Written By: Rana Ather Javed
Espionage activities are not new and they will always remain the primary source of obtaining secret and classified information. Whereas, counter intelligence (CI) is the most important tool to neutralize hostile external covert threats. However, legalizing CI activities inside a country has been very challenging as it also appears to infringe upon the civil rights and privacy of the citizens of that very country. One of the most controversial laws ever passed in the U.S., the Espionage Act of 1917 (ch. 30, tit. I § 3, 40 Stat. 217, 219) and an amendment to it passed in 1918, sometimes referred to as the Sedition Act, were an attempt to deal with the CI environments created in the country during World War I.
The character of this controversy is concerned with the way people look at their civil rights during war and peace time. Ostensibly, most of the Espionage Act was straightforward and non-controversial; however, parts of the legislation curtailed freedom of speech in such a way that it drew an outcry from civil liberty groups. World War II and the Cold War further changed the dynamics of war, and thus emerged new methods and technologies for the purpose of obtaining information with the intent or reason to be used to harm a state.
The entry into the 21st century witnessed the emergence of private armies, terrorist groups, and transnational sponsorship of terrorism. The amount of information gathered and disseminated during this phase has been exponential as well as controversial. The event-based terrorist incidents (e.g., 9/11 and 7/7) were used to orchestrate a “fictitious intelligence” framework in order to persecute wars in the regions that are full of natural resources and inhabited by Muslims. The demonization of Islam now is extended to re-designing of territories, with the aim to carve out a cluster of weak and small countries. This is why espionage has become the central source to impose social chaos upon societies such as Pakistan. The operationalization of 5th Generation Warfare including psychological and propaganda design is applied to undercut the national fabric, which has become the face of asymmetrical warfare. This espionage scheme has completely transformed the way enemy states seek to fracture ideological and territorial integrity of a nation state.
The case in point is of Pakistan’s CI efforts against unfriendly foreign nations who have been seeking and obtaining information concerning defence, military equipment, and socio-economic vulnerabilities. A parallel “collapse approach” is adopted to subsequently impose strategic disadvantages on the decision making process of Pakistan. The devaluation of currency, sanctions on both civilian and military sectors and, encouragement of dysfunctional state apparatus are some of the most emerging operational tools of espionage efforts.
What makes Pakistan a classic case of disrupting and holding against the exclusive jurisdiction of international consortium of illegal intelligence operating in Pakistan is the remarkable CI operations of Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau and other related civil-military security apparatuses. Illegality in this analysis springs from the establishment of covert operational cells under the guise of many NGOs and INGOs, in addition to the creation and dissemination of anti-Pakistan propaganda especially against its security and military institutions. This fact cannot be clinically detached from the highly dangerous trend of diluting territorial integrity – by creating “small sub-conventional war zones”, raising suspicion about the defence capabilities of the Armed Forces, undermining the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and, most importantly, creating despair and negative narratives about the economic future within the Pakistani society.
By all accounts, Pakistan has been the target of India’s premier intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), which has mostly been operating in partnership with MOSSAD, which literally means ‘the institute’, short for Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations; The National Directorate of Security (NDS) – Afghanistan’s national intelligence agency; and intelligence agencies of other major countries. The capture and confession of India’s serving naval commander, Kulbushan Jadhav has confirmed Pakistan’s claims both at the regional and international level that India is aiming to destabilize the region. The ensuing analysis of news reports, academic articles and expert commentary reveals that the intense campaign to discredit Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war against home-grown and foreign-sponsored terrorist networks is directly linked with the plan to demoralize the armed forces and people of Pakistan. These hostile agencies also worked hard to implicate Pakistan’s military leadership and sections of intelligence agencies as hurdles to international peace efforts.
Contrarily, Pakistan’s achievement in defeating operational and political sponsors of asymmetrical warfare has now set the stage for new strategic alliances. Pakistan’s importance in trilateral alliance of China and Russia is considered to be the key to stabilize Afghanistan and wider South Asia. On the other hand, the U.S.-India nexus has drawn extreme attention to China and Russia as the U.S.-Indo strategic partnership has more to do with the containment of China than benefitting more than 800 million poor people of India.
The Indian encroachment on Afghan soil directly threatens the future peace process because in the guise of India’s so called developmental projects, anti-Pakistan agenda is being carried out by perpetrating destruction inside Pakistan through creation of the TTP and now recruiting Daesh in Afghanistan. Therefore, Indian and other intelligence agencies are working extensively to deny Pakistan any influence and virtually prepare Afghanistan as a strategic partner to India. Ironically this is not a partnership intended to achieve peace and prosperity but to present Pakistan a two-front scenario, thus pressurising Pakistan to acquiesce to the demands of hegemonic India.
So far Pakistani security forces and intelligence agencies have shown great resolve and professional excellence to counter world’s most sophisticated intelligence agencies. Notwithstanding, these agencies have been able to penetrate and get a foothold among many segments of the population. Pakistan on one hand faces terrorist acts of religious zealots and on the other hand faces hostility of geo-political regional and international players espousing contradicting regional agenda. In the face of these extremely challenging environments, Pakistani state and society both need to operate in sync to timely identify and counter the enemy agents and their foot soldiers operating inside Pakistan for the purpose of espionage and subversion. There are multiple areas in which Pakistan needs to take stern and immediate action against the espionage activities:
o Declare the publication of false reports unlawful, which negatively portray Pakistan’s defence forces, including nuclear related activities that might be useful for the enemy.
o Expel and detain under the law those foreign citizens who operate in the guise of NGOs, INGOs, humanitarian organizations, and, cancel certification of front companies being used to implement illegal intelligence network designs. The cooperation and understanding of respective governments is crucial, and can ensure the continuity of legitimate social work especially in the fields of healthcare and education.
o Punish through fine and imprisonment those wilfully displaying the flag of enemy country as the said act can incite disloyalty, mutiny or a method to create ‘like-minded’ individuals in various fields like academia, journalism, bureaucracy and politics.
o Pakistan’s Espionage Act must be revised according to the dictates of modern warfare. This does not preclude the implementation of espionage laws during peace time. The assessment of foreign propaganda concludes that the human rights and freedom of expression are simultaneously being used to malign the conduct of Intelligence Based Operations (IBOs) against terrorists. Consideration should be given to the cautious handing of information and operational details during the IBOs so that sympathizers and sponsors of terrorism do not have any access to crucial intelligence information. Additionally, Personal Reliability Assessment Check (PRSC) of sources must be strictly scrutinized and implemented given the potential and existing infiltration of enemy sources. The open ended and belligerent statements of former and current RAW chiefs and NSA (National Security Adviser) on the Indian doctrine to “infiltrate & bleed” have been the main catalyst behind espionage activism of India.
o The CI efforts to neutralize anti-state and illegal intelligence networks with regards to interference in operational processes must be highlighted and communicated to the public for the purpose of recognition of military and security personnel.
The mounting espionage challenges for Pakistan are linked to our geostrategic location, and thus more work and experts are required in the field of counter intelligence (CI). Despite all the difficulties, an intra-institutional sharing of vital pieces of intelligence information should go beyond compartmentalization because the benefit of the current format may reach to contesting regional and international quarters. Therefore, an augmentation of the existing CI system and the development of a comprehensive system for countering industrial, military, social and political espionage is the key to dismantle Indian and other unfriendly countries’ offensive illegal intelligence operations in Pakistan. In conclusion, whereas vulnerabilities and challenges pose serious threats to a country, the actualization of CI measures and a national response could create opportunities and stability for the next generations of Pakistan.
The writer is Director General of a think tank Pakistan House.