Challenges for Pakistan

By: Hamid Waheed  

The present era of science and technology has squeezed the world into a global village. The warfare has shifted its objectives from the capture of ground and killing of enemy to the capture of hearts and minds of people and use the targets as slaves to suit own its agenda. The role of media and psychological operations takes a lead over military operations. The myth of psychological warfare (PSYWAR) to support military operations has taken a 180 degree turn and now is used as a mainstay, while a military operation only supports to achieve the psychological objectives. The main supporting components of the army, air force and navy are replaced by the media, intelligence and covert ground operations to win the hearts and minds of the target population through building and harnessing perceptions. These perceptions are the tools used to confuse the target population, but they fail to recognise the difference between friend and foe.

In this context, the Pak-US relations are based on their national interests. The objectives seemed converging till the recent past. The statements of US officials in Pentagon and State Department praised the role of Pakistan’s security forces and its intelligence agency in the so-called war on terror. The Mullen-Kayani understanding has been widely discussed. During the decade-long anti-terrorism campaign, Pakistan has killed and arrested more than 400 Al-Qaeda affiliates, including Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, Faraj-al-Libbi and Umer Patik, at the cost of huge human and material losses and it is a fact that the world recognises.

However, the increased role of foreign intelligence agencies and media operators inside Pakistan and their use to limit Islamabad’s options and decisions in its national interest has now emerged as an apple of discord. Nevertheless, the handling of Pak-US relations by the administration in Washington, especially after the Raymond Davis fiasco and Osama’s killing in Abbottabad, show emerging difficulties in the foreseeable future. Such distrust at this crucial time – that is, the US/NATO forces’ exit from Afghanistan – has regional as well as global implications.

Meanwhile, the statement issued after USA’s operation in Abbottabad by Jiang Yu, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswomen, reflects international concerns. She said: “China holds that the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of any country should be respected….We will continue to support Pakistan in instituting their own anti-terrorism strategies and carrying them out based on their domestic situation, and we appreciate Pakistan’s active participation in the international anti-terrorism cooperation.” Hence, Pakistan as a nation needs to focus on the unfolding of events, know the foreign interests and differentiate between facts and perceptions.

So if we follow the shaping of events for the media and the intelligence agencies of Pakistan, and keep filling the mosaic with happenings, a clear picture may emerge. Open source intelligence (OSINT) and the study of think-tanks is no more an intellectual discourse based on hallucinations. The faction of the society taking such studies as conspiracy theory may revisit the ground realities. The present happenings require the acceptance of a new warfare environment and its demands. For instance, Selig S. Harrison, who predicted the 1965 Indo-Pak war 18 months before the balloons went up and is currently member of the Afghan study group, discussed the US interests in a seminar held in April 2011. He said that Washington has strategic interests in Balochistan for its oil supply. Besides, an independent Balochistan will reinforce USA’s South Asia policy oriented to India, which will help to keep a check on China and Iran in the region.”

Then one of the objectives of the Kerry-Lugar Bill for aid to Pakistan being projected by the US is “support for the promotion of a responsible, capable, and independent media.” According to the report dated February 27, 2010: “The Obama administration plans to spend nearly $50 million on the Pakistani media this year to reverse anti-American sentiments and raise awareness of projects aimed at improving the quality of life, confirms a Washington insider.” Consequently, the same issue came into the limelight during a controversy over the massive expansion plans of the US Embassy in Islamabad. The construction of a large size media cell was being considered inside the proposed complex. However, the issue of visa to undercover journalists and so-called businessmen through already neutralised channels is yet another issue.

Same is the case with the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI). The first attack was repulsed when a move to restrict its functioning was effectively checked. I have reproduced the following extract from an article of December 2008 that said: “With barely a month left for US President-elect Barack Obama to officially enter the White House, influential Democrat Senator and likely next head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, made it clear that the Obama administration will ask the Pakistan government to bring the ISI firmly under civilian control.”

Yet, the ISI played an effective role to control the CIA contractors after the Davis issue and a large number of them were asked to leave Pakistan. The obvious pressure was felt and the reaction could be assessed from General Kayani’s statements. During his address to the PMA cadets in April, the General said: “Pakistan Army is fully aware of the internal and external threats to the country and will come up to the expectations of the nation.” Again on Youm-e-Shuhada he said: “There should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the people of Pakistan and army are one single entity. Our real national strength is unity, mutual trust and perseverance. Our national resolve is quite evident from the sacrifices and support the public has extended to the army in our fight against terrorism….We fully realise that only a prosperous Pakistan is a guarantee for a stronger Pakistan. Therefore, all our efforts should be towards making our people prosperous and secure. But we cannot sacrifice our honour and dignity for the sake of prosperity.” General Kayani’s assessments indeed highlight two important areas: The public and the army, and no more compromises on the country’s honour and dignity.

It was against this backdrop that the world saw USA’s unilateral action in Abbottabad and the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. CIA Chief Leon Panetta said that Osama’s presence is either due to sheer incompetence or connivance of Pakistan’s intelligence. The trust deficit between the partners touches the peak. A breach of 120kms inside Pakistan’s territory to kill Osama is indeed a matter of grave concern for which voices are being raised demanding an inquiry into the matter. It seems that the US has extracted some important information from the shared sources of the ISI and CIA that led to the Al-Qaeda leader through double crossing. The biggest vulnerability that Pakistan faces now is that some of its own assets may have been exposed or double crossed and could be used to blackmail it in the coming days.

However, the failure of our air defence system to respond certainly raises doubts. Ernest K. Gann, a US army pilot and famous writer of the early nineteenth century, wrote: “If we slide into one of those rare moments of military honesty, we realise that the technical demands of modern warfare are so complex that a considerable percentage of our material is bound to malfunction even before it is deployed against a foe.” The systems are deployed in layers to ensure that some elements of information do manage to alert, which has been the practice in recent past, even during a 10km or a five-minute violation. The electronic systems are reinforced with human elements wherein even a lowest commander in a border post is trained to immediately report a violation or activity in real time. So why such a credible system failed needs scrutiny.

Accountability is the way to progress for any institution or nation, but we must understand which type of investigation will help Pakistan and its army, which remains as one of the few credible institutions of the nation, and what will help the foreign agenda that is being resisted for years now. The leadership, both civilian and military, has to move with caution, but on solid footings.

(The writer is a freelance columnist).


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  • Tasneem Hassan  On May 21, 2011 at 8:58 am

    MEDIA of Pakistan is used as most effective weapon of CULTURAL Invasion. Anchors are serving the TV Channels. They are payed to say what means to the owner of the channel. Media has badly failed to promote Pakistani culture. Religious Scholars are divided and became pressure groups. Tehreek Nifaz E Jafreya, JUI or JI are Business tycoon and do not want to let any other school of thought exist. Mezar prastee and Naat Khwanee is promoted by majority (like Hindus). Importance of Quran and Understanding Quran through Hadees is prevailing no where. Iqbal (thinker of Pakistan) does not exist in books or syllabus of any class.

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