Has COVID-19 Created Challenges Or Opportunities For Non-state Actors?

ISLAMABAD — Has the Coronavirus pandemic created challenges or opportunities for non-state actors (NSAs) across the globe? Wilson Center is holding a webinar on the topic today.

Meanwhile, we reached out to some experts/analysts in Pakistan for their take on the question which many scholars and experts are expected to discuss in Washington DC.

Why we are soliciting views from some Pakistani minds? Some of the reasons are below and they matter, as in our opinion:

  1. Pakistan has been on the frontline on war on terror — in fact it has been facing a geopolitical situation since the Red Army crossed into Afghanistan in the late 70s and the country allied with the West to defeat the Soviets which led to its downfall and the end of the Berlin Wall.
  2. Two decades later, Pakistan with the West post-9/11 cooperated with the West (again) to fight terrorism and Afghanistan became the ground zero.
  3. The country ended up in a situation as terrorism and related activities became a daily ritual inside the country — it was a fallout observers say.

Three decades later, Pakistan is again playing an active role to support peace in Afghanistan which would pave the path for military withdrawals.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has unbalanced the bid for a new world order driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) — both saddle the 5G technology which has major players vying to succeed.

Bottom line: there’s a new normal in the societies, and rewiring, recalibration, etc. on the table as powers to be negotiate the path through the geopolitical Strait of Gibraltar.

All things said and done, the pandemic has and will erase the distinction between state actors and non-state actors, as a common man struggles to put food on the table, Sen. Mushahidullah Khan said when asked to comment. In his opinion, the situation is man-made but upended by the nature. “Man proposes God disposes”, he says.

A former ambassador and Vice Admiral, Khan Hasham Bin Saddiq who heads a think tank says, “the violent extremists have political agenda and pursue it relentlessly”.

In his opinion, the pandemic is a medico social issue which is the premier preoccupation of the governments worldwide. “However, this has not prevented extremists in Afghanistan, Libya and even in Pakistan too. Not only the Non-State Actors (NSAs) but States are also continuing repression.
NSAs DNA is to take advantage whenever they can to maximize the fear or terror factor”.

Do NSA’s have opportunities to flex their muscles? “Yes, because masters who are pulling their strings are callous”, he says.

A senior military official says:

  1. Non State actors may be willing to do something but their financiers are hamstrung. Corona has seen a major downturn in terrorism acts.
  2. With US-China Cold war heating up, the game will go to next level. Non state actors are likely to be left at their own along with the host governments to fend for themselves.
  3. Frankly speaking, it is really difficult to forecast the emerging geostrategic and security world order as of today. All forecasts can best be vague guesses.

Security affairs analyst Dr. S M Ali says: “The strategic challenge for all States is that non-State actors mostly have the advantage of initiative and innovation and mostly States subsequently adapt with the constantly evolving tactics of the non-state actors”.

An observer says, the NSAs have been having a field’s day south of the Tropic of Cancer for several decades now after 9/11 — the region turned into and remains a happy hunting ground for NSAs, and may remain so.

“If putting food on the table and growing wheat, crops, sugar, etc. becomes a problem, what state actors and non-state actors”, Mr. Khan added.