The use of term Hybrid War by COAS General Qamar Bajwa has opened a discourse in media and academics. Though the levels of public awareness are seen in divided and polarised opinions, historically Pakistan has been subjected to such dynamics for decades. Pakistan has lost three prime ministers and one President to such warfare. No one in Pakistan realised that this hybrid nature had been hitting Pakistan persistently including separation of the eastern wing.
Aware that such discourses are not common in Pakistan, and that the media is not willing to shoulder responsibilities beyond riding air waves, I have been succinctly pointing to ‘operations other than war’ for over two decades. Writing in 2009, I had commented, “The war has already begun. The question is., when did it begin”? No one questioned or answered.
Even conventional warfare meets success in its nature of indirectness. It is not about killing the adversary but subjugating him to desires. This is why Liddell Hart wrote extensively on the indirect approach. Napoleonic wars and rise of nation states involved the entire nations in battlefield. As technology and social involvement became keystones to strategy, the indirectness assumed new trajectories in overt wars, armistices and peace. Wars never ended, rather morphed into other means of indirectness.
Soviet Union and USA were never allies against Germany, yet they fought together till the Berlin airlift. It was followed by Cold War that ruined most of Rimland and Africa. The war never ended when Soviet Union broke. It assumed new dimensions.
Close home, war in Afghanistan never ended once Soviet Union quit. Instability till now is kept alive because it applies a check to Russia, Iran, China and Pakistan. It is likely to continue much beyond and with more hidden means for decades to come. Low Countries of Rimland need to be tamed. They cannot be allowed to become competitors.
The major difference between a conventional violent war and Hybrid is that the latter employs all instruments from placation to coercion and subversion. It is like baiting fish. Hence what at first sight may appear as a friendly gesture could ultimately become a trap. Entire Africa is at the mercy of such Dogs of War. No one understands this nonviolent trajectory of warfare better than political economists who toy with every element of geopolitics.
So what is the nature of Hybrid Warfare?
Readers need to understand that the strategic template of the two world wars and Cold War has not changed because the pivot and fulcrums of geography are the same. Western control of the containment ring has expanded. As part of the hybrid conflict, the theatre of war in West Asia, South West Asia and Ukraine has expanded. NATO is expanding eastwards to Russian underbelly.
Nuclear peace prohibits conflicts between nuclear rivals. Therefore the violence and hybrid nature of conflict has shifted to periphery avoiding direct clashes. Other than the Line of Control and localised clashes, a direct war with India or a violent conflict with USA like Iraq is least likely. Indirectness though non kinetic means is what Hybrid war is all about.
Geographically, the countries of Rimland despite breakups have not altered the zone. The name has changed to ‘Circle of Influence’, very much like the Mandala Circle explained by Chanakya Kautilya.
At the epicenter of this circle are the ‘Bad Left Outs’ like Iran, Syria, Crimea, North Korea, Afghanistan and a wagging tail of Pakistan.
The second circle comprises countries that are independent or show independent flair. These include Russia, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Mexico and Pakistan.
The Third circle brackets security and economic dependencies. Most Arab countries, Ukraine and Pakistan are in this category. Marked in red are dependencies through economic measures that include sanctions, trade restrictions, bad governance, consumerism, balance of payments, prevention from sustainable development, media and fifth columnists infiltrated in every sinew of the societies. For a nuclear country like Pakistan, artificial intelligence and compellence is a preferred method. But what does this mean? Keep your nukes but do more.
The outer and largest circle is NATO and its allies. Besides military power, this circle forms a non-kinetic socio-economic umbrella. In this ‘Economic World’ countries play by rules, competitors are discouraged, rogue states are isolated and contained, the proliferators are deterred from using WMD, strategic balance with Russia is maintained and major proximate conflicts are contained through hybrid warfare. The objective means a countervailing western block that over arcs CIS/Shanghai 5. The biggest threat to this circle comes from China through OBOR and CPEC that make sea lanes irrelevant in reaching out to Europe, West Asia and Africa. For geopolitical planners, two nuclear Rimland countries asserting and becoming independent is a nightmare. It spells the end of prevailing geostrategic paradigm. Rather than take on China, It is convenient to maul a weak Pakistan.
Now back to recalling some hybrid pincers against Pakistan.
For a long time Pakistan blamed Afghanistan for the assassination of Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan. Suspicions pointing USA were subdued. It is only now that CIA has revealed that it masterminded the operation with collaboration of Afghan government, Reason? Because Prime Minister of Pakistan was not willing to interfere in domestic politics of Iran and asked USA to remove bases from Pakistan.. The interesting part is that at that time, Afghanistan was a Soviet Satellite.
Earlier, the West had wanted Pakistan to become an Islamic State rather than a Republic. This explains why Qaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s Speech of 11 August 1947 was snubbed and censored even before Pakistan came into existence. It also explains why Jinnah died the way he did and why Objective Resolution was adopted in 1949.
Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy was removed as Prime Minster of Pakistan for promoting friendship with godless China and starting Pakistan’s Space and nuclear program. Later he was assassinated in Beirut.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was judicially murdered on evidence that the Supreme Court now rejects. The real reasons for his hanging were Pakistan’s Iran-Afghan Policy (an eminent confederation), Oil Embargo 1973, Islamic Block, close relations with China and Pakistan’s weaponised nuclear programme.
President Zia Ul Haq died in midair when Pakistan was very close to removing the last hitch in nuclear explosions and expanding a Pakistan led military block.
Benazir Bhutto was assassinated because she was the only Pakistani leader with access to all Afghan factions and one who had decided to pursue policies of her father if she ever came to power.
As the prevailing environments indicate, Pakistan is more a foe than a friend. Figuring in three circles out of four, makes Pakistan the most obvious battle field of Hybrid Warfare. This is why the COAS has called it so.
Despite such losses, if opinion makers in Pakistan still try to make a controversy of Hybrid War by describing it as a military propaganda to gain more space in the politic body; such opinions are to be seen as another form of conflict being perpetuated on behest of the enemies. Advertently or through ignorance, they are complicit.
Aforesaid in view, it is logical to infer that the present political and economic crises in Pakistan are also an extension of Hybrid Warfare. So next time watch what you hear and watch what you say. The archer is inside the womb.
The writer is a political economist and a television anchor person.