Hybrid warfare and new social media rules


Dr Muhammad Khan

THE Indian Chronicles exposed by EU DisinfoLab indicates the level of its deep dive against Pakistan. This 15-year long operation spreading over to 119 states is a clear form of hybrid warfare against Pakistan. It is indeed the disinformation campaign against Pakistan and Pakistani contribution towards regional and global peace. The hybrid warfare is the new and future battlefield where nation states would confront each other by using new and innovative technologies. This warfare is all about the new military strategy which indeed employs all means to subvert and win over the rival. In fact it is a blend of military and political warfare which make use of conventional and unconventional means, cyber warfare, the irregular warfare and other means for influencing the target areas.
Spreading fake news, making use of diplomatic means, using lawfare and even the usage of foreign electoral intervention are some of the instruments of hybrid warfare. In recent years, the social media has proved to be the most effective tool in the promotion and advancement of hybrid warfare. For the past few years, Pakistan has been the target of this warfare. In the name of freedom of information and freedom of expression, there have been some vested groups and lobbies which used the social media and even the mainstream media against the interests of state and society.
In order to regulate and control the misuse of social media, the Government has announced new social media rules. The Information Ministry has notified the new rules as, “Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight and Safeguards) Rules (RBUOC) 2020”. These rules are framed under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA). As per these rules all the internet service providers (ISPs) are placed at par with social media companies (SMCs). Under the new rules, all the requirements of the social media platforms have been applied to the ISPs as well.
In the light of these rules, it will be obligatory for SMCs “to establish a permanent registered office, with a physical address preferably in Islamabad, within nine months.” Indeed, in the past, some of the SMCs were earning in billions from Pakistan without physical presence or main offices in the country. As per new RBUOC rules these companies will have to appoint a focal person in Pakistan to coordinate with authorities for compliance of the law of the land. Indeed, Pakistan should not be a free space to be used by any one as per the vested interests of others.
It is worth mentioning that in the realm of power politics, the hybrid warfare has been under debate both in military circle and political circles since last few years. Though the concept is not new, however the strategies used are new and highly technological in nature. Pakistan is a classic example, physically facing the hybrid warfare, launched by its traditional eastern rival and its cold war ally right from the beginning of 21st Century. Just for the information of the readers, it is underlined that disintegration of Pakistan on December 16, 1971 was the result of hybrid warfare of India. It was low level hybrid warfare in East Pakistan which influenced the perception of the people of former East Pakistan. From December 16, 1971 to December 16, 2020, Pakistan has learnt a lot, however, there are issues of regularization and implementation.
In this regard, an article is quoted here; entitled as, ‘The PTM in Pakistan another Bangladesh in the Making’ by Taha Siddiqui. This article is an opinion making write-up aims at betraying the literate youth about the future of Pakistan. This article and many such write-ups together aim at creating a mind-set among the Pashtun youth that PTM is fighting for their rights and would ultimately give them a new homeland with new avenues for their progression. The article highlights that Pashtuns have been bearing the brunt of the war on terror for nearly two decades. The truth is that once Pakistani military started carrying out operations to clear the area from terrorists the locals were more cooperative and wanted to get rid of these unwanted elements. Pashtun officers and men form the backbone of Pakistani Military They were well aware of local customs, traditions and language and played a decisive role in defeating the terrorism and combating the foreigners, who made the locals as hostage.
Rather betraying the youth and innocent people, they should be told that Pakistan has national military which protect and safeguard them against the physical aggression of enemies and also safeguard the ideological and nationalist domains. In the past few years, an element of hatred has been created against the defence forces of Pakistan through undesired slogans and defamation campaign. In fact there is no gulf between the people and Pakistani military. Through defamation campaigns and misuse of social media the foes of Pakistan desire to convert this gift of Allah Almighty (Pakistan) into dysfunctional state or else like Libya, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
In the last few years through the use of hybrid warfare, launched through social media, some of mainstream media groups and human rights organizations, the hostile forces are widely influencing the masses particularly the youth. They are propagating pessimistic narratives against Pakistan through social media. Therefore, let’s not be carried away by the vested interests of these groups in the name of freedom of information and freedom of expression. Have these groups shown any meaningful concerns for the oppressed and besieged people of IIOJK. Therefore, the new rules (RBUOC-2020) announced by Government of Pakistan must be implemented for strict regulation of social and mainstream media.
— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.