Changing Nature and Character of Security Threats

Changing Character and Nature of Security Threats

Notwithstanding the degree, encountering confrontations and waging wars with varying actors involved within and without the territorial borders of states remained the most unfortunate fact in the history of international relations. While the patterns of confrontation in the Cold War era, especially during the heightened period of insecurities, were divided by the dictates and rivalry of the two power blocs; one the epitome of political democracy and capital economy with US at the helm, and the other USSR-led communist bloc, the post-Cold War era, however, is characterized by diversification and multiplication of the actors at both state and society level and international level. Non-state actors and globalisation, with the former supported by the latter, emerged as the most potent threat to the state system. Territorial boundaries in their severe advance witnessed dilution and invasion of their sanctity. Though no state in the contemporary shrinking political and economic system marks an exception to the influences, positive or negative, of the new emerging processes and actors and also the consequent results of their bearing, developing countries, however, in sharp contrast to the developed world, find it increasingly hard to control, manage or at least appropriately respond to them. Pakistan stands none but as a glaring example.

In the typical realism sense, Pakistan never, throughout its perplexed history, acted as a unitary state. Soon after independence, its eastern wing witnessed in various circumstances of domestic nature the manifestation of ethnocentric Bengali nationalism seriously questioning its demographic unity and solidarity. The fact remains that the country was divided geographically too between the eastern and western halves with the aggressive and hostile territorial in-between presence of India, complicating further the demographic challenges with territorial insecurities. The heightened sense of marginalisation led Bengalis to waive their loyalties and national aspirations for the state of Pakistan which ultimately concluded in the collapse of the state structure in the form of its territorial disintegration. However, the Fall of Dhaka by no means translated into the end of the ethnocentric politics rather the state itself, in the 1970s, instigated and fuelled it by utilising its military capabilities in one of its relatively then-tranquil province Balochistan. Military operations amidst concerns of large-scale provincial disparities on economic and developmental fronts alienated the Baloch population ultimately setting them for revolt and separatist movement. Demographic divisions again diluted the unitary character of the state.  

The decade of the 1980s was catalytic in many respects; it opened the lid for the proliferation of an organised and politically potent fundamentalism. The state successfully patronised and channelized fundamentalists’ narratives to the war-torn battlefields of Afghanistan against the Soviet forces where the Jihadists through their tactics of guerrilla warfare remained so dominant that they defeated the Soviets and forced them to withdraw. The underlined success of guerrilla warfare was bound to cause the militarily-powerful sovereign states to radically transform their strategic paradigms especially after the catastrophic event of 9/11.

In the aftermath of the 9/11, states unequivocally determined to eliminate global terrorism that had become the most threatening challenge to global peace and security. The emergence of non-state actors as the most potent security challenge completely altered the nature, ways and means of warfare, and states across the globe now have to confront the radicalised enemy not only at indefinite territorial battlefields but also on the ideological fronts. Aware of their relatively unequal military power, terrorists sought to neutralize the states’ powers and strengths by utilizing such tactics that would worryingly erode the rival states’ will to sustain the losses. Globalisation helped them to master the art of exploiting the enemy’s weaknesses.

Pakistan’s involvement as a frontline ally in the war against terrorism, though a prudent strategy, proved destructive to its socioeconomic contours. No state can claim even near the half of the sacrifices that Pakistan has rendered. Coupled with Pakistan’s flawed policies, the spill-over effects of the US-led Afghan war took shape into the flare-up of militants’ activities under the umbrella organisation of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Pakistan launched a series of military operations against the backdrop that the militants continued on dramatically changing their outlook and tactics. Terrorist networks demonstrated striking capability of thriving by successfully recruiting and training new blood and methodically planning attacks in advance and also raising and receiving money either directly from their support base or through perpetrating organised crimes.

After much struggle and sacrifices, it seems that Pakistan has learned to respond to the challenges posed by these sovereignty-free actors. The successful commencement of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and its promising outcomes show the potential and preparedness of Pakistan Army and its capabilities to thwart and dismantle any potential threat from the non-state actors. Currently, Pakistan through its active military engagements and offensives as well as increased surveillance and intelligence activities, is trying to deny the militants space and time to unite and to orchestrate attacks.

However, it would be sheer miscalculation to assume that the security threats from non-state actors have de-escalated; it is still there, and evolving. Pakistan needs to seriously evaluate and assess the post-Operation Zarb-e-Azb security scenario and also its fundamental security responses. While the country is at comparative calm because of an unprecedented reduction in terrorist attacks, however the subjective play of the forces of globalisation is still overwhelming. As with the passage of time terrorists’ reliance on globalisation is growing, consequently they are acquiring substantial knowledge and power to utilise the potential that globalisation can unleash.

Terrorists have always been utilising globalisation to their service and a shrinking globe has favoured their networks to creep along and operate with relative ease. Undoubtedly, globalisation has helped states too in generating and sustaining momentum against terrorism, only developed states, however, could ensure to draw large benefits out of it and the performance of developing states remained mired in issues like centralized or fragile political structures, weak social safety nets, large-scale social disparities, inefficient tax administration system, low financial and economic bases, degenerated law-enforcement system and other economic, political and administrative loopholes.

For Pakistan, the challenges posed by a globalised world are multifaceted. Notwithstanding its sovereign status, Pakistan’s decisions to conduct terrorists’ trials through military courts and implement death penalty as a punishment for heinous crimes have severely been criticised by the world community. Integration and interdependence come not without its consequences.

While scholars, scientists, strategists and policymakers will continue to debate and contest on the issues of globalisation, no state including Pakistan can afford to neglect its various dimensions, manifestations and impacts, especially in the wake of realisation of the terrorists’ increasing reliance on it. Though the economic dimension of globalisation is more obvious, the states especially Pakistan must not neglect its other additional and important symptoms. Pursuing economic objectives may be a primary foreign and domestic policy objective for a Pakistan but not necessarily for non-state terrorist actors. They aligned and arranged their capabilities on cultural and ideological foundations, the fronts that are relatively less understood and perceived by many states. As a consequence, we see radicalised extremists and terrorists successfully accomplishing their strategies and objectives like that of unfortunate Paris Carnage that was less the result of loopholes provided by the economic interdependence and integration than the cultural aspects of globalisation. Moreover, the concerns related to globalisation exacerbate in the wake of changing demographic, social and economic dynamics; just before a decade we generally saw the emergence of terrorists and extreme fundamentalists from the marginalised and less-privileged centres that were also the least globalised human settlements, however the trend has now been altered with the militants’ hordes rising from the relatively developed, and interconnected urban centres of the country. In the wake of these changing nature and character of the security challenges, therefore, Pakistan needs to continuously evolve and upgrade its concept of security so as to successfully contain and eliminate the full spectrum of the threats posed by non-state actors.

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