Hybrid Warfare Against Pakistan

Hybrid War

Sadia Wasti |

The entrance of the nuclear weapons changed the paradigm of overt conflict throughout the world. Not only did nuclear weapons stopped aggression against nuclear armed states but also a global taboo against the use of nuclear weapons deterred nuclear states from using their strategic weapons as leverage against other nations. This change caused modern conflict to largely change from large scale conventional war between states to guerilla warfare, insurgency and militancy barring a few exceptions.

A new phrase “Hybrid War” has entered modern academic languages pertaining to the security domain. While it lacks a universally accepted definition however it can be utilized to identify covert efforts that promote instability in target countries. It can range from economic sabotage or misinformation campaign that can inflame internal tensions. The aim often than not is not to defeat a country in a short time but to damage it from within substantially.

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Analysts and observers contend that Pakistan has been targeted on a concentrated Hybrid War campaign by major global players for the last few decades. The foe use tools that play economic, political, sectarian, military and informational spheres and target the existing/perceived sociopolitical vulnerabilities which can take form of individuals, activities, resources or processes. As this is a clandestine operation, the state cannot respond due to non-crossing of the threshold.

Economic: Pakistan economy has been its major weak point though out its existence. This has been exploited by hostile foreign powers many times. A certain indicator is the financial crisis. On one hand, Pakistan has been steadily pushed into a debt trap so that according to western media reports such as Wall Street Journal that Islamabad can be made to barter its nuclear weapons for funds. Here it can be asserted that corrupt political figures have been utilized to reinforce structural deficiencies in Pakistan’s economy making it subservient to global finance institutions.

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Political: Hybrid attacks are meant to divide societies along sectarian and ethnic lines. In order to achieve this objective, antagonists have created efficient and effective narratives to stir certain elements in the Punjab against the rest – the army against the civilians and vice versa would be a good example here. For a very long time their efforts remained ineffective, but with the rise of mainstream media it is argued that certain influential powers have employed techniques and resources to infiltrate certain segments of society.

Sectarian: Sectarian faultlines have been long exploited by regional players ever since the Iranian revolution of 1979. Iranian footprint in raising of sectarian terror groups like the Sipah-e-Muhammad and Al Zainabiyoun are evident. Similarly, Iranian backed outfits like the Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen have utilized narratives of “Shia Genocide” to further divide society by blaming Pakistani government’s closeness to Saudi Arabia as a reason of attacks on Shia civilians by sectarian terrorists.

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While Pakistan has formulated a nuclear deterrent against its enemies it still exhibits vulnerability in the face of hybrid warfare. This is due to the capabilities of its enemies in the realm of IT, cyber warfare, disinformation, narrative building as well as their financial capacity. Pakistan needs to build up its capability in these sectors by deploying young intellectuals with expertise in social media management, perception management and narrative building to counter this campaign.

It is important to understand that gauging and assessing the phenomenon is not enough; it has to be resisted effectively in a coherent manner. This is the new science and art of warfare and it is here to stay. It is argued that the country must devise a clear and concrete unifying policy to address polarization on several levels, which would pave the future for a stronger and more united Pakistan.

Sadia Wasti is a political analyst. Views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of TIC.