Pakistan’s National Cadet Corps (NCC) has remained a branch of the Pakistan Army as a program run under the Pakistan National Guard and acting as a reserve force from 1948. The then President Musharraf back in 2002, abolished the NCC. Since 2002 and till the time of the past government in Pakistan, NCC has remained in abeyance except that the previous government took an initiative for its revival which has not materialized yet.
Historically, the NCC has acted as a second line of defense for Pakistan. Its aim was to impart basic military and weapon training as well as responses to emergency situations.
The contemporary threats of the 21st century are hybrid in nature and their effects are more lethal, acting in the hearts and minds of individuals and society, rather than bullets and guns being fired. Therefore, it would be pertinent to revive the NCC, conceptualizing it with contemporary threats. It can find its place through actors (individuals/students) and structures (social media) for execution and can act as a force multiplier where resource allocation in the defense sector is meager compared to threats from across the border.
Historically, the NCC has acted as a second line of defense for Pakistan. Its aim was to impart basic military and weapon training as well as responses to emergency situations. The training was focused on students of colleges and universities. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s NCC which had started in 1948 got abolished in 2002. However, the neighboring India still has its NCC functioning with a man power of over 130,000. The NCC in Israel is fully functional as per the requirements of modern times. In terms of revival of NCC, the models of Israel and India can also be adopted in tandem with NCC models in East Asian countries. Since its abolition, the last government, the then Ministry of Education and Professional Training, prepared a proposal to revive the civil defense mechanism.
The contemporary world in which we are living has altered the nature of war. Previously, wars were waged on conventional lines. However, with the advent of non-traditional threats and ascendancy of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), wars and conflicts have evolved. The rise of non-state actors along with threats emanating from the cyber domain pose serious risks to the state of Pakistan, which is lacking in its dealing with them.
Hybrid warfare is a simultaneous blend of various methods comprising of conventional and non-conventional means to achieve desired political ends. Hybrid Warfare depends on identifying vulnerabilities in order to create linear as well as non-linear effects.
The modern wars are commonly fought in the contemporary world with the brand name of hybrid wars or hybrid threats. NCC can act as a force multiplier if put under the domain of 5th Generation Warfare (5GW) where it should be made open for volunteers across the society. The youth in particular should be inculcated in the war-fighting domain of cyber threats and information warfare.
Hybrid warfare is a simultaneous blend of various methods comprising of conventional and non-conventional means to achieve desired political ends. Hybrid Warfare depends on identifying vulnerabilities in order to create linear as well as non-linear effects. The instruments of power play a pivotal role under hybrid warfare. The blending of military, political, economic, societal, cultural and civil as well as the information aspect of war, creates an effect of force multiplication in a world where deterrence averts conventional war. However, in the context of NCC, the requirement of the subject narrows down into two domains; the information warfare and cyber warfare.
For information warfare, Pakistan lacks its share of narrative building vis-à-vis the outstanding dispute of Kashmir. Moreover, there is a dire need of strategic communication in terms of diluting the waves of Islamophobia stemming from western societies against the Islamic World. The same can be applied in Pakistan’s narrative on the War on Terror. The revival of NCC along these lines will allow the youth of Pakistan to direct their energies towards fighting the narratives of the naysayers as they are already well-versed in using the relevant technologies.
For cyber warfare, what Pakistan really lacks is the technical aspect. Since the research culture in the country has not been strengthened to a level where cyber research and development would provide fruitful results, complacency engulfs the decision makers in Pakistan during peace time and we only became reactive to a situation once it has happened. The threats emanating from the cyber world are already in motion and cannot be ignored. There is dire need to create a new syllabus of cyber warfare where its technical as well as warfare sides must be blended so that it should be beneficial for those who would intend to be part of the NCC and allow them to choose either of the aspects of the newly revived NCC.
The youth of Pakistan in particular and the society of Pakistan in general remain vulnerable to the socio-cultural threats of hybrid warfare. Since the major chunk in the population comprises of the youth and because they are more prone to the use of social media and technologies, which can compromise their privacy, identity, as well as compel them to denounce their national fiber as a Pakistani, their training in this context becomes more vital. Recent years have witnessed such ideas floating on the mainstream media with the rhetoric of changing the meaning of the slogan of the creation of Pakistan.
Therefore, it is evident that the state must make cognizance of the fact that the youth budge of Pakistan should be involved in the battles for hearts and minds rather than bullets and guns. The former would be the best course of action since the society has already been polarized as a result of terrorism. The latter, by default, remains the first line of defense of Pakistan.
Syed Ali Hadi is currently pursuing his MPhil in Strategic Studies from National Defence University, Islamabad. He is a Research Assistant at the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research.