5th generation warfare in pakistan

Written by Muhammad Hamza Tanvir 12:01 pm

5th Generation Warfare in Pakistan: Internal and External Hands

The modes of warfare have now shifted from conventional to 5th generation warfare. Electronic and social mediums are now being widely used by external foes to malign Pakistan, and create an anti-military narrative amongst the country’s populace. Muhammad Hamza Tanvir critically analyzes the internal and external hybrid threats being faced by Pakistan today.

5th Generation Warfare

Pakistan inherited India as an arch-rival since its inception. The country faced its first war on the issue of Kashmir less than a year after its independence. The Kashmir issue with India and an irredentist claim of Afghanistan in the northwest area of the country, with instability in the latter, has critically jeopardized the sovereignty of the country.

On the contrary, Pakistan’s geographical position is an area of interest to the two incumbent superpowers of the world, China and the United States. These problems collaboratively threaten the security and sovereignty of the country due to which it faces multiple internal and external threats.

This has been long foreseen by the famous philosopher Barry Buzan in his article – Conceptualization of Security in 21st century – outlining that the concept of security will multiply in this century instead of being eliminated. The military and intelligence agencies of the country have diligently rendered the plans of rivals futile for the past 72 years.

Moreover, the advancement in technology has molded the contours of war in the current era. The current mode of warfare has now shifted to that of 5th generation warfare. As per the Postmodernism theory of International Relations, media plays an important role in creating a perception among people and is used as a tool of warfare.

In the 21st century, the role of media, especially social media, has become crucial in fighting the enemy – both internal and external – attacking the state from multiple fronts. It has become a perturbing situation that a major faction of the country’s youth is falling prey to the false and anti-state propaganda that is being constructed.

The recent instances of a few journalists blaming state agencies and security institutions for the attack on Asad Toor depict the manipulation of these media personnel – intentionally or unintentionally – by anti-state actors. These forces aim to tarnish the image of the state agencies and instigate a statement of hatred towards the saviors.

It has become a trend in Pakistan to blame the state agencies for all difficult situations arising in the country. An increasing number of Pakistan’s youth population is also becoming victims of these hybrid wars. Social media and the entertainment industry are popular mediums for the transmission of misleading and misinforming narratives regarding the state.

The Pakistani population glorifies Hollywood and Bollywood movies depicting CIA operations yet their perspective on their country’s intelligence service remains severely critical. It must be noted that a country’s military without its people’s support is powerless against the enemy; it is the only pillar standing between both.  

What is Hybrid War?

Sun Tzu said, in his famous book ‘The Art of War’, stated: “A war is won even before it is ever fought”. The term hybrid warfare had not been coined by that era. However, in its essence, the phenomenon had begun to emerge. The quote has become more relevant today as it traces the world’s paradigm shift from conventional warfare to hybrid warfare.

The term was initially expanded by Frank Hoffman, Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities at Quantico and Lt Gen James Mattis, the then Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, in 2015.

They described the term as an amalgamation of political, conventional, irregular, and cyber warfare; it involves tools of fake news and economic coercion, utilizing methods such as constructing narratives through information technology and media, supporting proxy militia, foreign electoral intervention, lawfare, and diplomacy.

It further refers to the multi-pronged warfighting approach which aims to disrupt and disable the adversary’s actions without any form of confrontation. Conventional methods of warfare are rendered incompatible and obsolete in the 21st century.

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Today, the conventional military force is used along with irregular and cyber warfare tactics to initially enfeeble the enemy internally, and then defeat him. In the modern era, owing to the high cost of conventional warfare and nuclear proliferation, most countries wage hybrid warfare to destabilize and disintegrate their rivals.

External Hybrid Threats to Pakistan

Indian Hybrid Warfare Activities Against Pakistan

India has aimed to be a hegemonic nation since its creation; it does not accept the existence of Pakistan and wishes to dominate it. The status of both countries as nuclear powers has changed the perception of war between the two. This is attributed to the phenomenon of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD).

Since then, India continues to wage 5th generation warfare against Pakistan by increasing funding and training to insurgent militia present inside the country. It is also politicizing international bodies like FATF; it has been claimed by many that India and its Western allies are behind the greylisting of Pakistan in FATF.

Recently, the EU DisinfoLab has unearthed that a vast Indian network is involved aggressively in promoting disinformation about Pakistan. India has created a network of NGOs, think tanks, and fake media outlets to influence the EU Parliament against Pakistan by creating a pro-Indian perception and depicting India as a victim.

India was using 750 fake media outlets to achieve its interests not only against Pakistan but also against China. Kalbushan Yadav, the Indian spy arrested from Balochistan, has openly admitted to being on a mission to support an anti-state militia. India is also allegedly believed to sponsor terrorism from Afghanistan in Pakistan.

This is undeniable proof of India’s hybrid war against Pakistan. The main rationale for waging such a war is to enfeeble Pakistan’s economic and political stability; there is a particular focus upon damaging the CPEC project at the behest of its patrons. This hybrid warfare of India not only harms Pakistan but also jeopardizes the security and stability of South Asia.

The US’s Hybrid Warfare Against Pakistan

The relationship between Pakistan and the United States has been a roller coaster ride. Currently, the inclination of Pakistan towards China – along with some other issues between Pakistan and the US – has created a paradigm shift in the relationship of both countries. The US is currently at daggers drawn with Pakistan.

The flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative – CPEC – poses a critical threat to the US. The latter has tried its best to influence Pakistan’s ties with China but after the successful alliance of both countries, the US has started 5th generation warfare against Pakistan at different forums in collaboration with the Indian state.

In 2019, a top Chinese Official stated that China would not allow the politicization of FATF and had made that clear to both the US and India. This statement of Chinese officials delineates how the US is trying to torment Pakistan internationally because of the latter’s relations with China. This is not the first time that the US is involved in such games against Pakistan.

It has also pressurized Pakistan in 2018 by warning IMF against granting a bailout package to Pakistan. The US has also been involved in maligning Pakistan at the international level by accusing it of supporting the Afghan Taliban.

Israel as a Hybrid Threat to Pakistan

The emotional attachment of Pakistani people with their Palestinian brothers is well known. Pakistan is amongst the few countries which have not accepted Israel as a state and oppose it openly at every international forum.

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With the religious fervor of its people and holding the status as the sole nuclear power of the Muslim world, Pakistan renders a potential threat to Israel. Although the latter has never been involved overtly in any activity against Pakistan, it is alleged to have conspired with India to attack Pakistan in the past.

Western Media and NGOs

The anti-Pakistan campaigns of Western media are no secret. The propaganda fueled by BBC and other Western media outlets on the recent accusations of Hamid Mir against the state institutions for involvement in the Asad Toor case portrays the hidden political activism against Pakistan’s security agencies.

In 2015, several International NGOs were banned to operate in the country due to engagement in anti-state activities. The suspicion rose to apex when Save the Children INGO was found involved in anti-state activities in collaboration with the CIA.

After this incident, the security agencies dealt with such NGOs with an iron hand; they are still cracking down against those involved in such acts. The enemies of Pakistan are using them in their hybrid war to achieve their national interests.

Internal Factors Involved in Hybrid War

Political Fault Lines

It is disappointing to state that many Pakistani politicians have sacrificed the national good for their gains. Throughout history, many politicians have made claims which have jeopardized the security of the country. The recent statements of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif against the security agencies of the state are one such example.

Such statements by a leader of one of the major political parties in the country sow the seed of hatred among its followers against the security establishment of the country. Another example is the Memogate scandal. Christophe Jaffrelot mentions in his book, Pakistan at the Crossroads, that Pakistan People Party’s government sought help from the US to avert a military coup in the wake of Osama Bin Laden’s killing.

In return, the Zardari government promised to establish a “US-friendly” national security team, abolish the ISI’s external operations or “S” wing, and put the nuclear system of the country under international safeguard. Similarly, the infamous Dawn Leaks scandal is also a substantiation of the political fault lines of the country.

These events reveal how the senior politicians of the country – intentionally or unintentionally – contribute to the 5th generation warfare against Pakistan to achieve personal motives.

Unprofessional Journalism and Social Media

Journalists and media have achieved unprecedented powers and freedom since General Musharraf’s era. Unfortunately, many in media have been found playing in the hands of the rivals of the state. In Pakistan, the anti-establishment narrative is strongly praised and is seen as a way to become famous internationally.

Recently, some journalists have blamed security agencies of the state for attacking Asad Toor. International media has highlighted these allegations and used them to malign the image of the country and its security agencies. This anti-state rhetoric has become rife in the country and jeopardizes the sovereignty of the state as it shapes the perceptions of the masses.  

It has been revealed by the state that many fake accounts have been found operating from other countries which were involved in anti-Pakistan activities and were trying to construct anti-state perception among the youth.

Social media and unethical journalism have instilled anti-state and anti-military views in Pakistan’s youth. Many inside the country believe that some journalists are deliberately involved in such activities at the behest of India, the US, and Israel

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Sectarianism

Pakistan comprises a multipolar society not only in terms of religions but also in terms of the various sects. The country has faced the direct impacts of the Saudi-Iran rift, but the security agencies of the state have been successful till now in mediating matters.

Sectarianism has been the primary cause of divide in the Muslim society. Saudi Arabia and Iran have allegedly used their relevant sects to fight proxy wars in Pakistan. Thus, the sectarian divide in the country can also be understood as a potential hybrid threat to the sovereignty of the country.

Non-State Actors

Being a neighbor of the unstable state of Afghanistan, Pakistan is a hotspot for non-state actors. Terrorist groups like Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar e Taiba, Al-Qaida, etcetera are major non-state actors. These non-state actors/terrorists have been used many times by India and Israel to weaken the Pakistani state.

They have been involved in killing masses through suicide bombings in mosques, schools, and markets sometimes based on religion and other times on ethnicity. Pakistan’s security agencies have been victorious in curbing these organizations. However, their lingering traces remain dangerous for the country and can be used by adversaries to harm Pakistan.

Conclusion

The geostrategic position of Pakistan and its status as the sole nuclear power of the Muslim world have exposed the country to multiple internal and external threats. Technology innovation has rendered the old methods of warfare obsolete and the world has shifted to 5th generation warfare.

Pakistan’s enemies – internal and external – have long collaborated to weaken the state yet have remained unsuccessful due to the efforts of the nation’s security agencies. Electronic and social media are being used by external foes to malign Pakistan and create an anti-military narrative amongst the country’s populace.

The state agencies are working hard to deter the attacks from multiple fronts yet the love and support of the people of the country are crucial elements for success against the enemy. Pakistan’s people – especially the youth – must realize that they are being exploited by the rivals of the state to harm the integrity and sovereignty of the state.

Hence, they must question and reject anti-state notions and stand with their nation. Accordingly, the state institutions and judiciary must take serious steps to stop the spread of anti-state narratives by famous journalists of the country.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.

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About the Author(s)

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Mr Muhammad Hamza Tanvir graduated from COMSATS University. He has a keen interest in international relations and regional politics.

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