Pakistan Army’s Shift to Sub-Conventional Warfare

12 Jan

Sub-conventional or unconventional warfare includes anything that lies between the exclusion of ‘peace-talks’ and under the threshold of war. Defence analysts and experts from around the world argue that limited conflicts are likely to cause serious threat to states in the future. The Pakistan army has finally realized ‘home grown’ militancy as the major threat to the country. The military rightly calls such low intensity skirmishes, a product of ‘foreign proxies’ in the country. Before this the focus of Pakistan army had converged at conventional warfare. Even the foreign policy of Pakistan had been overshadowed by the threat from the Eastern border. The recognition being given to non-state actors and unidentified militant groups in the border regions of Pakistan can help it to combat the menace of ‘extremism’.

Pakistan’s association with extremism, militancy, jihadist elements has fomented since it entered the war against terrorism after 9/11. This dragged the country into more complex matrices like ‘bigotry’ and ‘sectarian clashes’. What the interchangeable civilian and military autocracies failed to do for the past 65 years was the identification of root causes associated with specific extremist organizations operating within the premises of the country. Without confronting the prevalent sub-conventional threats, the army took the perilous path of assisting the United States. The implications are quite obvious today as extremism is growing at an exponential rate in Pakistan. Not only this, but our image as a country has been tarnished and distorted in an unfair manner.

Another mistake on part of our ‘defence-military strategists’ has been the strict attention to the Eastern border. Considering India as enemy number 1 wasn’t akin to intelligible defence of the country on all the fronts. In 2010, the perceived arch-rival and immediate neighbour, India also adopted a doctrine of some similar nature. Named as ‘Cold Start’ (CS), this doctrine of Indian military stressed upon countering ‘proxy war’. Mostly it was interpreted as a strategic deployment against terrorists activities unleashing from India. Even if it was, the indoctrination of such a concept was militarily correct. On the other hand, as Stephen P Cohen has perceptively highlighted that Pakistan had always negated the need for sub-conventional warfare by ‘launching a people’s war against India’. Consequently, the country failed to segregate between the conventional and sub conventional threats. It had long been engaged in attempt to comply with the ‘mullahs’ in order to defeat home grown militants. Later on, the foreign intervention found the Pakistani soil ripe for nurturing the uninterrupted extremism.

This doctrine should have been introduced earlier on when the General (retd) Pervez Musharraf left the country. It was largely during the Musharraf era that the country wavered to and fro between militancy and extremism at one end and the foreign proxy wars at the other. The latest stance taken by the military is a hopeful sign for the nation. However, the essential thing is that all the defence institutions should be on the same page for its implementation. There should be multi-prong strategy to train Pakistani army for counter-insurgency, without forgetting the conventional warfare. As Major Asim Saleem Bajwa aptly states that: “Army prepares for all forms of threats. Sub-conventional threat is a reality and is a part of a threat matrix faced by our country. But it doesn’t mean that the conventional threat has receded.” This explicitly depicts the army’s concern for non-state actors in Balochistan along with the expansion of defence from Eastern to Western borders. This approach has become more relevant after the overt raid of US NAVY SEALs in Abbottabad.
The army has signalled towards the Western threat as well while explaining the new doctrine.

Military needs to assess the immediate concerns for accoutring army men with the long-standing significance and intellectual dimension of sub conventional warfare. Historically, the lessons should have been learnt after the tragic events of 1971 when East Pakistan Rifles coupled with conspirators instigating Bengalis converted a sub conventional threat into a conventional war. But as it is said: “better late than never”

English: Contrasting Conventional & Irregular ...

English: Contrasting Conventional & Irregular Warfare (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Posted by on January 12, 2013 in Political Ticker


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7 responses to “Pakistan Army’s Shift to Sub-Conventional Warfare

  1. noma47

    March 19, 2013 at 12:01 am

    The civilians are not asking Army to intervene. Every time Army comes on its own and every time it showed as if it is the only savior of the nation. In 1950s Pakistan was progressing by leaps and bounds but why General Ayub interfered? There was no strong reason at that time.
    You are saying why MQM or ANP is not blamed? It is a fact that Army supported MQM in every tenure. Either it was ZIa ul Haq or Pervez Musharraf – both of these Army Chiefs supported MQM. Rather it was political government of PPP, which launched operation in Karachi in mid-1990s and Karachi became peaceful. However, this time priorities of every institution have changed. By and large, this time we should give credit to Pak Army for not showing any adventurism.

  2. amjadbullo

    January 12, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Madam in my opinion army should take interest in this matter . this is totly responsibility of province government . who has the large amount of force like police , ranger , fc and other irregular forces they can treat well madam .

    • Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

      January 12, 2013 at 6:54 pm

      Amjad I agree, but presently all the authorities you have mentioned have failed to save the lives of innocent civilians in Quetta (Balochistan).

      This is the latest message on social media from a person in Quetta who is witnessing Balochistan’s deadliest day:

      “I request you all to take a moment and read this. My friend is in Quetta and she sent a chunk of messages explaining what’s going on right now after the gruesome attacks. The friends and family of the dead are outside sitting in the freezing cold of Quetta for the past ten hours. No one from the government has arrived at the scene. She says the stench of blood and flesh permeates the air but no one has moved an inch. They have explained their demands clearly; That they be provided with security from extremist attacks, that their killers be arrested without delay. She says the women are sitting outside with their children as well. The streets, she says, echo with screaming, wailing and endless pleas and begging. In the end, my friend says: “I wish you could hear it all.” Our government’s priority is, as we all know, centered on everything but actual human life. But we can relay her voice to others. Perhaps this way we can pressurize our ‘leaders’ to do something. Let the world know, please.”

    • Sohaib

      March 18, 2013 at 12:45 pm

      To all who want army to take part in politics and other matters, we are highly engaged in other sensitive internal affairs. Why dont you try to be more educated and learn how to cast votes for the right man instead of following the family affiliations blindly? Like the Balochistan incidents and Karachi blasts, have some one spoken about the truth directly? Can some one blame MQM, ANP and PPP to be directly responsible for Karachi’s conditions? For all of you, truth requires to be spoken in direct and clear words. Vague statements never serve the right cause. And Miss Fakiha, Why cant we try to keep our internal affairs internal? Is it necessary to boast in front of the whole world and show how much miserable we are. Miss! Our misery is our own incompetence and we need not to boast it. Moreover do you or others know how many kills Mafia scores in NY or DC or in other cities due to gang wars? These facts are not taken into account. World is not a big supporter of our and matters will only worsen for our security if we will keep on boasting out incompetence (miseries).

      • Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

        March 18, 2013 at 3:05 pm

        Thank you Mr Sohaib for dropping by your valuable comments. I agree that the army is and should be concerned about much sensitive issue pertaining to security and defense. However, projection of miseries wasn’t the intention or purpose of this write up or any other opinion that I pen down. It depends on an individuals’ perception or outlook towards different things. I think that highlighting issues in their appropriate context serves to counter the manipulation, on the basis of which we are being viewed by the world.

  3. aiman

    January 12, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    umm will it lead to army operating to root out terrorism within cities.i mean change in doctrine is well and good but what steps are more likely to be taken by army to work on the new doctrine 🙂

    • Fakiha Hassan Rizvi

      January 12, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      This is something to be seen. They aren’t taking any bold steps for the killing of Hazara community in Balochistan, even when they have the “DOCTRINE” now. They should treat sectarian strife as a skirmish as well.


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