Written By: Amir Zia


While Pakistani security forces have done well in taking on the challenge of homegrown as well as foreign-sponsored terrorism and are capable of protecting our eastern and western frontiers, the real challenge is fighting and winning the battle of ideas.

Defeating an enemy at the minimum human and financial cost, preferably without firing a single shot, should be the aim of all master military and political strategists. They create confusion, discord and division within the enemy country; nurture, exploit and stoke its ethnic, sectarian, religious and class contradictions; sponsor terrorists and subversive activities; target and damage its economy, and erode the national unity and cohesion of the enemy state by striking at its ideological foundations.

 

 hybridwarfaremanisfested.jpgPakistan experienced and suffered all this in the 1971 War when it was dismembered by India, which exploited the simmering political and economic contradictions between the two former wings of our country. Pakistan’s defeat was not because the enemy was too smart or too brave, it was basically the inability of our successive rulers, who failed to resolve the internal contradictions of the state, providing the enemy an opportunity to damage us from within.

 

Our rulers had placed Pakistan Armed Forces in a no-win situation much before the outbreak of the actual war. When open confrontation started, the result was foretold. Our isolated troops in the former East Pakistan were up against heavy odds; a hostile local population and the enemy forces, without any backup and no direct air or land link with their power center.

 

Our political failure led to the military failure. India manipulated the anger and resentment among Bengalis over their real or perceived exploitation by the western wing. Indians trained and armed the rebels and infiltrated agents in the former East Pakistan. However, much before fanning insurgency and declaring an all-out war, the Indian propaganda machine had penetrated various segments of the society, especially among students, teachers, opinion-makers, journalists, writers and intellectuals. In a nutshell, our mistakes offered a perfect dream victory to India.

 

Pakistan is the target of fourth generation and hybrid warfare, which has intensified during recent years as hostile countries are trying to redefine the balance of power and rules of the game in South and Central Asia by weakening and destabilizing the world’s lone Muslim nuclear power.

New Face of Warfare

The East Pakistan debacle happened more than four decades ago when the concepts of the fourth generation and hybrid warfare had yet to be introduced as doctrines or applied in a systematic manner anywhere in the world.

 

The term Fourth Generation Warfare–first used in 1989 by a group of American analysts–is being defined as blurring lines between war and politics and combatants and civilians. The hybrid war–a more recent phrase that first appeared in 2005–is abstract, yet holistic. It encompasses a strategy that blends conventional, unconventional and cyberwarfare as well as propaganda, diplomacy, subversion and strangulating or damaging the economy of the hostile state.

 

Both these concepts bank on the dynamism of decentralization and use sophisticated tactics of terrorism, psychological warfare through media manipulation, cultural invasion and propaganda to target the enemy’s ideology and core values. It is a complex, long-term low-intensity game, which can be transformed into a high-intensity and disastrous conflict for the enemy if not forcefully and effectively managed.

Fringe dissident elements – the shadowy nationalist militant groups to handful of social media activists, elements from academia, media and the NGOs – within Pakistan have been influenced to echo the enemy’s propaganda line. Our Armed Forces are the main target of this campaign as the enemy realizes that this is the only institution which stands between them and their designs against Pakistan.

 

Old Roots of the Game

However, the fourth generation and hybrid warfare in essence remain as old as the state and statecraft itself. The concept has been so aptly defined by Sun Tzu, a Chinese general and military theorist (544 BC 496 BC), in these words; “the skillful strategist defeats the enemy without going to battle.” (‘The Art of War’, Chapter 3,a translation by John Minford, Penguin Classics).

 

Subduing the enemy’s army without fighting war has been described as “the acme of skill” by Sun Tzu whose strategic and tactical doctrines are based on “deception, the creation of false appearances to mystify and delude the enemy, the indirect approach, ready adaptability to the enemy situation, flexible and coordinated maneuver of separate combat elements and speedy concentration against points of weakness.” (Introduction, ‘The Art of War’ by Samuel B. Griffith, Duncan Baird Publishers).

 

Today’s Challenge

Pakistan is the target of fourth generation and hybrid warfare, which has intensified during recent years as hostile countries are trying to redefine the balance of power and rules of the game in South and Central Asia by weakening and destabilizing the world’s lone Muslim nuclear power.

The weakness of our state and the regulatory and law enforcement institutions are responsible for this state of affairs, which allow bubbles of privileges to thrive and work against the state unchallenged and unchecked.

 

The Indian objectives of targeting Pakistan are:

a) To force Pakistan to abandon all moral, political and diplomatic support to Kashmir’s indigenous freedom movement.

b) Brand Kashmiri freedom fighters’ legitimate struggle against the Indian occupation as terrorism.

c)   Disrupt China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

d) Weaken Pakistan to an extent where India can establish its undisputed hegemony in the region.

 

The Afghan regime is playing ball with Indians in an attempt to put the blame of its own weaknesses and failures on Pakistan. The choices Kabul is making are based on narrow, self-interest of its foreign-backed puppet rulers, who cannot stay in power on their own even for a couple of months. Tensions with Pakistan suit the opportunistic mindset of the Kabul regime because:

 

a) It wants to keep away representatives of Afghanistan’s majority ethnic group–Pashtuns–out of power which the leadership of ethnic minorities currently enjoy the lion’s share.

b) Blame Pakistan for its own failure in establishing writ in Afghanistan.

c) Provoke tensions on the settled issue of Durand Line (de facto and de jure international border) to stoke Afghan nationalist sentiment and trouble in Pakistan’s tribal belt–as was done in the 1970s.

d) Keep the U.S.-led NATO alliance engaged in Afghanistan to ensure continued financial and military aid, without which the Kabul regime would collapse.

e) Provide India space to carryout anti-Pakistan activities in return of the overt and covert financial support.

 

The United States, which has a long history of working with Pakistan as an ally, has been bogged down in Afghanistan. The U.S. forces have failed to defeat the Afghan Taliban in the longest war of their history, spanning well over 16 years. After spending trillions of dollars, the victory appears nowhere in sight for the United States. Therefore, Washington also finds it convenient to blame Islamabad for its strategic failures. The U.S. objectives are:

 

a) To make Pakistan a scapegoat for its military failures in Afghanistan. The biggest victory for the ragtag Taliban remains that they are not letting the superpower win.

b) To drag Pakistan directly into the Afghan conflict with an aim to fight this war on the Pakistani soil.

c) To force Pakistan to submit to the Indian and Afghan demands.

d) To contain Pakistan’s nuclear programme in the short to mid-term and try to get it scrapped altogether in the long-run.

e) With United States’ growing strategic ties with India, Washington wants Pakistan to accept New Delhi’s dominant role in the region, which falls in line with Washington’s contain China policy.

 

These U.S. objectives are in sync with Indian and Afghan interests, but are against Pakistan’s core interests. These include an unyielding support to Kashmir freedom movement, safeguarding the country’s nuclear weapon programe and ensuring national unity and cohesion at every cost. This explains why Pakistan remains the target of multipronged attacks from the hostile powers, which are using hybrid and fourth generation warfare tactics to achieve their objectives.

 

Terrorism

Pakistan is fighting homegrown terrorism and violent extremism for the past several decades. But it would be living in self-denial if one fails to acknowledge that hostile countries–especially India and Afghanistan–are also sponsoring terrorist and subversive activities here.

 

The arrest of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav and unearthing of his network is a proof of how India has been sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan, particularly, targeting parts of Balochistan and the commercial hub of Karachi.

 

The Afghan territory is being used to carryout terrorist attacks here as Indian and Afghan spy agencies provide support to Pakistan’s ethnic, narrow nationalist and so-called religious terror groups.

 

As India and Afghanistan are all out to destabilize Pakistan, the United States not only looks the other way, but accuses Islamabad of sponsoring the Taliban resistance in Afghanistan, where its NATO-led and Afghan troops have even failed to properly man the international border to check militants’ cross-border movement. Stopping militants at the border is considered the sole responsibility of Pakistan, which has started fencing the border and setting up new posts to prevent infiltration of terrorists into the country from Afghanistan. Pakistan has set up more than 1,500 check posts along the border compared to less than 150 that exist on the other side of the border. In a strange, twisted logic, Kabul stands opposed to any border management system because it does not believe in the sanctity of the international border. Yet, it wants our troops to check the alleged flow of militants from Pakistan into Afghanistan.    

 

It is indeed ironic that the country, which paid the biggest price fighting terrorism; arrested and killed the highest number of international terrorists, including those belonging to Al-Qaeda, and singlehandedly turned the tide of extremism through a series of military operations including Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad, is being blamed for terrorism. 

 

Tensions on the Eastern Border

India has been resorting to unprovoked ceasefire violations on the Line of Control and the Working Boundary in the disputed Kashmir region with an aim to keep Islamabad’s attention divided, which is locked in the war against terrorism on the western front.

 

Indians have committed nearly 100 ceasefire violations just in January 2018, targeting both civilian and military personnel. In 2017, Indians committed more than 1,900 such violations, underlining how the enemy wants to keep pressure on Pakistan. Similarly, Afghan troops have also carried out attacks on the Pakistani posts on a number of occasions. Even the U.S.-led NATO forces have occasionally engaged Pakistani troops besides carrying out regular drone attacks on the Pakistani territory. All these are meant to pressurize Pakistan and force it to yield to their demands. 

 

Anti-Pakistan Propaganda

Demonizing an enemy first even before destroying it remains pivotal in this day and age of globalized world and instant communications. This is the most effective way to legitimize any overt or covert war aimed at subduing an enemy state or forcing a regime change as has been done in many other Muslim countries in recent years. A sustained propaganda, disinformation and misinformation, allegations and fake news are all parts and parcel of the propaganda war that serves as the vanguard in hybrid and fourth generation warfare.

 

The mainstream media is being used to tarnish the image of the hostile power through stories and opinion pieces giving half or partial facts or dishing out complete lies. This is done by a propagandist country to win over the domestic public opinion in favor of the war as well as to influence the world.

 

The boom in communications and the power of social media and websites have made propaganda tools more effective and lethal. They also work wonderfully well in weakening the enemy from within by creating and sharpening dissent and orchestrating confusion and divide. These tools also help influence and recruit youngsters for anti-state activities in the name of various ethnic, sub-nationalist, religious and so-called ideological causes.

 

This kind of propaganda drive is in full swing in Pakistan, which is being accused of charges ranging from supporting and providing safe havens to terrorists to gross human rights violations. India, Afghanistan and the United States are echoing more or less the same allegations, aimed at tarnishing Pakistan’s image globally as well as to create division and discord among Pakistanis.

 

Fringe dissident elements–the shadowy nationalist militant groups to handful of social media activists, elements from academia, media and the NGOs–within Pakistan have been influenced to echo the enemy’s propaganda line. Our Armed Forces are the main target of this campaign as the enemy realizes that this is the only institution which stands between them and their designs against Pakistan.

 

Funding anti-Pakistan Agenda

A couple of our frenemies (Friend Enemies) spend millions of dollars annually on perception management in Pakistan in the name of promoting education, traditional and new media, culture and social work. The aim is to win over, influence and brainwash educated Pakistanis so that they can promote their narrative in the country.

 

Media and education institutions remain the main battlefield of this war. For starter, Pakistan needs to first focus on these fronts. We should not let foreign agenda drive our media and pollute minds of young journalists in the name of training with the help of few local partners. Foreigners should not be allowed to write the curriculum for our students and take our nation hostage through their ideas and ideals. Nor should the Indian content dominate our entertainment channels and cinemas.

 For example, at their sponsored or funded media programs, future and working journalists are fed with warped interpretation of history that paints the Pakistan Movement as a reactionary and politically incorrect struggle. Pakistan Army is being described as the mother of all ills and held responsible for tensions with India and Afghanistan. They are asked to cover those themes and stories that supplement their biases and propaganda against Pakistan.

 

Foreign-funded social media training sessions focus on tarnishing the image of the state and its institutions in the name of citizen journalism. Similarly, in the name of culture and literature, such events are funded which promote narrow ethnic agendas or provide platforms to promote anti-Pakistan sentiment and propaganda against its institutions.

 

The small, shadowy local militant groups and some dissident elements living abroad also align and integrate themselves into these activities, which become kosher because they are being carried in the name of education, cultural or literature, but in fact carry a sinister anti-Pakistan agenda.

 

The foreign-funded NGOs focus only on those programs which serve interests of donors rather than taking up genuine issues.

 

The Indian cultural invasion and influence through cinema and television channels–both entertainment and news–should also be the cause of concern for policy-makers. The Indian content is contaminating minds through the projection of a false and tantalizing perspective about India and promoting its worldview.       

 

The weakness of our state and the regulatory and law enforcement institutions are responsible for this state of affairs, which allow bubbles of privileges to thrive and work against the state unchallenged and unchecked.  

 

A politically polarized and divided Pakistan remains an easy target of this modern undeclared warfare that aims to widen and sharpen these very cracks to weaken and destroy us from within.

 

Therefore, the foremost challenge for the civil and military leadership is to restore political stability and order in the country at every cost. All institutions should be on the same page on key issues and working in the same direction. For this, tough decisions are needed, including that of resetting the system to make it more efficient, strong, united and pro-people so that it can thwart the enemy designs.

 

While Pakistani security forces have done well in taking on the challenge of homegrown as well as foreign-sponsored terrorism and are capable of protecting our eastern and western frontiers, the real challenge is fighting and winning the battle of ideas.

 

For this, Pakistan needs firstly to put in place an effective monitoring and regulatory framework to ensure that foreign funding is not being used by donors and their local partners against the state and its institutions as well as the promotion of ideas and values of the hostile powers.

 

Already, regulatory institutions exist in Pakistan, but they need to be freed from political interference and narrow vested interests so that they can do their job.

 

Media and education institutions remain the main battlefield of this war. For a start, Pakistan needs to first focus on these fronts. We should not let foreign agenda drive our media and pollute minds of young journalists in the name of training with the help of few local partners. Foreigners should not be allowed to write the curriculum for our students and take our nation hostage through their ideas and ideals, nor should the Indian content dominate our entertainment channels and cinemas.

 

Surely, Pakistanis are capable of funding and training journalists. They can develop their own syllabus. They can produce high quality music, movies and dramas. These are just the initial baby steps we must take to counter the new undeclared war that has been thrust upon us.

 

The writer is an eminent journalist who regularly contributes for print and electronic media.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Twitter: @AmirZia1
 
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