Countering extremism and terrorism will take clear, level heads
In Balochistan, both Kinetic and Non-Kinetic Actions (NKAs) have been going on for last 15-20 years. By NKAs we mean employing diplomatic, economic, technological, social, cultural, informational and psychological tools to bring about changes in tactical and operational strategies of the target state. In other words, it impairs the national will through exploiting the existing fault lines in different dimensions. Some of the NKAs with respect to Balochistan will be focused on Effect Based Operations (EBOs) as discussed below.
First, creating bad borders to induce bad blood among people of the two countries seems to be the overarching policy of the Hostile Intelligence Agencies (HIAs) in Balochistan. The recent episode of cross border firing at Bab e Dostee at Chaman points towards this strategy. The main objective of this action is to provoke Frontier Corps to retaliate with full force so that huge civilian casualties could be reported in regional and international media. The Pakistani side showed restraint but then it responded heavily and claimed to have killed more than 50 Afghan National Army (ANA) personnel along with causing collateral damage as well. Similarly, the situation at Iranian border in Balochistan became turbulent when the Iranians conveyed to the highest level that Jaish al Adl, a terror organisation, had killed couple of Iranian border guards. This too has hit the headlines in the regional newspapers. It is also reported that Iranian Military Commander has warned that they would pursue the terror elements and take them on within the Pakistani territory.
Second, with the closure of Chaman border, transportation of daily trading items has also come to a standstill. The local traders who had dispatched comestible items to Afghanistan suffered huge losses due to cessation of any kind of activity across the border. It has generated an ill will among the locals against the administration and hence a sovereignty gap is developed which is pressurising the government to move swiftly to resolve the issue. The terror actions by Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) and Jaish al Adl have been constantly creating rifts between the neighbouring countries to carve out an operational space for their independent activities. The animus may also be exploited by HIAs to perpetuate their objectives. In other words, it is the terror which is reshaping the relationships between the neighbouring countries owing to the actions of different terror organisations.
Third, the civilian military chafing may also be one of the NKAs which is nurtured and enhanced by HIAs through different means. Greater the discord between the two, larger is the space available for operationalisation of terror elements.
Fourth, keeping the local departments dysfunctional through inefficiency, corruption and lack of planning can also be exploited as a possible NKA. It will keep the local population alienated and make them bitter towards the local government and the state. The persistence of lack of basic facilities has also been manipulated by the HIAs to magnify the destitution of the locals. This constant inertia has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks to win hearts and minds of the people of Balochistan.
Fifth, the ambiguity about the CPEC and its economic benefits may also be exploited to conduct non-kinetic operations in Balochistan. Rumours and fabricated stories about CPEC have been generated through local media and social groups to spread disaffection among the Baloch. Many local pressure groups can easily be employed for this purpose. The media restrictions in districts like Awaran, Dera Bughti, Kohlu, and Panjgur may also be used as a potential non-kinetic means to advance the agendas of anti-state elements at sub national level.
Sixth, the Baloch Sardars in exile are the most effective non-kinetic tool in the hands of the HIAs. They make them issue critical statements against the state which are then reflected in international electronic and print media to malign the government in Balochistan. This is also being used to erode the moral authority of Pakistan to weaken its position on the Kashmir issue.
Lastly, the institutional development is a critical part for improving lives of the local population anywhere. A rapid decline has been observed in public service delivery institutions in Balochistan. Police is incapacitated due to lack of operational space and district administration is without necessary innovative wherewithal to sense the essential requirements of the people. Levies Force has been stripped off all intelligence based actions due to capacity and capability issues. This inaction is providing opportunity to enemy states for EBOs.
The ability of HIAs to construct a counter activity for every development in Balochistan will be the worst-case scenario for the local administration. We need to counter these NKAs with clarity of mind and must focus on those projects which benefit the locals in the long run. Moreover, we should also strive to counter any counter activity so that these projects cannot be used against the Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) in Balochistan.