The current patterns of conduct of nation-states globally are experiencing a changed perception of exercising influence on national level. The activity of multiple actors on a national stage bears witness to the evolving aspects of exercising national influence that is quite recognisable once they are profoundly analysed. The most potent of these changes demonstrate that influence is evolving into an exercise whose onus is gradually shifting away from large entities using it through their collective variables combined together to create an influential paradigm and now is moving towards more scattered formations.
Influence is nowadays interpreted as a variegated phenomenon that is open to manipulation by private or public individuals and national or international institutions that have developed a capacity to influence the course of events. The evolving influential factors consistently attempt to alter the socio-political and economic patterns of a country and also try to venture into security matters particularly their national defence areas. The means for bringing about such changes include employing modern means of communications whose sensitivity gives away many covertly crucial points just by monitoring patterns of tacit happenings associated with the state they target.
The prevalence of non-conventional methods adopted to obtain and sustain influence has far traversed the traditional means that were usually employed in pre-Cold War era. A set of techniques are now devised to harbour influence and the most prominent of these is manufacturing a scenario that though, fictitious in nature, closely resembles something plausible to be given credence to. The plausibility of a created situation is then hammered in through the most effective modern means of communication forcing nation-states to alter their perceived policies.
The gradual influence of electronic devices connecting the globe has proved very successful in radicalising viewpoints that develop into sleeper cells that are not only convincingly influenced but are also more than willing to influence others operating within their sphere.
The influenced cells slowly emerge in public and convince their circles about the reality of their perception. In Pakistan we witnessed socio-political entities emerging from darkness and hogging the limelight so effectively that they created large followings. The intense movement of such entities compels decision makers to grant credence to their point of view though most of what they preach is out of context and based on figment of imagination.
The changing pattern of current influence peddling goes through certain effective stages. To begin with, they link their policies with most effective institutions of a state and try to portray themselves as diehard supporters of the vision held by that institution. They verify their antecedents by using the modern tools of communications particularly aimed at their target and create a support group. After doing that such influence actors harp their vision so much that they start attracting negative reaction that in turn constrains the national institution to review the policy it pursues in this direction.
The new technique emphasises the influence-creators to blend in the policy making apparatus and influence it from within. Such a process is carried through frequent appearance on TV channels and intense interaction on social media. The ultimate aim of such an exercise is to try to pry in the actual thought-process of the target country and to inject segments of their own agenda within it. It is often observed that such influence-peddlers get thick with the intelligence network of a country and remain current with policy drift. They also acquire information about policies of the target states through informal means and cultivate well-placed official personalities.
Pakistan is going through the critical phase of its existence whereby the system is gradually opening up and adapting policies that are aimed at clipping the wings of the entitled class. It is very obvious that the entrenched segments within the state will try their utmost to frustrate evolution of Pakistani society into an equitable entity. Policy makers in Pakistan should be extremely wary of the designs of the elements who wish to continue with the status quo as it is most beneficial to them.
The rise of many apparently pro-bono movements within Pakistani polity are required to be viewed in the context of certain groups trying to gain an influential position in the country to carry forward their own agenda. There is plenty of evidence that multiple actors are trying to influence national events purely from their own perspectives and not out of real sympathy for national benefit. It is not easy to pin down such agents of influence but it is essential to remain vigilant. The need to keep on reviewing the overt and covert activities of multiple interest groups is required in a marginalised country like Pakistan that is struggling to develop a national narrative. It is the responsibility of the media and the academia to delineate the message conveyed by interest group and emphasise reality.
Dr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam is an educationist with wide experience