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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Unrest and Cyber Warfare: Pakistan’s Chaotic Struggle

In the midst of a deteriorating law and order situation, corruption and enemy spies plague the country. With an arsenal of over 100 nuclear weapons, Pakistan teeters on the brink of a civil war as a scheming neighbor, backed by a superpower, seeks to inflict a coup de grace.

Imagine a scenario where an urbanized country is in the throes of a chaotic uprising. Political instability and corruption have led to an ever-deteriorating law and order situation in this 21st Century “Kingdom of Denmark” – bordering on civil war. Enemy spies have infiltrated the high places. Bedrooms of the ruling elite are infested with small-time prostitutes masquerading as socialites, media anchors, and pseudo-intellectuals.

Under such circumstances, a scheming neighbor, with active support from a superpower, tries to inflict a coup de grace on the target country. There is a problem though. The target country is a lame nuclear power. No matter how fragile the political situation in this “Never-Never Land” may be, it is sitting on the powder keg of a 100+ nuclear arsenal. We are talking about present-day Pakistan, and the scheming country in question is none other than India, backed by the U.S., India’s strategic ally. What to do?

Kinetic war, also known as a conventional war, deals with military actions involving active warfare, including lethal force. The phrase is used to contrast conventional military force and “soft” force, including diplomacy, sanctions, and cyber warfare. The Order of battle of an armed force participating in a kinetic military operation or campaign shows the hierarchical organization, command structure, strength, disposition of personnel, and equipment of units and formations of the armed force. 

Read more: Pakistan’s current crisis and India

Understanding the matter better

Warfare, during the first quarter of the 21st Century, is transitioning fast from a kinetic to a non-kinetic dimension. Not that the non-kinetic dimension of warfare was missing earlier. However, it is presently becoming the dominant form of fighting between the nations. The hot war will gradually become a corollary to the cold war. However, the hot war will remain an instrument to achieve the coup de grace- the final blow on the battlefield. 

In that sense, future wars will end even before they start. If that be the case, the order of battle between the warring armies will not only include comparative strengths of the contestants and the dispositions of their formations and units, but also the “soft” force, including diplomacy, power to slap military as well as financial sanctions against the adversary, and cyber warfare. 

Talking about cyber warfare, the world has witnessed, how, in the not-too-distant past, Israel used computer malware against Iran’s Uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. The Israeli operation which was code-named “Olympic Games,” was a cyber-attack disclosed during the Obama administration that disabled nearly 1,000 centrifuges at Natanz. That attack was believed to have set back Iran’s enrichment activities by many months. 

I have mentioned earlier how, in 1968, Ayub Khan’s regime was destabilized by a surge of inconsequential events which now appear to have been part of a non-kinetic operation to topple him. The peaceful processions started by Rawalpindi’s Gordon College students to protest against the ham-handedness of customs officials soon snowballed into a countrywide agitation. It was the cloud burst uprising that removed Ayub Khan from office. Such a scenario, blurring the lines between the kinetic and non-kinetic forms of warfare, is unfolding itself in Pakistan.

Read more: Revisiting the Kartarpur Diplomacy

Effects Based Operation (EBO) is a U.S.-conceived method of warfare. It is designed to bypass a kinetic war. Pakistan is an urbanized country whose population relies on national networks vulnerable to disruption and manipulation. 

An EBO will break down Pakistan’s critical systems, eliminating critical nodes within its electricity, communications, transportation, military, and industrial systems. This will cease all governmental and economic functions in Pakistan, shutting them off till the regime changes. We have seen this happening during the last few days when the government shut down the nationwide internet network. 

“My salary is not enough to meet expenses,” Muhammad Junaid, a ride-hailing service provider told a media interviewer. “I must work for Bykea (the ride-hailing startup), to provide for my family. The suspension of internet services has hit hard the  small earners like Junaid whose rides are booked on the app. And the app needs the internet. A similar predicament is faced by thousands of low-wage earners providing home-delivery services to households. 

Severe internet connectivity issues were reported across the country’s big cities in the week following the arrest of a popular politician on cooked-up charges. Protests erupted throughout the country after the arrest. Many cities witnessed violence. Telecom companies alone have reported a loss of 150+ crores during the first three days of the shutdown alone. 

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority reported last Tuesday that mobile broadband services had been suspended at the direction of the interior ministry. The politician concerned was ordered to be released on Thursday after the country’s top court termed his arrest illegal. However, the mobile broadband shutdown was not lifted.

What may follow? The forces of unrest arming and actively supporting ethnic agitators, Bohemians, and anarchists. Attacks on security installations point towards this. The mayhem is directed to turn sections of the country into autonomous zones resulting in the crippling of the command-and-control apparatus. The government has already lost its moral authority. It will eventually collapse, bringing in a new power structure with its peculiar dynamics.

 

Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.