Hybrid warfare refers to the use of a mixture of conventional and unconventional military tactics and techniques in order to achieve strategic objectives. This type of warfare has become increasingly prevalent in recent years and has been utilized by numerous actors, including state and non-state actors.
Russians are considered to be the inventors of Hybrid war; the Russia-Ukraine hybrid war refers to a conflict between Russia and Ukraine that has been ongoing since 2014. The conflict began when Russian-backed separatists in the eastern regions of Ukraine, such as Donetsk and Luhansk, declared independence from Ukraine and formed the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic.” In response, the Ukrainian government launched a military operation to regain control of the region, leading to a conflict that has claimed over 13,000 lives.
Russia has been accused of providing military support to the separatists, including weapons, supplies, and manpower. The Russian military has also been accused of direct involvement in the conflict, including the use of Russian soldiers fighting in Ukrainian territory. Additionally, the conflict has been characterized by a sophisticated information warfare campaign that includes disinformation, propaganda, and cyberattacks.
The impact of the hybrid war in Ukraine has been significant, both for the country and for the wider region. The conflict has resulted in a large number of casualties and displacement, as well as significant economic and infrastructure damage. Moreover, the conflict has strained relations between Russia and the West, and has raised concerns about the security and stability of the region as a whole.
However, in the context of Pakistan, hybrid warfare has been a persistent issue due to the country’s strategic location and the presence of numerous internal and external security threats. The country has faced a range of unconventional challenges, including terrorism, sectarian violence, and insurgency, which have significantly impacted its stability and security. For instance, the assault on the Chinese consulate in Karachi in November 2018, Ali Raza Abidi’s murder in December, armed resistance to the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in some areas of Balochistan, and the terrorist attack on the FC training facility in Loralai in January 2019 are all characterized as manifestations of hybrid warfare inside the nation.
Major contributors to the security situation in Pakistan:
One of the major contributor to the security situation in Pakistan is the state’s use of hybrid warfare tactics in its foreign policy. This has been particularly evident in the context of its relationship with India, where Pakistan has been accused of supporting militant groups that carry out cross-border attacks and same goes for India as the EU Dis info Lab, an independent non-profit organization based in Brussels, Belgium, that specializes in research and analysis of disinformation campaigns, primarily in the context of the European Union (EU), published a number of reports detailing disinformation campaigns aimed at various countries, including India.
In 2019, the EU Dis info Lab published a report, according to its investigative study titled “The Indian Chronicles,” India used 750+ websites located in 119 different nations to de-legitimize and isolate Pakistan internationally. The network was found to have links to the Russian government and was reportedly aimed at influencing public opinion on a number of sensitive issues, including the Indian elections, the situation in Kashmir, and tensions between India and Pakistan. The ultimate aim of all this is to keep Pakistan economically and politically unstable and to place Pakistan on the grey list of FATF, therefore, all this has further escalated tensions between the two countries and contributed to jeopardize the overall security situation in the South Asian region.
Adding to this, another major contributor to the security situation in Pakistan is the rise of extremist and militant groups, such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which have been able to gain a foothold in the country due to the lack of effective governance and the presence of ungoverned spaces. These groups have carried out a series of devastating attacks, resulting in loss of life and property, and causing widespread instability and insecurity.
For instance, the conflict in the North-West region of Pakistan dates back to the 1980s, when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The US and its allies provided support to the Afghan resistance fighters, many of whom were trained in Pakistan. After the Soviet withdrawal, these fighters turned their attention towards the Pakistani state, leading to an insurgency in the North-West region. Over the years, various groups have emerged, some with links to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, others with more local agendas.
In response to this threat, the Pakistani military has conducted a number of operations in the North-West region, including Operation Zarb-e-Azab and Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad. These operations have had some success in reducing the threat from the insurgency, but the conflict remains ongoing. In addition to military operations, the Pakistani government has also employed various other tactics to counter the insurgency, including information operations, psychological operations, and development projects aimed at improving the lives of the local population.
While the conflict in the North-West region is the most notable example of hybrid warfare in Pakistan, there are also other examples of hybrid warfare in the country. For example, India has been accused of sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan, and there have been a number of high-profile terrorist attacks in the country that have been linked to India, even when we look into the course of history we get to know that the propagation of Mujib’s six-point plan, as well as the training and assistance provided to the Mukti Bahini’s violent separatist struggle, were all coordinated by India during the crisis in East Pakistan in 1971. In a similar line, the fact that India is still using proxies in the area to wage a Low-Intensity Conflict (LIC) against Pakistan may be used to examine the present scope of hybrid warfare against that country. Furthermore, there have been allegations of foreign intelligence agencies, such as the CIA, operating in Pakistan and using hybrid warfare tactics.
Along with this, Sectarianism also has been a major contributor to hybrid warfare in Pakistan, as the country has a long history of sectarian tensions between its majority Sunni and minority Shia populations. These tensions have often been exploited by external actors to advance their own interests, which has contributed to instability and conflict in the country.
One example of this is the rise of Sunni extremist groups, such as the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which have targeted Shia communities in Pakistan and have been responsible for a number of high-profile terrorist attacks. These groups are often seen as being supported by external actors, such as Saudi Arabia, which has a long-standing interest in promoting Sunni Islam in the region.
In addition, Iran has also been accused of supporting Shia militant groups in Pakistan, which has further fueled sectarian tensions and contributed to hybrid warfare in the country.
The ongoing sectarian conflict in Pakistan has also created a conducive environment for extremist groups to operate, and has weakened the state’s ability to effectively respond to security challenges. This has had a major impact on the stability and security of the country, and has hindered its progress and development.
Causes of hybrid warfare in Pakistan:
The causes of hybrid warfare in Pakistan are complex and multi-faceted, and can be traced back to a number of different factors. Some of the key causes of hybrid warfare in Pakistan include:
- Political instability: Political instability in Pakistan has contributed to the rise of hybrid warfare in the country. The country has a long history of political instability, which has created conditions that are conducive to the development of insurgency and other forms of hybrid warfare.
- Geopolitical factors: Pakistan’s location in a volatile region, with hostile neighboring countries, has made it susceptible to hybrid warfare. The conflict in Afghanistan, and India’s role in the region, has also contributed to the rise of hybrid warfare in Pakistan.
- Religious extremism: Religious extremism has been a significant factor in the rise of hybrid warfare in Pakistan. The country has a history of religious extremism, with various militant groups using religion as a means of achieving their objectives.
- Economic factors: Poverty, unemployment, and economic inequality have contributed to the rise of hybrid warfare in Pakistan. In many cases, individuals who are unable to find employment and who are living in poverty are more likely to join militant groups, which can lead to the development of hybrid warfare.
Strategies to Overcome its Implications:
Therefore, to get rid of hybrid warfare in Pakistan, a multi-faceted approach is needed that addresses the root causes of the conflict and provides stability, security, and prosperity to the people of the country. Some of the key steps that could be taken include:
- Addressing the root causes of conflict: The root causes of the conflict and security issues in Pakistan, such as poverty, inequality, and political marginalization, need to be addressed to ensure long-term stability and security. This could involve economic and social reforms, such as poverty reduction initiatives, job creation programs, and measures to promote political representation and inclusion.
- Strengthening institutions: The institutions in Pakistan, such as the government, military, and police, need to be strengthened to effectively respond to the challenges posed by hybrid warfare. This could involve reforms to improve transparency, accountability, and efficiency, as well as increased investment in capacity-building and training programs.
- Improving governance: Effective governance is critical to addressing the root causes of conflict and ensuring stability and security. This could involve reforms to improve the delivery of public services, reduce corruption, and promote transparency and accountability.
- Building resilience: Building resilience to hybrid warfare requires investing in human capital, such as education and healthcare, and in the development of infrastructure and economic systems. This can help reduce the risk of conflict and improve the capacity of communities to cope with shocks and stressors.
In conclusion, Pakistan has been facing various forms of hybrid warfare for decades, from internal conflict to cross-border aggression from neighboring countries. The implications of hybrid warfare in Pakistan are significant, both for the country itself and for the region as a whole, and the conflict in the North-West region remains a major challenge to the stability and security of the country. To effectively counter hybrid warfare in Pakistan, a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach is needed, including military operations, information operations, psychological operations, and development projects aimed at improving the lives of the local population.