NationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 7

Hybrid warfare against Pakistan

Pakistan is fighting the toughest and protracted war waged by India, Afghanistan and some other states, while the US is colluding with them to pressurise Pakistan to “do more” for destabilising it from within. In this complicated war of nerves, the number, kinds and categories of different enemies, terror and pressure groups in the shape of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or media houses are obscure but not so hidden; one can fully recognize them by their actions, motives and designs.

The media, being an opinion maker and mass-influencer, is the lethal weapon to influence public perception about Pakistan. From the DawnLeaks to the continuous flow of Twitter trends against Pakistan, including Prime Minister Imran Khan-led PTI government and the armed forces, show that the enemy is persistent and overconfident to make Pakistan an international pariah. It is also enjoying the explicit support of the PMLN social media cell, led by Maryam Nawaz.

After 9/11, the Indian RAW and former Afghan government sponsored cross-border terrorism and centrifugal terrorist groups in Balochistan have posed a serious threat to national security and the military of Pakistan. It is a war of nerves and the enemies have lots of dough and resources to entice 5th columnists, libtards and centrifugal forces in every province. It is even more shocking that a section of society, including media persons, anchors and political activists, readily act as social media stooges in their hate and animosity towards Prime Minister Imran Khan and the armed forces. A recent study of social media accounts of journalists, anchors and columnists has highlighted the huge negativity in their content, memes and videos.

It goes without saying that Pakistan is the prime target of the 5th generation war to impede the multi-billion dollar CPEC project, being completed in partnership with China. Being a target of the Indian sponsored media tirade, Pakistan badly needs organizational potential and technology to effectively control the social media platforms as different studies conducted by the country’s top think-tanks show that the uneducated and jobless youth is the prime target of anti-Pakistan social media trends. A New Delhi-based former USSR diplomat of the 1970s had coined the term “useful idiots” for such elements that are willingly utilized against their own country to vent antagonistic mindsets.

The creation of the Pakistan Media Development Authority is a much-needed step in the right direction to encourage responsible journalism. However, the mass communication departments of public and private universities in Pakistan have, hitherto, failed to update their syllabi to counter 5th generation war.

After the global rise of the print and electronic media in the 20th century, and its subsequent spread in the shape of digitalized forms has given further impetus to the hegemonic influence of the mass media. Various forms of media have become an integral part of human beings’ daily life. They inform us, influence our opinion and sometimes, misguide us through incorrect or distorted information to achieve certain objectives. Likewise, the pandemic rise of social media platforms has further chained human minds everywhere. It is the need of the hour to use this opportunity for state-building and national integration by sensitizing the people about the importance of independence and the colossal consequences of balkanization. We have examples of Syria and Iraq before us.

The technology-based media is, arguably, the most lethal weapon of the 21st century which has monopolized the whole globe. Communication experts state that different forms of digital media are the most effective means of mass influence. Over time, various states, non-state actors and even multinational companies have started using this weapon of mass influence to gain precise results by bombarding the targeted clientele or population with slanted and distorted information or facts.

While Pakistan continues to ignore the importance of perception management, the Indian establishment, housed in the colonial South Block building in New Delhi, fully understood it too early and launched a massive propaganda campaign against Pakistan to defame the arch-rival from every respect. The EU DisinfoLab, an independent non-profit organisation, focused on tackling sophisticated disinformation campaigns targeting the EU, its member states, core institutions and core values, disclosed in 2020, the staggering scale of India’s propaganda paraphernalia, since 2005, in the shape of 750 media outlets covering 119 countries for projecting Pakistan as a global threat, human rights violator and what not.

Pakistan has been a prime target of the global “great game” played in its neighboring Afghanistan for two decades. First, it suffered the consequences of the former USSR’s military intervention in Afghanistan, from 1979 till 1988, and then, 9/11 was the second decisive phase of this global quest for the control of Central Asia’s huge natural resources. However, recent years have witnessed a new lethal phase of this quest for global control in the Asian hemisphere and rapid growth of state-sponsored digital media platforms for spreading fake news and disinformation against Pakistan and China.

The total number of active social media users in Pakistan stands at 37 million. The percentage of social media users among the total population is 17%, while a 7% increase was recorded in social media users from April 2019 to Jan 2020.

Meanwhile, the institutional rivalry has risen to new heights in the tenure of the PTI government when every organ has chosen a behavior to exert its singular prominence vis-à-vis the political government. The judiciary’s continuous contemptuous approach to frustrate Prime Minister Imran Khan’s efforts of punishing the corrupt cabal and the bureaucracy’s covert support to the PML-N shows that the PTI has miserably failed to maintain constitutional control over institutions to implement its manifesto.

The archaic colonial model of the civil service and the judiciary has consistently failed to passably deliver or to protect the state. Immediate reforms are needed to restructure the bureaucracy and the judiciary which are enjoying unprecedented powers without any administrative accountability or financial control. No one could dare audit the judiciary, evaluate the performance of judges or nab corrupt court officials.

In this backdrop, Pakistan’s national institutions will have to enforce the strict Chinese governance model, along with giving topmost priority to state security, to function as a feasible state in future. They also need to adopt a comprehensive communication policy to guide the 220 million-plus people to help counter the media front. We should also learn from Israel’s security doctrines and absolute ability to control and keep a consistent check on the Arab/Palestine population through an elaborate brigade of informants while using information and communication technologies.

Comments of a retired deputy director of the Israeli security agency are worth noting. He said, “Informants are our only weapon against the enemy in this never-ending war of survival (as a state).”

(The writer is a Lahore-based public policy analyst )