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.