Pakistan’s faultlines and hybrid war challenge

ISLAMABAD   -  Pakistan has been pushed to evolve a national response to the ‘Hybrid War’ ostensibly being imposed by its archrival India and its allied forces to destabilise the Islamic Republic.

Gravity of the looming danger has been highlighted by person not less than Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Lately, he has re-emphasised on the need for evolving a national response during his interaction with the participants of national security workshop at GHQ on November 19.

“We are now confronting hybrid conflict where focus is shifting to subversion on religious, sectarian, ethnic and social issues. This needs a comprehensive national response”, he reiterated. He emphasised the need for a greater responsibility to ensure that our people, especially youth stay aware and steadfast against propaganda onslaught being launched through soft offensive.

“It’s our time to rise and progress and we must grasp the opportunity achieved after countless sacrifices”, said the army chief.

The army chief was of the view that Pakistan had been subjected to various threats especially during the last two decades but Pakistani nation and its armed forces have bravely and successfully stood up to these challenges and is on a positive trajectory to defeat it effectively. The assertions made by the army chief carry weight as Pakistan is facing multiple security challenges largely because of intense geopolitical conflicts that have made Pakistan increasingly exposed to wars that are non-linear.

What is hybrid war and why India and its allied forces are targeting Pakistan which after successfully fighting terrorism through kinetic operations is engaged in stabilisation?

The ‘Hybrid War’ is non-linear or non-traditional war waged through multipronged strategy against the adversary without employing kinetic operations to achieve the set objective.

Being part of the 5th generation warfare, military strategists claim that hybrid warfare aims at targeting the faultlines of the adversary through a tailor-made narrative encouraging the people to stand up against their leaders and the state to take over the state control.

Main targets of hybrid war are political, economic and societal with its grand objective to gut a state from within.

Unfortunately, the post World War-11 developments, emergence bi-polar global order and fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) on December 29 1991 had far-reaching implications for present day global order.

The classic hybrid war waged by the lone superpower, the United States of America (USA) against the Soviet Union or USSR in late 20th century was through Afghanistan that had adversely affected the entire region including Eurasia, West and South Asia leading to extremism and terrorism.

For Pakistan the lingering Afghan conflict and the US imposed war against terror has been hugely damaging as it had to face multiple challenges with India trying to destabilise it through its proxies.

There seems to be no light in the tunnel even after 17 years of US fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, and is trying to seek larger role for India to play in stabilising the war-torn country.

So in this context, there is no denying that India’s adversarial relations with Pakistan and an unending war in Afghanistan pose serious threats to the country’s security and internal stability.  It may also be true that the regional conflicts have had a direct bearing on the country’s stability. Indeed, in this age of non-linear warfare one has to remain very cautious of outside forces that may be stoking disorder inside the country.

So General Bajwa is right in saying about the multiple security challenges the country is facing.

In fact, the state of Pakistan and society is already fighting hybrid warfare India has launched to destabilise it from within through extremists and terrorists as proxies for thousands cuts strategy.

On the face of it, India’s objective was not annihilation of Pakistan as state but making it so weak that Islamabad accepts Indian bid of supremacy in South Asia and compromises its vital interests and accepts resolution of outstanding disputes on Indian terms.

Recent unearthing of spying network after Kulbhushan Yadav was captured by intelligence agencies of Pakistan show that there has been shift of tactics from India.

After the overt nuclearisation of Pakistan, any conventional war adventure will be too costly for India. Fighting hybrid war against Pakistan under the rubric of nuclear weapons has become preferred strategy by India.

India is not only exploiting the ideological and social differences among Pakistan’s society but also busy constructing and promoting alternative narratives about Pakistan’s state and security institutions for effectively harming Pakistan.

India has initiated a media campaign worth Rs7 billion against Pakistan by utilising all the sources including television, newspapers, books, social media, films, dramas and radio.

As part of the campaign, India has already launched a multimedia website and app of its Balochi radio service.

The radio station which broadcasts its transmission in Balochi language is airing the manipulative statements of the senior officials of RAW to incite the Baloch community to stand up against Pakistan. This propaganda can be disastrous as the same technique was used before the fall of Dhaka.

India has also started a TV news channel called “Zee Salam” which broadcasts in “Urdu” language serving the same purpose.

Security and foreign policy analysts believed that India in league with other major powers including the US are now target China to restrain it from becoming world’s number one economic power in next few years.

They argued that common objective of the US and India is to target arteries of the trade routes of China’s One Belt One Road project that also includes multi billion dollars project China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

They are of the view that the US and India are using Afghanistan as part of their strategies to carry forward their agendas through different proxies as well as through the social media.

To support this strategy India has created about 350K+ “Bot” profiles on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter under Pakistani names, mostly with Baloch and Pashtun surnames.

They are also sharing 1000’s of fake photos/videos of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and FATA on daily basis, systematically manipulating Pakistan’s social media with clever misinformation.

On the other hand, India has quietly devised a plan to create a new tri-service agency for cyber warfare. The Defence Cyber Agency will work in coordination with the National Cyber Security Advisor. It will have more than 1,000 experts who will be distributed into a number of formations of the Army, Navy and IAF.

According to reports, the new Defence Cyber Agency will have both offensive and defensive capacity. The Defence Cyber Agency is seen as a precursor of a cyber command.

After reports that Russia meddled in the US elections by hacking machines and creating propaganda on the internet and the recent ransom war and other cyber attacks being attributed to North Korea, cyber warfare is gaining importance.

India is cleverly using Afghanistan to keep Pakistan’s security agencies busy on its borders and is setting up its Cyber Army.

Summing up, Pakistan needs to bring about massive reforms by adequately addressing its fault lines so that inimical forces are unable to destabilise it.