikes to hunt terrorists from Pakistan. People from tribal areas became extremely disenchanted and took up arms against state. Thus in order to cope with the exacerbating situation state had to interfere and started operations to curb terrorism.
Although there is a sharp decline in terrorists incidents but the menace has not been eradicated entirely. USA has repeatedly blamed Pakistan for playing double game and Donald Trump in a tweet accused Pakistan of giving nothing but lies and deceit to the United States, thus ignoring all the sacrifices which Pakistan rendered in its fight for eradicating terrorism. Even China, in BRICS summit of 2017, declared that Pakistan was supporting terrorists outfits like LET and JEM. India also had a similar stance on Kashmir and blamed Pakistan for supporting Kashmiri militants. Thus government of Pakistan must devise a proper strategy and make it clear to the International Community that it has no direct or indirect link with the terrorists. The diplomatic onslaught against Pakistan can only be averted by efficient diplomacy, which seems missing.
Although there is a sharp decline in terrorists incidents but the menace has not been eradicated entirely.
Thirdly, Balochistan is a weak link and remains pretty much vulnerable to subversion and espionage. Few elements are fishing in the troubled waters of the province. The arrest of Kulbhusha Jadhav revealed India’s nefarious plot to sabotage the province. After the initiation of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the importance of the region has further been increased. The government must give priority to the province and adopt a comprehensive plan to curb anti-CPEC propaganda as well as forces involved in sabotaging peace in the province.
Fourthly, the issue of missing persons is also a major threat which can fuel violence. Freedom of expression and living is the right of every individual by constitution. Instead of tackling this issue with a hawkish approach, government must pursue negotiations. Recently president Ashraf Ghani expressed his concerns relating to the matter by a tweet which shows Afghanistan administration is endeavouring to exploit the situation to achieve its objectives.
The Afghan government has serious concerns about the violence perpetrated against peaceful protestors and civil activists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.— Ashraf Ghani (@ashrafghani) February 7, 2019
Freedom of expression and living is the right of every individual by constitution. Instead of tackling this issue with a hawkish approach, government must pursue negotiations.
Last but not the least, weak economy reflects fragile administrative skeleton of a state. Government must promote trade and investment to strengthen economy. A big conspiracy is being hatched to halt Pakistan from achieving economic progress. For example Indian cricket diplomacy is a vivid example in this regard. The reluctance of International Cricket teams to visit Pakistan owes a great deal to Indian diplomacy. On the other hand India is earning abundantly through IPL and similar International sports events. India keeps condemning CPEC bluntly as the project has the potential to fix Pakistan’s economy. The government must devise a strategy in this regard as well to curb these hybrid threats.
Need of the Hour
When a country is internally stable then it is less likely that it will fall prey to hybrid warfare. Sifting through our own pages of history tells us that the East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was separated by dint of our own mistakes. People of East Pakistan were being exploited both economically and politically while political instability and tussle between state institutions added fuel to fire. Thus in 1971 when the seeds had grown into plants, India interfered and it resulted into disintegration of Pakistan. Pakistan is facing similar, if not same, internal problems right now and there is a dire need of strengthening ourselves internally in order to cope with the emerging hybrid warfare challenges.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Rationale-47.