Of late, our military leadership has identified that Pakistan is faced with a hybrid war as the enemy is trying to take advantage of every social, cultural and political fault line within the country. In this connection, the argument of Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa that Pakistan is facing religious, sectarian and ethnic versions of hybrid warfare is quite noteworthy.
Hybrid warfare can be conceived as a military strategy that primarily employs political or psychological warfare and is a blend of conventional warfare, asymmetrical or irregular warfare and cyber warfare. The strategy also employs methods such as disseminating fake news, intrusive diplomacy, foreign electoral intervention, etc. The enemy combines kinetic operations or sudden attacks while in movement with subversion and sabotage efforts in order to avoid attribution or retribution. The strategy results in confusion and disorder as vitriolic information exacerbates the perception of insecurity within the population. The most important aspect of the hybrid war is that the enemy does its utmost to pit political, social and cultural identities against one another. Traditional militaries find it hard to respond to hybrid warfare.
The ever-deepening confusion and increasing feeling of insecurity within our society can be seen through the prism of strategy and methodology of hybrid warfare. Here it is important to note that the Pakistani society is very much suffering from a state which eminent French sociologist Emile Durkheim called ‘anomie’. The term was introduced by Durkheim in his study of the phenomenon of suicide. He believed that one type of suicide (anomic) resulted from the breakdown of the social standards necessary for regulating behaviour. When a social system is in a state of anomie, common values and common meanings are no longer understood or accepted, and new values and meanings have not developed. According to Durkheim, such a society produces, in many of its members, psychological states characterised by a sense of purposelessness, emotional emptiness and despair. Striving is considered useless because there is no accepted definition of what is desirable. Pakistan’s society today, one fears, is suffering from such a sordid state. Enemy through hybrid warfare wants to exploit this situation and condition of the society and individual members.
The growing feeling of insecurity in Pakistan is quite fearsome because there is relative political stability and improved security situation today. A popular, democratically-elected government is in the saddle, which symbolises the continuity of representative system of government in the country. This is the third time on the trot that an elected government has successfully assumed state power in Pakistan. So the fundamental problem in contemporary Pakistan is not at the state level but at the societal level as it has lost direction and its members their sense of purpose. This is evident from the fact that a huge wave of terrorism engulfed the country perpetrated by locals, but there has been no collective societal response to that wave of terrorism. Same has been the case of financial corruption. So the enemy — sensing that it cannot physically defeat the Pakistani state, as is evident from improving political stability and physical security situation — has resorted to the hybrid war.
As explained above as a method a hybrid war, social and cultural identities are pitted against one another. In this context, the growing Baloch nationalist movement and the rise of the group known by its title Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) are the highest manifestation of the hybrid war. With regard to the PTM, whose main agenda is safeguarding the Pakhtun rights and identity, it can be observed that Pakhtuns of Pakistan have never been much threatened physically, culturally and socially than during the TTP and affiliated groups insurgency between 2007 and 2015. Surprisingly, during that period the PTM did not emerge and its leaders did not realise that the Pakhtuns need to be protected. Therefore, the rise of the PTM after the return of relative normalcy to the Pakhtun regions of Pakistan raises many questions and eyebrows. In contemporary Pakistan, Pakhtun ethnic group is well integrated into the state’s institutional policy and social structure and there is no question about any discrimination against it. Pakhtun is the second largest ethnic group in Pakistan and the enemies of Pakistan know that if the country has to be destabilised then the Pakhtuns have to be pitted against the state. However, in the given situation when the country is led by an ethnic Pakhtun, Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi, and the members of the group are heavily present in every state institution, it is well-nigh impossible to pit the Pakhtuns against the state. Nevertheless, to protect the state and society from the ill effects of hybrid warfare, a full-scale state and societal response must be made. More importantly, the society and its members need to be educated about their sense of purposelessness.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2018.