Recent Bacha Khan University attack rekindled a debate in Pakistan as to weather the enemy was within or was outside of Pakistani borders. This debate led to some confusion.
However, the fact is that enemy is within and outside as well. For example, in the case of BKU foot soldiers recruited from Pakistan, were trained somewhere in Afghanistan. They crossed into western border on Torkham entry point and on their way to target BKU were facilitated by other accomplices.
A proxy need a typical sponsor and safe sanctuaries. They can have sleeper cells in Pakistan and can have safe heavens in Afghanistan.
Broader context of the debate needs to be understood, however: Pakistan has unsettled borders with India and Afghanistan so both New Delhi and Kabul are territorial claimants on the country’s various regions.
Another threat perception is, the US and Israel has convergence to defang Pakistan like Iran: removing Pakistan’s nuclear capability. Add to the mix, Saudi Arabia and Iran’s derived sectarian leverage on Pakistan’ sectarian fault-line.
Logically, these countries have least interest to keep Pakistan stable and bridge its fault-lines. That is why billions of dollars by their respective agencies have to be justified for covert and over operations with least finger prints left on the targeted country.
That they leverage influence in Pakistan can be demonstrated in the following manner:
There are cells in religio-and religio-political forces who mainly exploits sectarian and religious fault lines as proxy. Some of them are violent others semi-violent yet others are peaceful constituencies serving the interests of sponsor states.
Second category is of secular cells operating mainly in linguistic and ethno-political forces who promote the narratives of client agencies/states. They are very active constituents. They tend to be criminal, violent and some times peaceful.
Third category is the far extreme violent religious and ethnic outfits who have close links with client states both secular and non-secular ones. They are mainly violent and use terror as modes operandi, (examples are BLA, MQM and other parties’ militant wings, and TTP).
The fourth group which is mainly peaceful and is part of non-kinetic warfare include certain NGOs who shape narrative, participate Psyc-Ops and in extreme cases, they work as conduit for espionage.
Now Pakistan can combat this non-conventional warfare by proxy by creative strategy and tactics.
First is internally making strong institutional capacity of law enforcement agencies-boring but critical job.
Second is fencing borders and securing coastlines with established immigration entry and exit points regardless of the efforts, money, and sacrifice involved in undertaking this gigantic task.
Fourth is plugging fundings coming from regional countries and smashing illegal sources of transfers and money laundering methods- a task, easier said than done.
Fifth priority is to establish clever system of punishment and accountability for various proxy groups.
Sixth is offensive measures taking the war to the enemy, if through defensive measures, sponsoring country’s warfare via proxy can not be completely checked.
The Bottom line is security paradigm has to be changed if Pakistan needs to win the war on terrorism and radicalisation of its society: that means fighting back with full might spanning over a generation and meaningful inclusive reforms. A state that allows its kids and pregnant women to be killed cold blooded, is not worth its name. A ruthless full spectrum measures are needed to be taken. Full stop.