What Can Pakistani Planners Do To Protect Against Hybrid Warfare?

What Can Pakistani Planners Do To Protect Against Hybrid Warfare?
“Our enemies know that they cannot beat us fair and square, and thus, they have subjected us to a cruel, evil, and protracted hybrid war.” These words of Army Chief General Bajwa in 2018 while addressing the passing-out parade of cadets at Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Kakul imparted all but an indispensable truth about the great conflict that Pakistan faces. The contemporary yet astounding concept of hybrid warfare originated from the Hoffman’s theory of military strategy which entails an interplay of kinetic – conventional military techniques – and non-kinetic measures – propaganda, information warfare – to achieve specific tactical, military and diplomatic objectives.

The scope of hybrid warfare is extensive: various theoretical concepts exist to lay out the rudimentary framework of how exactly it must be fought. In particular, Warden’s Five Rings Theory delineates five levels which constitutes a state i.e. Leadership, System essentials, Population, Infrastructure and Military. As per Warden, if one intends to destabilise a state, it is necessary to instigate the population against the state’s leadership and military. Consequently, either the state will effectuate a crackdown on the population which could result in turning people against the law enforcement agencies – case in point: Arab Spring – or the country will undergo regime change as was the case with Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh.

The threats emanating from the spectrum of hybrid warfare have bogged Pakistan down, leaving it vulnerable with regards to its internal and external security prospects. A series of conflicts in geo-strategic transit provinces – Balochistan and KP – have spawned an incessant cycle of violence against certain communities in the regions. The gruesome abduction and killing of eleven Hazara coal miners in 2021 by the Islamic State terror group engendered tensions between the federal government and the aggrieved Hazara community over the issue of ensuring unassailable security for them. Similarly, the Dasu terrorist attack on the Chinese nationals in 2021 sabotaged Pakistan’s stated commitment towards providing top-notch security to foreign nationals.

The unabated financial and material assistance provided by India to the terrorist organizations i.e. Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) accounts for increasing levels of security instability in Pakistan – a case in point being the confession of India’s captured spy Kulbhushan Yadav about RAW sponsoring the separatist BLA.
For a country as diverse as Pakistan, it is imperative that state policies must emphasise social inclusiveness to minimise the possibility of any segment of society being exploited and turned against the state

One of the most harmful of all measures taken by India was its 15-year-long information warfare and propaganda campaign against Pakistan, which aimed to isolate it within the international community, especially the United Nations and European Union. Such a despicable endeavour was exposed by EU DisinfoLab in 2020 via its investigative report titled “The Indian Chronicles,” which stated that India exploited 750+ websites across 119 countries to discredit and isolate Pakistan on the global level. Adding insult to injury is the diplomatic isolation of Pakistan by the US – the gratuitous placement of Pakistan on FATF’s Grey List – as a pressure tactic to coerce the country into following Uncle Sam’s policy directions in certain matters.

The ascending potency of cyber-attacks on the state institutions of Pakistan is adding to the security woes of the country. A series of cyber-attacks on the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) in 2021 hit the financial security system of Pakistan and private data of millions of citizens was at the verge of being breached by the hackers. Even former Prime Minister Imran Khan was reportedly a potential target of the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware programme in 2021, by clients of the NSO Group cyberespionage firm.

Conspicuous vulnerabilities of Pakistan against the burgeoning menace of hybrid warfare are major points of concern with regards to the overall domestic security outlook. Pakistan’s own persistent political uncertainty is a contributing factor to the country’s inherent ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity. These make it harder for incapacitated state institutions, poor governance and accountability mechanisms to operate: and this is exacerbating Pakistan’s susceptibility to hybrid war.

Pakistan needs to accelerate its responsive measures with a pragmatic approach. Capacity-building of the security institutions and law enforcement agencies by incorporating a modern set of mistake-driven learning programs would facilitate in counterpoising the limitations of Pakistan’s security officials. Pakistan has already enacted requisite legislations to hamper terrorist financing within its vicinity – with the establishment of Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in FIA – but to ensure its effective implementation, a coordinated effort is required on the part of the political leadership and state institutions.

The Center for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) has identified a security methodology to counter the attacks on state institutions and national assets. It works on the principles of Deter, Detect, Delay, Mitigate and Respond under the ambit of a comprehensive security plan, which helps to disrupt any intervention via hybrid means.

For a country as diverse as Pakistan, it is imperative that state policies must emphasise social inclusiveness to minimise the possibility of any segment of society being exploited and turned against the state. Pakistan must extend its de-radicalisation programme known as “Sabaoon Center for Rehabilitation and Monitoring” into all the conflict-ridden areas of the country. The aforementioned programme was a huge success in Swat in terms of imparting corrective religious education to former violent extremists and meticulously reintegrating them into the social canvas.

Pakistan is left with no other option than to act swiftly and take stern pre-emptive measures to shore up its defences against hybrid warfare.

The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad.