Fifth generation warfare is a conflict characterized by a blurring of the lines between war and politics, combatants and civilians. Once thought to be a generation too far in scope, it has arrived and is irreversibly changing the dimensions of war. 5GW has three distinct characteristics: its potential to achieve supra-combinations, blur the boundaries that have traditionally restricted warfare within a specified military or political range and its ability to limit the role of the modern combined-arms mechanized force in a future conflict.
In its wake, 5GW has confronted many nations of the world, including Pakistan, with an evolving strategic paradigm. Some of the affected nations could also be waging a fight against terrorists and must first confront this most potent and real threat of terrorism. The war on terrorism in itself manifests unprecedented advancements in the dimensions of conflict and has been characterized in many ways. It has been called a new type of war, where the enemy is not a defined entity but a movement and as a war of ideas against extremism and without any borders. War is a social institution that evolves along with changes in societies, political entities and technologies; if a nation is to maintain its security, it must also look beyond the war on terror and prepare itself for the ascension of 5GW.
Realizing the threat, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said on Defence Day, “We are facing the challenge that has been imposed on us in the form of fifth generation or hybrid war. Its purpose is to discredit the country and its armed forces and spread chaos. We are well aware of this danger. We will surely succeed in winning this war with the cooperation of the nation, by the will of Almighty Allah.” The primary objective of the nefarious activities is to mar the credibility of the state, create a wedge between the army and the executive, create mass unrest and portray Pakistan unsafe for foreign investment and as a failed state. Such wars are supported by external powers to fuel identity conflicts, such as Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, provoking Balochistan insurgency or terrorism in whole Pakistan. Indian intelligence agencies are actively involved in a bid to destabilize Pakistan. The Balochistan issue is an example of India’s hybrid warfare against Pakistan.
India’s intention is to disrupt the CPEC and development in Balochistan in future. Different external actors are also involved in efforts to destabilize Pakistan, such as America and Western countries and some regional countries also fund separatists and harbour them. The Ajit Doval doctrine indicates India’s hybrid warfare ambitions against Pakistan. It envisages engaging Pakistan at three levels – defensive, defensive-offensive and offensive. Hybrid war already has been waged against Pakistan, especially in Balochistan, where India is fueling the fire. Indian efforts to blacklist Pakistan in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and get it tagged as a terror sponsoring state is yet another form of economic blackmailing to get strategic leverage. The Pakistan army fully understands the hidden motives and objectives of international defamation campaigns. The army has effectively tackled Karachi’s lawlessness and successfully fought and defeated two insurgencies in Balochistan and ex-FATA.
Pakistan has already made huge sacrifices in the fight against terrorism. In 2013, 5,379 Pakistanis were martyred in terrorist attacks, followed by 5,496 in 2014; 3,682 in 2015; 1,830 in 2016 and 924 in 2017. Hurting the economy, forcing a change of regime, creating problems for the armed forces, engineering inflation, unemployment, corruption; weakening state institutions, sponsoring terrorism and sowing discord among the adversary are some of the important tools of 5GW. Pakistan’s enemies are applying all the tools.
Alongside its valiant armed forces, the entire nation is ready to effectively respond to the Indian tactic of hybrid warfare. Pakistan is the sixth largest contributor to the United Nations peacekeeping efforts, with 5,083 personnel deployed overseas. Other foreign deployments consist of Pakistan military personnel serving as military advisers in African and Arab countries. The Pakistan military has maintained combat divisions and brigade-strength presence in some of the Arab countries during the Arab-Israel wars, aided the coalition forces in the first Gulf war, and took part in the Somali and Bosnian conflicts. Realizing the importance of fifth generation fighter aircraft, the PAF is capable of refueling F-16, Mirage III, Mirage-V, JF-17, and FC-20 fighters.
The myth of isolating Pakistan is fading away with increasing interests of various countries in joining the CPEC. The enemy is targeting Pakistan from within through extremists and terrorists. After the overt nuclearization of Pakistan, any conventional war adventure will be too costly for its adversaries. Fighting the hybrid war against Pakistan under the rubric of nuclear weapons has become a preferred strategy by its enemies.
India has once again threatened peace in the region by revoking the special status of occupied Kashmir, which is an internationally accepted dispute. The armed forces of Pakistan are fully equipped, vigilant and aware. 5GW is a quite interesting development in this swiftly changing paradigm of war affairs, where non-state actors fight against nation-states out of sheer frustration with vague objectives.