[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] I [/yt_dropcap]t’s a sunny Friday afternoon in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. Thousands of people have come out of their winter hiding to enjoy the weekend’s bright sunny, spring weather. Many of them are walking down Queens Street, a 1.5 kilometer long pedestrian street running through town, connecting its older parts to more newly built areas.
Suddenly a heavy delivery truck turns a corner running down the street at a speed of 80 kilometers an hour. The beer truck had been hijacked just a couple of minutes earlier outside a restaurant where it was delivering goods. It drives, swerving back and forth progressing nearly 600 meters along the pedestrian walkway tragically and brutally decimating everything in its path — even according to a witness, dragging a baby in its pram—along its way with it before crashing into the entrance of the city’s largest department store, Åhlens, a common meeting spot where hundreds of people are standing waiting for friends to show up.
Thirty-nine-year-old, Rakhmat Akilov from Uzbekistan had recently has his asylum claim in Sweden rejected and was sought for deportation by the authorities. He had also drawn the security services’ attention after showing interest in material stemming from both ISIS and Hizbut Tahrir (HT). HT is a banned group in his native Uzbekistan and is suspected in Central Asia of being a feeder group into ISIS. Akilov had also been investigated by the security services who could not validate any criminal activities. In his attack, Akilov who used a high-jacked truck to kill, jumped out of it holding a handgun and took the time to set the truck on fire —likely hoping to ignite explosives found inside—before running from the scene, severely burnt. ISIS has not yet claimed the attack by Akilov who left fifteen people injured and four dead, one of them an eleven-year-old girl walking home from school.
The attack in Stockholm is the fourth of its kind to hit Europe. Similar acts where vehicles have been used as deadly weapons by fanatics have been seen in Nice, Berlin and London, with another two truck attacks were thwarted in Spain and Belgium. This is hardly surprising for those keeping close track of ISIS official propaganda. In the last year, a shift has been observed where ISIS-supporters, who were called upon to migrate to the so-called Islamic State, are instead advised to stay at home to carry out acts of violence in support of the organization.
Official ISIS-propaganda commonly makes explicit recommendations on how to optimize the killing of civilians under the headline “Just Terror”. Among the recommendations made is that of using a truck as a tool of terror. The newly introduced ISIS-magazine Rumiyah – a successor to the more well-known Dabiq – is a case in point. The third edition features an article treating the subject in great detail, highlighting the benefits of employing this method:
Though being an essential part of modern life, very few actually comprehend the deadly and destructive capability of the motor vehicle and its capacity of reaping large numbers of casualties if used in a premeditated manner. This was superbly demonstrated in the attack launched by the brother Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel […] in Nice, France.
The referenced attack in Nice took the life of 86 people while injuring 434. Although being more deadly than any of its counterparts in other European cities they all share similar traits that confirm the effectiveness of ISIS-propaganda in spreading deadly ideas. Many of the recommendations made in Rumiyah were directly followed by the Akilov, among them the type of vehicle used. The article reads:
Observing previous vehicle attacks, it has been shown that smaller vehicles are incapable of granting the level of carnage that is sought. […] One of the main reasons for this is that smaller vehicles lack the weight and wheel span required for crushing many victims. Thus, smaller vehicles are least suitable for this kind of attack. Rather, the type of vehicle most appropriate for such an operation is a large load-bearing truck.
The attacker also took ISIS advice on how to acquire the vehicle used. Hijacking a truck is highlighted as one of many possible ways to carry out the task. Rumiyah advices:
If one has the wealth, buying a vehicle would be the easiest option. Alternatively, one could rent a vehicle or simply ask to borrow one from an acquaintance or relative who owns or has access thereto. For the one not capable of attaining a vehicle by any of these means, there is the option of hotwiring or carjacking a vehicle.
Advice is further given on the most suitable targets to choose. Again, pedestrian streets are highlighted as appropriate venues for “just” terror attacks as they allow for acceleration of the vehicle which maximizes the level of destruction and death. Seen through this perspective Queens Street in Stockholm was an ideal target, a wide and straight street with few security barriers. Rumiyah declares:
When deciding on the target, attention should be given to that target’s accessibility by the vehicle. The target should be on a road that offers the ability to accelerate to a high speed, which allows for inflicting maximum damage on those in the vehicle’s path.
Finally, Akilov’s bringing of a handgun is what official ISIS-propaganda refers to as the use of a “secondary weapon”. This tactic is both advised and applauded by the organization:
Having a secondary weapon, such as a gun or a knife, is also a great way to combine a vehicle attack with other forms of attacks. Depending on what is obtained, the kill count can be maximized and the level of terror resulting from the attack can be raised.
In the field of counter terrorism we need to expect both the unexpected and the expected. Networks or small cells of terrorists will always be hard to detect for security services. We can however make it difficult for terrorists to succeed with their plans by keeping close track of ISIS propaganda and advice to its followers. They often publish information in plain site that can give us a general idea of possible targets that we might be able to harden, methods that we might be able to make more difficult and dates for action when we can be alert. Using these indicators we should attempt to better guard probable locations. Years ago, counter-terrorism expert Reuven Paz wrote a piece entitled “Reading their Lips” warning that terrorists often publish to their own followers important details about their plans and intentions, words that we should take as seriously as they mean them—as they often do exactly as they say. In the case of the Stockholm attack this would have entailed things such as better physical cement barriers separating pedestrians celebrating the commencement of spring from the dangers of a fanatic operating a heavy truck with the purpose of killing as many innocent civilians as possible.
Reference for this article: Louisa Tarras-Wahlberg, The Truck as a “Just” Tool of Terror – What we can Learn from the Stockholm, Sweden Attack ICSVE Brief Reports
 Adam Svensson, ”Dådet på Drottninggatan: Detta har hänt”, Dagens Nyheter, 2017-04-09
 Lasse Wierup, ”39-åringen saknade skyddsbehov och ljög om sin identitet”, Dagens Nyheter, 2017-04-10
 Adam Svensson, ”Dådet på Drottninggatan: Detta har hänt”, Dagens Nyheter, 2017-04-09
 Michael Winiarski, “Dådet har likheter med attackerna i Berlin och Nice”, Dagens Nyheter, 2017-04-08 http://www.dn.se/arkiv/nyheter/dadet-har-likheter-med-attackerna-i-berlin-och-nice/
 Author Unknown, “Just Terror”, Rumiyah, Issue Three, pp 10-12
 Author Unknown, “Nice attack: What we know about the Bastille Day killings”, BBC News, 2016-08-19
 Author Unknown, “Just Terror”, Rumiyah, Issue Three, pp 10-12
 Reuven Paz, “Reading Their Lips: The Credibility of Militant Jihadi Web Sites as ‘Soft Power’ in the War of the Minds” NATO Science for Peace and Security Series – E: Human and Societal Dynamics, Vol 60. 2009
Modi’s extremism: Implications for South Asia
Hindutva is a main form of Hindu nationalism in India this term was popularized by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in the 20th century. It is reinforced by the Hindu extremist volunteer organization Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and Hindu Sena. Hindutva movement has been expressed today as almost fascist in the classical sense (sticking to a disputed idea of homogenized majority and dominance of culture). The Hindutva moment has gained enormous momentum under the government of Modi (Zaman A. , 2019). Under the Modi’s government dozens of Muslims have been killed for the protection of cows. Most of them are those who allegedly slaughtering cows. These attacks indicate that Hindu extremism has increased. Even, lower caste Hindus also faced violence from hardliner Hindu extremists. (Zaman A. , 2019) .
The prevailing extremism in India is no longer a national issue, but is spilling over to become a regional flashpoint and has worldwide implications. The regional stability is endangered due to the current situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) (Qureshi, 2019). Since the Modi’s extremist policies revoked article 370 of the constitution of India in which special and independent status had been given to the Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK). This kind of extreme move of a fanatical ruler was expected, whereas, such kind of unconstitutional effort of a democratic government was not expected. Moreover, it is not only a violation of India’s constitution, but it is also a breach of United Nations Security Council Resolutions, which confirmed Kashmir as a disputed territory.
Furthermore, Article 370 and 35-A cancellation changed the demographic structure of IoK. Article 35A prevented the outsiders from staying, buying properties, getting local government jobs or scholarships in IoK than it annulment permitted outsiders to buy properties there. Hindutva forces are trying to conquer the IoK territory with its 800000 military crowd, which is making the situation more instable there. It would not have lasting consequences for India, but for the whole region (Jaspal, 2019). The Kashmir imbroglio should be the concern of the entire world because it is a perilous flashpoint that could lead to a catastrophic war between two nuclear powers. If this happens, it would not engulf the region, but the entire world. The International community is insensitive towards the recent brutal developments have taken place in IoK. The brutalities boldly committed by the more than 500,000 Indian troops in the occupied valley. There should be a strong response of big powers and the international community towards the atrocious changes in India (Elahi, 2019).
It is not the first time, Narendra Modi’s administration has involved in many disputes with the regional countries which has put the regional security at risk. Like, the Modi government relationship is not just deteriorated with Pakistan, but other neighbouring states too. In 2015, Madhesi Crisis in Nepal and border issues tensed the India Nepal relations. However, India restricted the flow of trade at the check posts whereas; India did not accept this blame. India also has not good relation with Sri Lanka since 2014 as Sri Lanka has been more disposed towards China with the signing of the infrastructure projects of belt road and initiatives. Moreover, New Dehli was concerned about the harbouring of Chinese submarines in Colombo and ruler of Maldives Abdulla Yameen signed fee trade treaties with China, which was not digestible for India (Wong, 2017).
India’s offensive nuclear posture towards Pakistan and increased violation of the Line of Control (LoC) has made the situation more adverse. India holds Pakistan responsible for every attack on its territory and its attitude towards Pakistan is very hostile. The Pathankot attack in 2016 and Pulwama attack in 2019 increased the resentment as Modi government blamed the attack on Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad. Pakistan asked India to provide evidence so that Pakistan can take action, but no evidence had been given. The Indian air force claimed launching air strikes on the camp of Jaish-e Mohammad mountainside in the Balakot region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa . While, following the attack international media and local media disgraced Indian claim of launching the attack and killing many militants. Next morning, Pakistan shot down an Indian MIG 21 fighter and captured the pilot who violated the Pakistan airspace. Still, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan showed peace gesture and released the captured pilot. (Shoukat, 2019).
The Indian airstrike’s that were launched in response to Pulwama attack were clear a breach of Pakistan’s space sovereignty. It was a clear perspective of war, however; India has continued to justify its position by calling it non-military strike. It was extremely reckless behaviour of a nuclear state. Even, history shows that such events are very rare between nuclear weapons states while the US and Russia never engaged in direct airstrike’s (Jan, 2019). Afterward, an Indian submarine also detained by the Pakistani Navy, which tried to infringe Pakistani water. India blames Pakistan for every attack and defies the Pakistan air, space and land territory itself. Besides, India is also responsible of sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan through its spies as one of them is Kulbushan Yadav (Shoukat, 2019).
India’s nuclear doctrine also changed from No First Use (NFU) to First use. The false description of surgical strikes and attacks on non-state base points has demonstrated the uncertain security environment in South Asia. The Indian nuclear doctrinal change increases the security risks in the region, particularly for Pakistan and China. At Pulwama, Pakistan clearly exposed India’s long-held fable of conventional superiority. At the same time, it is obvious that India would keep its behaviour hawkish towards Pakistan under the radical Hindutva mindset (Nawaz, 2019).
Additionally, India took another major step against the Muslims as it passed a bill on December 9, 2019 that would give the nationality to those migrants who want to become citizens of India except Muslims. This step of Prime Minster would increase the Modi Hindu-nationalist agenda. It would modify the India secular status, preserve by its founders in 1947. The Citizenship Amendment Bill passed by the lower house, the Lok Sabha with 311 votes. Now, it would be presented in the upper house and would become law soon. Hindu extremist agenda deeply unsettled the Muslims with this new law as they would make more than 200 million Muslims second class citizens and many of them stateless. It is not first extremist step of Modi, he also stripped away the autonomy of Kashmir, which was Muslim majority Indian occupied state.
Furthermore, Hindu fundamentalist build a new temple over the remains of the demolished mosque in the Ayodhya. According to Modi this would protect the maltreated Hindus, Christians and Buddhists who want to migrate from Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, this brutal legislation would extradite innocent Muslim residents, even those whose families have been in India for generation, if they cannot provide evidence of citizenship. Under the Modi’s leadership, attacks and intimidation against Muslim community have augmented and anti Muslim sentiment has become deliberately more mainstream. The people of Assam are protesting in the streets and hoisting placards again the bill because it is against their rights and identity (Gettleman & Raj, 2019).
Besides, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen cancelled his visit for two days Indian Ocean Dialogue and Delhi Dialogue XI, to India. He also rejected a statement by Indian home minister Amit Shah that the new citizenship law will provide safety to “persecuted minorities” from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. An official visit to India by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also been delayed due to the unrest in Assam. Following the protests began in Assam, a curfew was forced in four of the main cities in the state and the internet was shut down. Two paramilitary battalions were deployed to contain the demonstrations. (News, 2019).
In a nutshell, as evident from the aforementioned brutal developments, it seems that India aspires to increasingly showcase itself hegemon and potential big power in the region. The Prime Minister Modi government is impressed by the Hindu extremist ideology and making IoK its integral part by forcefully. Its hawkish policies towards Muslims in India and IoK has once again put at stake the peace and stability of the entire region of South Asia. Indian government not only targeting Muslims everywhere, but it is also seizing their identities which is dismantling secularism foundations of India. Moreover, Indian hawkish nuclear posture increases arms race in the region and it is not only threat for Pakistan but the entire region.
Emerging Cyber warfare threats to Pakistan
“The potential for the next Pearl Harbor could very well be a cyber-attack.” -Leon Panetta
In the modern era, war has been revolutionized due to rapid advancements in technology. As a result, cyber security along with its pros and cons is contributing increasingly to modern warfare. Pakistan, however, is still in the developmental phase of cyber security. Although Pakistan has passed its first law related to cyber-crimes, in the form of the 2016 Prevention of Electronic Crime Act, the overall legislation related to cyber security is still vague and not as strong to deal with the dynamic and broad-ranging nature of threats that emanate from the realms of cyber security.
In recent years, the government has taken some initiatives in order to build capacity amongst the general public such as through PAK-CERT, Presidential Initiative for Artificial Intelligence & Computing (PIAIC), Skills for all Hunarmand Pakistan, Kamyab Jawan, and National Vocational & Technical Training (NAVTTC).Yet, as has been the case for quite some time, most of these initiatives are aimed simply at spreading greater awareness to help lay the foundations for a more robust cyber security architecture. Amidst such developments, the question that arises for Pakistani policymakers is thus where their country currently stands in the cyber domain and how cyber warfare is posing threats to its national security.
In this era of innovation and connectivity even major powers such as the U.S, Russia, China, Israel and the United Kingdom remain vulnerable to an evolving spectrum of cyber threats. Across the world, states are now increasingly dependent on cyber technology which has greatly increased their chances of vulnerability. The most known example is 2015 Stuxnet virus, whereby a devastating cyber-attack on Iranian nuclear facilities wreaked havoc such as at the Nantaz Nuclear facility, significantly rolling back the Iranian nuclear program. Similarly, the WannaCry outbreak in 2017 caused mass disruption by shutting down vital computing systems in more than 80 NHS organizations in England alone. This resulted in almost 20,000 cancelled appointments, 600 GP surgeries having to return to pen and paper, and five hospitals simply diverting ambulances, unable to handle any more emergency cases. Widely attributed as being state sponsored, the attack set another devastating precedent testifying to the wide-ranging vulnerabilities that exist even in some of the world’s most advanced countries.
Pakistan’s cyber space too is insecure for many reasons because Pakistan is dependent on others for technology. According to leading global cyber security firms such as Symantec, Pakistan is among the ten most targeted countries in the world. Main targets include Pakistan’s nuclear and other critical installations, with publicly revealed assaults on an assortment of media houses, as well as the communications networks, of key government departments including, transport and, basic utilities. Such threats for instance were further confirmed by the Snowden documents released between 2013-2014 that had showed how the NSA was keeping an eye on Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders, utilizing a malware called SECONDATE.
Recently in the year 2019, Rising Security Research Institute has captured the attack launched by the internationally renowned Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) organization “Rattlesnake” through the Rising Threat Intelligence System. This time, the organization had targeted the Pakistani Navy via Target collision hijacking method. Specifically targeting the Pakistan Naval Public Relations Bureau, the attempt was aimed at stealing vital information from secure military networks while planting misleading documents masquerading as official statements from the Pakistan Navy regarding its regional neighbors such as China and India. Based on such threats, Pakistan must be readily prepared for any kind of cyber espionage and take steps towards establishing a strong national cyber policy to protect its civilian and military infrastructure.
Therefore, at this stage it is imperative that Pakistan seriously focus on the development of a robust cyber war apparatus. This would especially help mitigate the numerous threats being posed to its banking system, as well as major government networks such as its ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as other military networks that have been previously targeted such as in the case shown above. As such Pakistan can take a number of initial steps by developing strategies to prevent malwares and denial of service (DOS) attacks to reduce such threats at least to a certain level.
Yet, Pakistan has still not developed a cohesive Cyber Command or any National Cyber Policy to deal with the regional cyber threats being posed to Pakistan. Even though Pakistan has recently developed a cyber-security auditing and evaluation lab, it is still in its formative stages. There is still immense space to develop advanced tools and research technologies to protect Pakistan’s cyberspace, sensitive data, and local economy from cyber-attacks while restricting illegal penetrations in it. Especially such as the initiative taken by the newly setup National Centre for Cyber Security which aims increase the number of indigenously trained cyber security professionals within the public sector.
Keeping to this trajectory Pakistan should emphasize more on indigenously developing its own cyber security industry so that in the near future it could benefit both its civilian and military infrastructure in the long run. Hence, while Pakistan may be limited in its ability to wage a strong offensive campaign within the realm of cyber warfare at the moment, such steps would go a long way in helping lay the foundations to build something greater on.
Are we aware of Black Biology?
Biology is the study of life but many in the recent times, when conventional warfare is almost disappearing, the study of life is used for killing humankind. Despite all the marvels that this particular field gifts human beings with, one must not forget its role in almost wiping out life from the face of earth. The same biological research that was initiated as a savior of homo sapiens have been turned into an assassin by some realist powers. What could have been used for the uplifting of a civilization, is now used to turn it into a memory.
History has witnessed various moments where biological hazards infected the cities and countries. Black death in 14th century hadleft a significant footprint on the history of Europe. Plague of Justinian in 541-542 was another nightmare, which Europe went through. It is said that it wiped half of the continent’s population with approximately 25million dead. However, with the passage of time the severity lessened. While various states are trying to eliminate other such diseases that pose threat to human life, there is always another side of the coin and in this regard the other side is dark and chaotic.
Smallpox was said to be used as a weapon in conquests of inca by pizarro. It is also said that the Black death which was scorched upon Europe was initiated when Mongols used infected carcasses and catapulted them into the city of Kafa of now known as Feodosia. In the contemporary history,WW1 saw the use of Anthrax while WW2witnessed the use of biological warfare aside of nuclear. Similarly, Iraq used Sarin, Tabun and chemical agents during Iran- Iraq war and on Kurds.
After World War-I states went for bio weaponizing themselves in order to have superiority over their nemesis. In this regard, many biological facilities were established for research. Although, later after the establishment of United Nations numerous treaties and regimes came into force and banned any such actions which can harm the human race. The Biological weapons conventions remains as one of the most efficient one in order to halt such horrendous actions to eliminate humans. Despite the fact that the first multilateral agreement, the Geneva Protocol, was made in 1925 which was signed by 108 states it seems that laws are subject to moral obligations, thus many states continue to do so in order to have sufficient knowledge of bio-synthesis. In 1968 about 6000 sheep near a government facility in US were poisoned by a chemical weapon known as VX, which was created in a facility. Not only this in 2002 a group of scientists in New York at Stony brook created the first artificially synthesis Polio virus. Later the news was covered by New York Times and it was revealed after subtle investigation by the agencies that the study was funded by the DARPA, a US government entity. It is clear that states are being sneaky in researches on biosynthesis and are looking forward to have an edge in bio-weaponry.
What differentiates biological warfare with conventional one is that biological weapons needs a single entity, mostly humans as, carrier and human body becomes potential weapon. While the Europe and West, along with engaging in such acts are finding solutions as well, yet the underdeveloped part of the world remains aloof from any such understanding.
Pakistan facing many problems had rarely focused or done some work to counter in case of emergency. Being the immediate neighbor of China and keeping in view the rising threat of Corona virus the authorities in Pakistan should be alarmed and show maximum restraint in order to combat what apparently seems a biological threat. In case of Pakistan, the question is simple that how much are we prepared in order to combat any sort of mischief event.
Most of the time, any parochial outbreak is politicized like any other social issue and politicians rant while death toll rises. Recent dengue outbreak is one of the examples where there were no ample resources and management either on federal or provincial level. Despite the fact that after 18thamendment health was no longer, a matter of federal concern and was made the provincial subject in order to make things more effective. However, things did not go as planned. The politicians stuck in parochial politics deliberately neglected the fatal effects of not focusing on health.
Under these circumstances, Pakistan needs proper structural understanding of not only about pandemics but also needs to focus on the discourse of biological warfare. Academia and professionals need to be employed with maximum possible resources. The country needs proper professional and academic facilities in order to cope-up with the growing threat of epidemics and biological warfare. Keeping the status-quo of Pakistan in consideration it would be a tough nut to crack but it is high time that we look towards the professional practitioners.
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