Experts have interpreted General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s statement on Saturday as an indirect message to the country’s nuclear rival India. They claim the army chief was indicating that Pakistan knew about New Delhi’s intentions, though it was still willing to resolve outstanding regional disputes through peaceful negotiations.

“A dialogue is the only route to establish peace in the region. Pakistan remains committed to such a dialogue, but only on the basis of sovereign equality, dignity and honor,” the army chief had said, while stressing that the Kashmir dispute was the core matter of concern.

“Failing to coerce politically and militarily, India has been working on hybrid warfare techniques to bleed Pakistan,” foreign relations and defense expert Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal told Arab News.

Jaspal claims that New Delhi is making the best use of hybrid warfare tools. But Pakistan’s best option is a constructive dialogue with India “to combat both internal and external challenges to its security.”

Addressing the graduating cadets at the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul, Gen. Bajwa had said: “Our enemies know that they cannot beat us fair and square and have thus subjected us to a cruel, evil and protracted hybrid war. They are trying to weaken our resolve by weakening us from within.”

Analyst Qamar Cheema told Arab News that the army chief had previously opened doors for talks with India and also asked the Afghan government to inform India that Islamabad was willing to hold dialogue on the transit route for trade through Pakistan, but he did not receive any response.

Elements within the state questioning the very armed forces that eliminated terror threats days after peace returned to the region bears the hallmark of some forces determined to destabilize the country, Cheema explained while trying to decode what the army chief had said.

“His reference to hybrid war is in this context,” he said.

Prominent columnist Zahid Hussain told Arab News: “There is an obvious link between the two comments – by hybrid war he meant a mix of overt and covert hostilities and therefore has called for a meaningful negotiation with India to end this situation.”

Earlier this week, the army chief warned that “the armed forces with the support of the people of Pakistan will not let their ulterior motives succeed.”

The Pashtun Tahafuz (or protection) Movement (PTM) led by a human rights activist, Manzoor Ahmed Pashteen, has lobbied to address the plight of Pashtuns in the country. The movement gained momentum after the killing of an aspiring model and shopkeeper, Naqeebullah Mehsud, in an allegedly fake police encounter. From there, its demands grew to address other issues facing Pashtuns.

Earlier this month, the PTM drew international attention over its large protest gathering that mainly demanded: The abolition of the Frontier Crimes Regulation, a draconian law from the British colonial era; removal of landmines from the tribal areas; release of all political prisoners and others incarcerated on trumped-up charges; removal of army checkpoints; and recovery of missing people. The movement has also leveled allegations against the army for triggering these issues.

“You cannot solely blame it (Pashtun troubles) on the army,” Khalid Muhammad, director general of Islamabad-based national security think-tank Command Eleven, told Arab News.

However, a Peshawar-based analyst, Lehaz Ali, told Arab News: “Viewed from the outside, the movement may give vibes of an uprising, but those who live in this region and have experienced these problems describe these demands as genuine.”

Ali said that frustration and anger had been mounting within the Pashtun community, which felt its voice had been ignored. Talks can resolve the matter, Ali explained. He acknowledged that extraordinary steps had to be taken over the past decade to control the worsening security situation in the country’s northwest to defeat the threat of terror.

Yet, he added: “A situation usually isn’t what it seems when viewed from a distance. Therefore, this movement is speculated as a conspiracy with a foreign support.”