The newest entrant in the lexicon of warfare Hybrid warfare, has spread to almost all parts of the world today. While it is a challenge for the military and the civilian bureaucracy, increasingly the frontline in both kinetic and non-kinetic warfare is the prime civilian law enforcement agencies (LEAs), the police service. This new generation warfare has only become popular after Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014. Earlier the US had used the mobs in the “Orange Revolution” to topple the government in Ukraine. Its historical pedigree goes back to the fifth century BC when Sparta went to war with Athens, consider also the Arthashastra written about 2400 years ago.
Conducted by a combination of non-military and military means, one of the best definitions of Hybrid warfare is given by the new European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats in Helsinki, to quote: “Coordinated and synchronized action, that deliberately targets democratic states’ and institutions’ systemic vulnerabilities, through a wide range of means (political, economic, military, civil, and information),” as well as “activities exploit the thresholds of detection and attribution as well as the border between war and peace.” The aim is to “influence different forms of decision-making at the local (regional), state, or institutional level to favor and/or gain the agent’s strategic goals while undermining and/or hurting the target.”
India has been providing material resources as well as intellectual and media support to dissidents and radicalized groups in Balochistan and elsewhere in Pakistan since the early 80s. In March 2016 a serving Commander in the Indian Naval Kulbhushan Jhadev was arrested in Balochistan and confessed to subversive activities inside Pakistan. The attack on the Chinese Consulate General in Karachi in Nov last, foiled by the Sindh Police, was masterminded by Indian RAW and Afghan KHAD. The virulent anti-CPEC campaign unleashed by India and hostile elements aims to deprive Pakistan of its benefits by sowing doubts and creating controversies and mistrust, particularly among locals of Balochistan.
Hybrid wars must be won before they are even fought. Not having the sophisticated infrastructure or enhanced capability to deter this type of threat, countries like Pakistan are vulnerable. Conditions need to be created to deny the enemy an effective use of hybrid tactics. The first priority would be to establish good governance at the local and national level, people need to feel they are being governed well to be less susceptible to enemy disinformation and propaganda campaigns. Secondly, economic freedom is a must; people must feel they have economic stability and a bright future for their children. An important part of countering hybrid threats is to pursue pro-growth policies that will help in growth of economic prosperity. Lastly, there has to be a bond of trust and respect between the common man and our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, particularly the Police, unfortunately this is not the case in Pakistan where the Police is more feared than respected. People need to believe they are being policed fairly and that the police are not overstepping their bounds, this way society will become more resilient against hybrid tactics. The Police force is more often than not the first line of defense, a capable and professional service can mitigate the effectiveness of enemy agents.
Pakistan is rife with historical, ethnic, religious, socio-economic, and geographic differences, that can be manipulated to engineer violence and set a hybrid war scenario in motion. The capacity and operational ability of the police needs to be strengthened to act against irregular and hostile unidentified armed formations that fight incognito to paralyze the authority of state and the government. Legislative conditions have to be created to ensure that our police force can be rapidly reinforced on a national scale by the military in their fight against unidentified armed formations at a time when the state has not formally been declared a war. There is also an obvious need to create awareness about hybrid warfare among the population and the state institutions of Pakistan. For that there is a need to create or restore trust in the government, the media, the Police, etc. Being the first responder in times of any emergency the Police can play an effective role in combatting hybrid warfare. They have the on-ground resources that no other law enforcement agencies can ever hope to have, they have eyes and ears in almost every nook and cranny under their jurisdiction. They can be extremely effective to expose those spreading propaganda and agents provocateurs aiming to harm Pakistan. In the supreme national interest they must be mandated by the government to deter hybrid tactics or at the very least reduce their effectiveness.
Extracts from a talk given by the author at the Sindh Police Retreat and Workshop recently in Karachi.