- Challenging Unity: Recent events, such as the PTM gathering, and external endorsements highlight targeted efforts to undermine the unity of the Pakistan army’s command, a cornerstone of the nation’s stability.
- Role of Afghan Refugees: The increased involvement of Afghan nationals in potentially disruptive activities raises concerns, necessitating a review of our policy on their citizenship and the security implications of their unchecked integration.
- Strengthening Defenses: In the face of modern hybrid warfare, it’s paramount that we bolster our intelligence networks, equip law enforcement with state-of-the-art tools, and adapt training modules to counter both traditional and unconventional threats.
Though I traditionally sidestep political discussions in favor of a strategic viewpoint, recent events targeting the Pakistan army and its unity of command compel me to address the current climate. The bedrock of a nation, the unity of command in any country’s military, is paramount. For Pakistan, especially, it serves as a shield against external attempts to disrupt internal harmony.
Last week, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) held a gathering in Islamabad. Leaders such as Manzoor Pashteen, Ali Wazir, and Eman Mazari openly criticized the Pakistan army and its Unity of Command. Alarmingly, many attendees were believed to be Afghan refugees, with some allegedly being brought from Afghanistan specifically for this purpose. Following this event, the former Afghan vice president, AmrUlAllah Saleh, expressed support for the PTM. His tweet further fuels suspicions about external forces influencing such gatherings.
The PTM, purportedly backed by groups like the TTP terror organization, poses significant concerns. Many who align with the PTM seem to overlook the steadfast role the Pakistan army plays in guarding against destabilization attempts, akin to what we’ve seen in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Sudan. The Russia-Ukraine conflict further exemplifies the necessity of a strong defense.
Historical attempts to undermine Pakistan’s stability, such as unsuccessful enemy proxies in Swat, FATA, Baluchistan, and Karachi, have transitioned into a more insidious approach: erode the unity of the Pakistan army’s command. A decade ago, British analyst Anatol Lieven underscored this sentiment, suggesting Pakistan’s stability hinges on the integrity of its army, a sentiment he detailed in “Pakistan: A Hard Country.”
Today, platforms like the PTM, backed by a mix of local political actors, Afghan refugees, and groups like the TTP, are seemingly being used to challenge Pakistan’s military. The utilization of popular sentiment has become the crux of this new-age warfare. For instance, previous movements harnessed societal issues — the MQM movement capitalized on the quota system, while the TTP in Swat advocated for Shariah law. Now, PTM’s Pashteen reportedly uses the hardships faced due to the war on terror as a rallying cry, with the potential danger of leveraging genuine grievances for ulterior motives.
In today’s digital age, social media has become a battleground, and any efforts to destabilize the unity of the Pakistan army’s command must be addressed head-on. Particularly troubling is the alleged involvement of Afghan refugees in destructive activities, from street riots to property vandalism. It’s evident some refugees, while seeking shelter in Pakistan, might be manipulated into playing a role against their host nation.
It’s high time we rethink our policy on Afghan nationals. How are they obtaining Pakistani passports and IDs? Shouldn’t there be stricter vetting? The concept of birthright citizenship might need revisiting, leaning instead towards an ancestry domicile requirement.
Furthermore, the state needs to amplify resources for our intelligence networks. Equipping them with modern technology, rigorous training, and enhancing the capabilities of our civil law enforcement agencies are non-negotiable. Given the evolving nature of hybrid warfare, even our police forces need specialized training to respond swiftly to unconventional threats.
In conclusion, Pakistan stands at a crucial juncture. It’s imperative that we reinforce our unity, trust our armed forces, and remain vigilant against both overt and covert threats to our sovereignty