The whole of the nation By Ahsan Iqbal

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COAS Gen Bajwa in his remarks to the Corp Commanders Conference has once again reiterated that 5th Generation Warfare (5GW) and hybrid application against Pakistan’s vital interests must be safeguarded.

Hybrid warfare uses capabilities not normally associated with war. Such techniques are intended to delay recognition that an attack is underway, paralyse decision-making through confusion and discourage the victim from responding forcefully due to the absence of ‘legitimate’ military targets. The goal is to erode economic strength; undermine the legitimacy of key institutions; encourage social and political discord through fake news; and weaken the bonds between nations and international organisations.

5GW involves a combination of modern weapons, artificial intelligence, diplomatic muscles, and cyber and space capabilities. The erosion of economic strength is probably the most important cross-cutting element and the hardest to reverse once it is accomplished.

Hybrid war’s prime objective is to destabilise the enemy by targeting critical activities or operations distributed across the political, economic, social, military, information and infrastructure spectrum which, if hit, could lead to a disruption in the functioning of a state, its society or the institutions it depends on. The stakeholders are either put to sleep or blinded with turf fights to lose sight of the bigger picture. Hybrid war doesn’t rely on firepower but on brainpower, with information used as a major weapon through digital platforms.

Pakistan faces critical security challenges and our adversaries are using all possible tactics to hurt us a nation. Therefore, it is important that we address Pakistan’s security challenges with utmost seriousness and objectivity.

Our adversaries will exploit existing fault-lines in our society by dividing us as a nation. These fault lines are not created in vacuum but emanate from the mismanagement of economic, political and social issues of our country. For example, the economic policies of the past two years have indebted Pakistan at an unprecedented scale with non-productive debt. The PTI government has borrowed more money in two years in deficit financing as compared to the PML-N government’s total borrowing during its five years. Not to mention, the PML-N borrowing was for large-scale energy and infrastructure projects.

In sharp contrast, the current government’s borrowing is for unproductive purposes and can throw the country into a debt trap. Pakistan’s economic growth is one of the lowest in South Asia since Imran Khan came into power.

Political polarization is one of the biggest fissures in our society. While the PML-N tried to build a consensus on key issues like CPEC and the National Action Plan and avoided all forms of political victimization of its opponents during its tenure, the PTI government has registered new records of political victimization against its critics. It has built flimsy cases against anyone who dares to speak up against the supreme leader of the PTI. The latest is the sedition case against the entire leadership of the PML-N including the AJK PM. As a result, today Pakistan is at the brink of political catastrophe due to the authoritarian tendencies of the PM Imran Khan. The recent crackdown on opposition political parties, journalists, media owners, civil society activists, judges and lawyers is evidence of these authoritarian tendencies.

During the PML-N government, a large segment of media was running concocted campaigns against our government but we did not arrest their owners. At worst, we boycotted those channels – which was our democratic right. I remember Imran Khan said during his 2014 infamous dharna that he would imprison Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman when in power because he did not like the Jang/Geo group’s work. Today, as you are reading this, the editor in chief and owner of Jang/Geo is behind bars on a flimsy case from the 1980s. If anyone still cannot see that Pakistan is quickly moving towards neo-fascism then it might be too late when you do realize this.

Who can disagree with me that if we leave up to Imran Khan, he would establish lifetime tenure for himself and brazenly use state institutions to eliminate all political opposition and media and civil society critics?

Pakistan’s adversaries can easily exploit the growing cracks in our society which have deepened under the current regime, and will get worse if this rule persists. Pakistan is becoming an easy target of hybrid warfare day by day. To fight off this war, all the stakeholders of the country need to pause and reflect.

Pakistan needs to fight this hybrid war with an effective strategy. I propose one such strategy. I call it a ‘whole-of-nation approach’ which can help us build an inclusive Pakistan. By a whole-of-nation approach, stable and inclusive politics, robust economy, harmonious society, independent and performing judiciary, efficient government, shrewd diplomacy and a capable and smart (tech savvy) military force can provide strong foundations for any state to successfully face the challenges of 5G Hybrid War.

There are five salient features of this approach in light of our 1973 constitution. One, democratic and inclusive politics where criticism is not equated to treason and state institutions do not become a tool of oppression in the hands of any PM. State intuitions must represent the interest of every Pakistani irrespective of his/her political affiliation and they need to make a conscious effort to dispel any notion of partisanship.

Smaller provinces have complained in the past of deprivation but now there is a growing sense of alienation even in the largest province of Pakistan, Punjab, where the mandate of people was mutilated to hand over power to the PTI in 2018. Since the 2018 elections have become most controversial, a fresh mandate through a fair, free and transparent election has become inevitable.

Second, urgently prioritize an inclusive growth-based economy, where economic growth and fair distribution of resources is prioritized. Economic security is the most important driver of national power. A low growth, high inflation path is a disaster. We need two million new jobs each year to cater for new labour entering the job market, which can only happen with 6-8 percent GDP growth rates. Pakistan Vision 2025 provides a detailed framework on this issue.

Third, protecting and promoting independent judiciary, media and civil society. A judicial reforms package including criteria for the appointment of judges on pure merit in consultation with all stakeholders should be chalked out. Fourth, shrewd diplomacy which prioritizes the long-term interest of Pakistan, rather than the ad hoc diplomacy which is currently having a field day under PTI government. The Foreign Office should be revamped from a reactive mode to a proactive economic diplomacy mode.

Last but not least, a professional, savvy and non-partisan military is integral for the security and prosperity of Pakistan. Our militaristic strength is built upon the sacrifices of many generations. Our jawans and officers defeated terrorism like no other military did. No political controversy should cast shadows on them. It would not be wrong to say that Imran Khan and his party are intelligently promoting a perception among the public that the military sees his party as a preferred choice. This impression alienates the majority of Pakistanis who do not support the PTI. Therefore, this impression needs to be dispelled – not by silencing those who raise this point, but by carefully listening to their concerns and addressing them. As democratic, patriotic and peace-loving citizens, we should not allow Imran Khan to sabotage the social contract between state and society.

The writer is an MNA and former minister for interior, planning, development and reforms.

Email: betterpakistan@gmail. com

Twitter: @betterpakistan