Exploring the Myth of Hybrid War in Pakistani Context

COAS Gen. Qamar Javaid Bajwa, while addressing participants of National Security Workshop, states that for past two decades Pakistan has been facing religious and ethnic versions of ‘hybrid war’, a term often coined for fifth generation warfare. He further accentuated the comprehensive national response to ward off hybrid war where focus is shifting to subversion on religious, sectarian, ethnic and social issues. Youth, COAS said, must be mindful and steadfast against propaganda onslaught launched through hybrid offensive to grasp the opportunity achieved after countless sacrifices in the wake of war on terror.

Now first of all the main potent question is: what the hybrid war means to be? Broadly speaking, in sync with one of NDU theses, it’s the non-conventional onslaught that includes externally provoked identity conflicts exploiting historical, ethnic, religious, socio-economic and geographic differences within a country through the phased transition from Color revolutions to unconventional wars in order to disrupt, control, influence multipolar transnational connective infrastructure projects by means of Regime Tweaking, Regime Change and/or Regime Reboot. In nuclear era, it’s not easy to nuke nemesis in face of mutually assured destruction (MAD). Hence atypical stratagem of ‘Death by a thousand cuts’ is being employed in shape of political blitz that blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare, and cyber warfare with other influencing methods, such as yellow journalism, installment of EHMs (Economic Hitman) networks, anti-state lobbying, law fare and foreign electoral intervention.

Let’s us deconstruct the entire long above definition to sift its each and every part for understanding the mayhem gnawing the country. First of all, this unconventional warfare breeds upon externally provoked identity conflicts in which religious and ethnic fault lines are exploited. Numerous events are influenced by external factors out of which two are crucial—NGOs and Info wars. On Oct.8, 2005, the horrific earthquake rattled the whole Pakistan leaving the scenes of misery and agony everywhere. In the name of foreign assistance and monetary funding to aid destitute lot, the multitude of NGOs landed to Pakistan after which multiple media outlets mushroomed. In the chaotic year of 2007, the bloopers committed by Musharraf, like deposition of then CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry, Red Mosque bloodshed and Nov.3 emergency along with countless suicidal attacks, gave rise to immense tumult and mayhem. One should be surprised how long unobstructed media coverage upon Red mosque and judicial movement was which geared for the regime change. In other words, the prelude for enticing gimmicks of democracy after the dark despotic reign of Musharraf gave rise to such demagogues which destroyed almost every institution. The then USA Sec of State Condoleezza Rice’s artifact NRO to pave the way for fraudulent Zardari-Nawaz democracy to oust Musharraf legitimized all the black money in the name of reconciliation. Benazir Bhutto’s murder was such a black swan event that was to exploit the Punjabi-Sindhi ethnic fault lines. In the veneer of democracy externally provoked chaos was manufactured in the way out of which we find our economy in the ICU today. What was that? Color revolution in the garb judicial movement with immense tumult was launched with unconventional warfare in terms of foreign-backed malicious TTP subversive activities. Info wars in shape of pessimism and sensationalism were rife on media outlets. Venom was continuously spewed against security institutions. Even one media outlet disclosed Ajmal Kassab’s wreaking havoc in Mumbai qua Pakistani citizen, who now discovered to be an Indian national. These events are classic illustration of hybrid warfare which was an organized vicious attempt to make deep cleavage between masses and security institutions which costed myriad lives and economic meltdown.

After a long gloomy decade, now some silver lining is on the horizon. First time, what we observe is made in Pakistan government. Some semblance of normalcy is beckoned. But war against terror is not concluded. It in-fact is being fought with the lethal weapon of propaganda. The issue of Manzoor Pashteen and PTM is not as big as it’s being propagated on social media. The extremist proclivity of TLP in terms of infidelity decrees against CJ and COAS is another dimension of hybrid war to incite mutiny. Yes, no doubt, there are many issues on interior front. The field of governance is much weaker for nascent government to preempt hybrid offensive. But at least with cooperation of security institutions, government is striving hard.

The recent example of multipolar infrastructure project is CPEC. To thwart CPEC, hybrid war is taking new dimension. Arrest of Kulboshan Jadev, an Indian spy, corroborates the stance of Pakistani military establishment that India goes vivacious not only in Balochistan but also in FATA and Karachi through malicious activities. Ironically the USA is also peppering the Indian Consulates’ clandestine activities, operating in Afghanistan, against Baluchistan. Why Baluchistan? Isn’t it the echoes of Robert Kaplan’s “US Elegant Decline & Maritime Great Game”—in which the US is to be quietly leveraged the sea power of its ally India in Indian Ocean to set limits on Chinese expansion as US’ hegemony will not last infinitely and it must seek to replace it with a subtle balance-of-power arrangement—India as a balancer vis-à-vis China. One thing is evident that Pakistan will never allow its territory to be used as a new theatre of any Great Game at the cost of CPEC. Adroit diplomacy to unveil the iniquitous Indian designs on every world forum is the need of the hour.

In a nut-shell, hybrid warfare is the latest intimidation whose malicious aim is to target CPEC. Government must establish its writ in every nook and corner of the country. The weapon of propaganda is the most pernicious weapon of hybrid war. To counter this, effective governmental control on electronic and social media is the need of the hour. There should be limitation on free speech so that it can’t morph into hate and anti-state speech. Government should imbue general public with the scent of education and optimism. Any anti-state reporting and propaganda must be dealt with iron hands. Hybrid offensive is not a myth. It’s that darkened reality with which we have to fight. The vanguard is veritably our youth.

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