Psychological Warfare And Civil-Military Friction – OpEd


Psychological warfare and civil-military friction have been recurring themes in Pakistan’s complex socio-political landscape. This multifaceted relationship influences not only the country’s domestic policies but also its foreign relations. It’s vital to the contours of psychological warfare within Pakistan, the nature of civil-military friction, and their implications for the nation’s stability and international standing.

Psychological warfare in Pakistan encompasses a range of tactics aimed at influencing the perceptions and behaviors of the public, militants, and even governmental entities. This warfare is not just external; internal factions within the country also employ psychological strategies to sway public opinion and assert power.

One of the most significant arenas for psychological warfare in Pakistan is the ongoing conflict with militant groups, particularly in regions bordering Afghanistan. The military and intelligence agencies have used psychological operations (PsyOps) to undermine the militants’ influence over local populations. These operations include leaflet drops, social media campaigns, and the use of local media to disseminate information designed to demoralize militants and encourage civilian cooperation with security forces. Furthermore, the state has utilized psychological tactics to foster nationalism and unity against external threats, particularly in the context of its longstanding rivalry with India. These efforts often emphasize Pakistan’s military readiness and the moral high ground of the Pakistani position on disputed issues like Kashmir.

The roots of civil-military friction in Pakistan can be traced back to the country’s formation in 1947. The military has since played a pivotal role in the governance and administration of the country, directly ruling for extensive periods through martial law. This history has fostered a powerful military establishment with significant influence over national security, foreign policy, and even domestic affairs.

Civil-military relations in Pakistan have often been characterized by tension and a struggle for supremacy. Civilian governments have sought to assert control over the military, leading to power struggles that have occasionally resulted in coups. The military, on the other hand, has sought to retain its dominant position, justifying its intervention in state affairs as necessary for national security and stability. This friction is further complicated by the military’s economic interests, with the armed forces owning extensive business enterprises across the country. Civilian efforts to curtail military privileges or bring these enterprises under civilian oversight often meet resistance, exacerbating the friction.

The dynamics of psychological warfare and civil-military friction have profound implications for Pakistan. Internally, these factors contribute to a volatile political climate, with periodic escalations into violence and unrest. The constant tug-of-war between civilian authorities and the military establishment can hinder coherent policymaking and governance, affecting everything from economic reform to counter-terrorism strategies.

Externally, these dynamics influence Pakistan’s relations with its neighbors and major powers. The military’s dominant role in foreign policy decision-making, especially concerning India and Afghanistan, can lead to a more aggressive posture than civilian governments might prefer. This situation complicates diplomatic relations and efforts at regional cooperation. Moreover, the use of psychological warfare tactics, both internally and externally, can contribute to a climate of mistrust and paranoia. While such tactics may achieve short-term objectives, they can undermine long-term stability by fostering resentment and radicalization among targeted populations.

Addressing the challenges posed by psychological warfare and civil-military friction in Pakistan requires a multifaceted approach. Enhanced transparency and accountability within the military and intelligence agencies can help mitigate the negative impacts of psychological operations. Similarly, reforms aimed at strengthening civilian institutions and ensuring a greater balance of power can reduce civil-military friction. This balance is crucial for the development of a more stable and democratic Pakistan.

Furthermore, fostering dialogue and reconciliation within Pakistani society, and between Pakistan and its neighbors, can help to reduce the reliance on psychological warfare. Building trust and cooperation domestically and internationally can pave the way for more constructive approaches to conflict resolution and governance.

However, while psychological warfare and civil-military friction present significant challenges to Pakistan, they also offer opportunities for reform and progress. By addressing these issues head-on, Pakistan can move towards a more stable, democratic, and prosperous future.

Dr. Sahibzada Muhammad Usman

Dr. Sahibzada Muhammad Usman is a Research Scholar and Academic; Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Pisa, Italy. Dr. Usman has participated in various national and international conferences and published 30 research articles in international journals.

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