The force is not with us

Published: May 25, 2011

The writer is editor of The Express Tribune Magazine zarrar.khuhro@tribune.com.pk

No one expects to get attacked by stormtroopers. No, not the Nazi shock troops of WW-II but the feared intergalactic enforcers of the Empire’s Will. Think Death Stars, Jedis and Lightsabers — those stormtroopers. Certainly, if you were attacked by stormtroopers, you would be in a lot of trouble. Your primitive projectile weapons wouldn’t be able to penetrate their space age armour while their red lasers (bad guys always get red lasers) would slice through man and machine alike. You would be lucky if you lost only 10 men for every one such villain you dispatched to the peculiar hell reserved for interstellar fascists. By simply surviving such an attack you could very well declare victory and no one would think any less of you.

But the PNS Mehran base was not attacked by stormtroopers, it was attacked by humans using tactics and weapons that very much belong to this century. The tactics were highly effective, the training obviously superlative and the weapons and equipment certainly cutting edge, but not otherworldly.

It doesn’t matter who trained them. It doesn’t matter if they were born and bred Pakistanis or yarmulke-wearing Israeli special forces, each carrying a copy of the Learned Elders of Zion along with copious amounts of ammunition. What matters is that they weren’t from another planet and the attack was, despite its effectiveness, an entirely conventional guerilla operation. And given that no one expects a gang of aborigines to attack a military base with slingshots either, those in charge of securing the lives and equipment at the base should have seen it coming.

We understand it is not possible to predict or even prevent every attack. We understand that in a state of war there are bound to be casualties, however painful that realisation may be. But we also understand and demand that, in such a state of war, adequate preparations be made against an enemy that has shown it has the will and ability to penetrate even the most highly guarded installations. In the GHQ attack and in countless others we have seen great adaptability on the part of the attackers, but to date we have seen no such adaptability on the part of the military or civilian leadership.

We are told that the attackers ‘sneaked’ into the base from three sides, using ladders to scale the walls. Does this not mean that three perimeters were simultaneously unguarded? Given that the attackers wore black clothes in lieu of invisibility cloaks, then, would searchlights, watchtowers, regular patrols, and surveillance cameras not have sufficed to give adequate warning? If the value of the equipment at the base was in the billions of rupees, then surely spending a few million rupees on security would not be remiss. The simple and accepted practice of holding red-team exercises, where mock attacks are carried out in order to test for weaknesses, if followed, would have saved many lives.

Many brave men died defending the naval base; lions who put duty and honour ahead of self-interest and self-preservation. Can we expect the same courage and strength of will from the lambs who lead them?

Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • May 25, 2011 - 2:00AM

    Why is everyone surprised by the remark “they were well trained”. They have had years to train and practice unhindered. Camps setup, support from ex-fighters in Central Asia, the Balkans and Chechnya, and retired Pakistani military officials who have allied themselves with extremists. Recommend

  • faraz
    May 25, 2011 - 2:30AM

    Storm troopers were the German shock troops of the First World War. During the Second World War, the Nazis had the Schutzstaffel (SS) that wasn’t a part of the Das Heer. The combat wing of SS was the Waffen SS which developed a fearsome reputation during the war. Troops of the Waffen SS fought in elite SS Panzer Divisions and these divisions moved on explicit orders from Hitler. Recommend

  • Ali Hasan
    May 25, 2011 - 2:34AM

    HAHA!! I was waiting for an article with this tone! Star Wars indeed! Much respect to your familiarity with the universe, sir. Recommend

  • Babar
    May 25, 2011 - 8:40AM

    Bigger question is, do we need this army?Recommend

  • IWriteURead
    May 25, 2011 - 9:50AM

    Finally, someone spoke! Changes are required in top notch of both civil govt and military. If that is not possible nation must wake up and hold them accountable for their mistakes. There is a need to understandable that they can be questioned for their actions by the nation so we can put our trust in them.
    Civil govt… stop acting like local dacoits from Dadu — infact you are even worse because they dont kill women and children….So, let the police do its job of monitoring the cities/villages and let the army/rangers do their job of monitoring borders. You have failed in leading us so change your strategies and show us that you have got some metal—after all actions speak louder than words.

    Military…..you guys dont have to be the policy makers so when Kerry comes to Pakistan let the foreign office of civil govt face him and DO NOT protect them. They SHOULD BE best at their job. Dont do them favours when you have bigger task at hand of protecting nation and the sensitive assets. You did a good job at Mehran by taking over the base back but yes this is also true that penetration from three sides is a security lax. So maintain your focus! We expect that you will do so since till date no gen has been found with a swiss account (atleast none is coming to my mind and neither did Google get me any names)Recommend

  • Ali
    May 25, 2011 - 10:11AM

    The lambs who led them are more adept at drinking tea and selling real estate than anything else. At the very least, the people incharge of security at the base should be court martialedRecommend

  • Rajat
    May 25, 2011 - 10:16AM

    Now all the Karachi mums have a new character- “So ja, beta varna Darth Vader aa jayegaRecommend

  • Hasan
    May 25, 2011 - 11:16AM

    Superb piece of writing!Recommend

  • nusrat osama
    May 25, 2011 - 11:31AM

    no we cannot and may not expect such courage from the lambs… afterall they are lambs not lions…Recommend

  • Zafari
    May 27, 2011 - 5:38PM

    The first thing to beef up the security of installations is to decrease spending on security for individuals, which now is more of a status symbol.
    If they are afraid of moving around without truck loads of security in front and back, they should quit their public (and government) offices and let braver people take them up.
    Only top two personalities in center and in each province should be permitted to have a security convoy.
    The resources freed should be used to beef up securities of installations and cities..Recommend

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