Nov 26 attack — cannot be business as usual

Published: November 28, 2011

The writer is director current affairs at Dunya TV and a former fellow at Asia Center, Harvard University nasim.zehra@tribune.com.pk

If it is okay for Washington to focus all its diplomatic and political energies, laced with threatening messages, to fly away its covert operator Raymond Davis, it is much more than okay for Pakistan to suspend business-as-usual with the US-Isaf-Afghan troika following the November 26 attack on the Golden and Volcano border posts in the Mohmand Agency in which 24 security personnel lost their lives. The attack and Pakistan’s response to it both flow from the deep distrust that exists between Pakistan on one hand and the Afghan government, America and Isaf on the other. In a rare and welcome rapid reaction, Pakistan’s key national security institutions, including the defence committee of the cabinet met to decide a policy response.

Clearly, all Afghanistan-related military and intelligence cooperation should be suspended and all diplomatic engagement must focus on working out an Isaf, Nato, US and Afghan response acceptable to Pakistan. The minimum demand must be a joint inquiry. Unless Nato apologises, initiates a joint inquiry and promises action against those responsible for the attacks it must not be business as usual. Pakistan should also review its decision to participate in the upcoming Bonn Agreement unless Afghanistan, American and Isaf take concrete steps including an unconditional apology for the attack.

All the facts on the attack are not and will not become clear without an independent inquiry. Already, on November 28, a Nato spokesman suggested that the attack was in self-defence. He said that an operation was being conducted on the Afghan side and Nato troops came under fire from across the Pakistan border and asked for air support. To this, the Pakistani military spokesman said that after the Peshawer Corps came to know of the attack, the director-general of military operations contacted the commander of Isaf’s regional headquarters in Khost and told him to halt it, but the attack continued for another hour.

Significantly, the posts Isaf attacked were the two new ones set up to prevent Sufi Mohammad’s militants from infiltrating and attacking. Less than a month ago, these militants had attacked Pakistani forces and left 17 FC personnel dead. Nato authorities had been informed about the setting up of these two posts and quite clearly this area was not the one from which the Haqqani group infiltrates into Afghanistan to attack Isaf and Afghan forces.

The Nato response has, so far, been of regret and a claim that its forces attacked in self-defence. It has promised to hold an inquiry. But if Nato itself is the judge, jury and executioner, then there is little likelihood of a fair inquiry. Hence the demand by Pakistan for a joint inquiry is important.

Some broader issues related to this attack should be recalled. Perhaps the most important is that despite US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s genuine effort to resolve Afghanistan-related mutual concerns, there continues to be a serious trust deficit between Pakistan on one side and America and Afghanistan on the other.

Washington’s double policy of talking to and clobbering the Taliban simultaneously is preventing substantive operational level military cooperation. Hence, while on paper, 20 hours before the attack, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Isaf commander General John Allen met and agreed on “measures concerning coordination, communication and procedures for  enhancing border control on both sides”, on the ground the policy conflict between Pentagon-CIA and the State Department-White House is played out.

With the tragic assassination of Professor Rabbani, Pakistan-Afghan distrust has also widened. Are Kabul and the Pentagon also planning to carry out more raids given that the Haqqani network launches some of its attacks from the Pakistani territory? If so, this sixth attack by Isaf forces inside Pakistan’s territory since 2008, may not be the last one. These questions and perceptions notwithstanding, only a joint investigation can help provide credible answers. Through these attacks and the May 2 US-led invasion deep into Pakistan’s territory, Pakistan’s security and sovereignty are being gradually eroded. Only an appropriate policy response seeking corrective measures for the attack, not mainstream bombastic rhetoric coupled with concealed efforts to seek quid-pro-quos, will stop this erosion. A prudent policy response is not warranted merely because of public outrage. A prudent response, that the government must wisely craft and execute, is a state and security imperative.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (42)

  • narayana murthy
    Nov 28, 2011 - 11:32PM

    Now that you mention the date…as it flashed to me…is it some sort of retaliation from USA to Mumbai attacks that happened on 26/11??!!!

    Just an honest thought.

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  • Abdul Rehman Gilani
    Nov 28, 2011 - 11:36PM

    Excellent analysis. Spot on! We should cut that supply line till we do not get what we want…..

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  • Meekal Ahmed
    Nov 29, 2011 - 12:06AM

    Very good, Nasim. One does not know what to say since the facts are not known.

    Of course there MUST be a joint enquiry.

    I find it difficult to accept that even after the call was made that the attack continued “for another hour”.

    You mean they kept rocketing our positions and there was no response from our side?

    Isn’t there a “hot-line” of some sort? I know we have it for India. Are we still looking the wrong way?

    I hope the call can/has been recorded. It should be played to the world’s audience — alongwith the response, if any.

    How “new” are these posts? Someone said they are very prominent against the bleak back-ground. But it was dark and their prominence or otherwise is irrelevant. The attacking forces must have used their sophisticated on-board GPS-based moving maps and night-vision equipment. Were these “new” posts on their maps? Was the software up-dated to include them? Did they know they were Pakistani posts?

    If they did know exactly where they were and what they were targeting then that would be a case of cold-blooded murder.

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  • Parvez
    Nov 29, 2011 - 12:27AM

    A nice balanced view and suggestions.
    What should be done and what will happen are two different things. Lets hope for our own good that the gap between these two is not too great.

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  • Lobster
    Nov 29, 2011 - 12:47AM

    3 hours without any response. Bangles..anyone?

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  • Arindom
    Nov 29, 2011 - 12:53AM

    You are right about the double-policy of US of talking and also attacking the taliban. It learnt this from Pakistan. So basically the US wants to double-double deal the Pakistanis – Brilliant!! I’d say.

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  • Abbas from the US
    Nov 29, 2011 - 1:04AM

    Pakistani Military establishment needs to understand that an honest mistake is always possible. If it can be proved without a shadow of doubt that the Nato/Isaf attack was a deliberate provocation then Pakistan has the option of choosing to take whatever action being advocated by the writer. However the related consequences may not necessarily be benificial to the Pakistani overall strategy regarding the end game in Afghanistan. The US and Nato have been planning for the day when the fallout between the allies requires the much more economically demanding logistics option of using the Northern Distributive Network for some time.

    The option to not show a presence at the Bonn conference rests with Pakistan. It is quite possible if both, the Taliban who were not expected to show a presence at this conference alongside Pakistan may subvert the intent of the conference. As the US is expected to ask for an international backing for the situation expected to develop after 2014. But it will also not be in Pakistan’s interest if decisions are taken by the attendees without the consent of Pakistan in those areas where it is likely to have an impact on Pakistan.

    Decisions of this scale need to take into account important national objectives and should not be based on an emotional response.

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  • zohaib
    Nov 29, 2011 - 1:52AM

    the attack continued ““for another hour” ??
    maybe we need american permission to fly ‘our’ F-16s, but what about JF-17 ?

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  • Mirza
    Nov 29, 2011 - 2:29AM

    @Meekal Ahmed: I agree with your logical thinking. However, the author has been totally one sided. She writes “Through these attacks and the May 2 US-led invasion deep into Pakistan’s territory, Pakistan’s security and sovereignty are being gradually eroded.”
    How can one keep calling the killing of OBL an invasion? How many Pakistanis died in that “invasion”? What harm did it do to Pakistan by getting rid of the worst terrorist in the world hiding in army base? Moreover, what sovereignty are we talking about? We have safe havens for decades for the global jihadists in Pakistan. That does not affect the sovereignty of the country?

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  • jane
    Nov 29, 2011 - 2:31AM

    @narayana murthy: – it’s a simple karma – what they sow is what they reap – and yes pakistan is not exempted from this law

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  • Lahoot e Lamakaan
    Nov 29, 2011 - 2:56AM

    I say lets go NATO Hunting . . enough is enough

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  • You Said It
    Nov 29, 2011 - 3:55AM

    Pakistan should also review its decision to participate in the upcoming Bonn Agreement

    This is idle posturing. It is ridiculous to think that Pakistan can really afford to stay away from the Bonn Conference. The Bonn conference will set the framework for the final settlement, with or without Pakistan. If Pakistan is not in Bonn, it will be left out of the negotiating table for the final settlement in Afghanistan — the Army has been desperately trying to ensure that Pakistan has a seat at that table. It is inevitable that Pakistan will find a way to save face and be in Bonn.

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  • Plal
    Nov 29, 2011 - 5:37AM

    Earlier It was said that Nato troops massacred sleeping Pakistani troops, but now the author is saying that Nato attack continued one hour after protest from Pak army-so at least they were not sleeping and in fact, interacting in the actions taking place.
    Death of anyone should be condemned and As author is suggesting all the party involve should carry out joint inquiry to bring out the facts on the table, but this prescription should be extended to another 26/11 in Mumbai and attacks on US and Indian embassy in Kabul.

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  • Khurram
    Nov 29, 2011 - 5:37AM

    @Abbas from the US Sir; Although you have summed up the whole scenario and its consequences very realistically for the Pakistani Leadership. But sadly you are asking for far too much.They cannot see that far unless there is a dollar sign hanging along and as far as Pakistan`s Interests are concerned they always come last because there are other priorities (you know what) that must be attended to and cared for.

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  • vasan
    Nov 29, 2011 - 6:34AM

    Let us not keep harping on sovereignty any further,. It wasnt there in pakistan when terrorists have taken over in FATA, It wasnt there when the border areas were not part of any province and were managed by AGENTS. It wasnt there when army strikes deals with the TTP and cedes areas to that. It wasnt there when the TTP went back on these deals and Army didnt do any thing. It wasnt there when dual citizens rule the country, You cant maintain sovereignty when Army is managing business enterprises and real estate within the country

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  • Kittu
    Nov 29, 2011 - 6:39AM

    Nov 26…Now why does that sound familiar..?

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  • MarkH
    Nov 29, 2011 - 7:01AM

    @narayana murthy:
    No.
    It’s not much of a comment on my end but, there’s really just not much to say about it beyond that.

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  • ali
    Nov 29, 2011 - 7:42AM

    I agree with NS, USA is testing Pakistan before the final assault before it leaves Pakistan. Its target is Pakistan nukes. The govt. and the armed forces come out all intruders including drone will be shot down. Nothing else will be accepted.

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  • narayana murthy
    Nov 29, 2011 - 8:49AM

    @Lahoot e Lamakaan “I say lets go NATO Hunting . . enough is enough”

    What is that? NATO? A species of Coyote?

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  • ssb
    Nov 29, 2011 - 10:36AM

    @Lobster:
    Your response is highly sexist, Please try to be academic, and not sexist.Recommend

  • antanu
    Nov 29, 2011 - 11:29AM

    @Abbas from the US:
    An honest mistake…..and for almost three hours…? come on…u are living in US and feel obliged to defend it as a good citizen but dont do it on the cost of morals and ethics

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  • khalid
    Nov 29, 2011 - 11:34AM

    I think pakistan should hand over its nukes to US because there is no otherway to get rid of them.

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  • Chacha
    Nov 29, 2011 - 1:00PM

    This was nothing compared to Mumbai 26/11….yet Pakistan wants business as usual there !

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  • Javaid R. Shami
    Nov 29, 2011 - 1:02PM

    @Lobster:
    Well said, Sir!Recommend

  • Iftikhar-ur-Rehman
    Nov 29, 2011 - 2:06PM

    I sincerely hope that our Leadership will not buckle under the pressure / influence of friends like Turkey and UAE who have conveyed messages from Germany, USA and other NATO countries.

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  • FactCheckk
    Nov 29, 2011 - 4:28PM

    @Abdul Rehman Gilani:

    You may get what you wish for and you may not like it!

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  • FactCheckk
    Nov 29, 2011 - 4:34PM

    First thing, you should do is expel Ambassador Munter immediately and ask hi to leave within 24 hours. Shut the embassy down.

    If you have the guts, you will do it today!
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  • vasan
    Nov 29, 2011 - 4:36PM

    Sovereignty wasnt there when OBL was residing in Abbotabad. It is not there when Quetta shura exists.

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  • hedgefunder
    Nov 29, 2011 - 5:03PM

    Its bit late for all this charade ! Pakistan should have thought of their long term objectives and been more concerned about their role in this whole affair from the onset, rather than playing victim card and accepting billions in Aid and turning blind eye for decade !!

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  • Kashif Naqvi
    Nov 29, 2011 - 5:36PM

    Our troops died unnecessarily. It is very sad. What is even more sad is that their deaths will all be in vain- our brilliant government as well as our army hierarchy are incapable of crafting an appropriate response, This requires political acumen, absolute understanding of the geopolitical position of the country- which sadly our establishment don’t possess.My heart goes out to the soldiers and their families. Recommend

  • Tony Singh
    Nov 29, 2011 - 5:52PM

    26/11? Only this time its on other side of border. Truly called Karma Where is ZH now?

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  • Meekal Ahmed
    Nov 29, 2011 - 6:48PM

    Nasim,

    I have sent you an e-mail.

    The Washington Post reports today that a senior Pakistani military official said that on seeing some suspicious activity, they fired a flare and a couple of bursts of machine-gun fire.

    The attack lasted “an hour and a half”. That must have seemed like eternity.

    So my question remains: where was our air-power? They had one and a half hours to get themselves up in the air. Why did they not come to save our men and chase away or shoot-down the intruders? Why were they left to die in a hail of rockets? Recommend

  • Raja
    Nov 29, 2011 - 7:20PM

    This same author (a “startegic expert”) has written extensively that after 28/11/2008 Mumbai attack by Pakistani Terrorists, India should continue business as usual with Pakistan.

    That’s what came to my mind when I saw the title! Recommend

  • hedgefunder
    Nov 29, 2011 - 8:03PM

    @Meekal Ahmed:
    Yes i also read the article in WP, however it states that it was a Pakistani Defence Official, who acknowledged that Pakistani troops did fire first !!!
    How come these news never seems to appear in the local media?
    Perhaps a case of selective journalism !!!!

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  • An EHM
    Nov 29, 2011 - 8:47PM

    Those justifying US invasion on May 2 by equating the violation of sovereignty to that which was being done by OBL, they should then not be reluctant to call the US a terrorist also. If US is justified in doing what OBL did, then the US should also be called with the name with which OBL is known to world..

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  • Nov 29, 2011 - 9:00PM

    Weren’t the same bunch advising India on restraint after 26/11 attacks from Pakistan? Now, you want the opposite to happen that your men are killed.

    India lost 160 lives that day, yet you advised restraint. Pakistan lost only 24 and you cant handle it!

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  • Meekal Ahmed
    Nov 29, 2011 - 9:15PM

    @hedgefunder:

    Yes, I am sure there is selective journalism.

    I am not interested anymore in who fired first. I hope it will come out in the investigation. I presume these people keep phone logs and so on.

    Someone said that the air-force high-up’s had no idea what was going on. We have 120 million cell phones in Pakistan. Can no one put through a call to an air-base and ask for help?

    How difficult can that be?

    The image of these brave men looking up at the sky and praying that they see one of our jets is difficult to accept and deal with.

    The civil and military side are delighted that the gullible people of Pakistan are pre-occupied with protest, setting fires, talking big, shouting on TV, leading processions, cheering the closing down of an air base that does not matter much and blocking tankers and denying those poor drivers a living while they are sitting ducks from a terrorist attack. All of them are lined up neck-to-neck and you just have to ignite one and the whole lot will blow up.

    If we can’t protect our fighting men why should we protect truck drivers who are doing an un-Islamic thing by delivering fuel and supplies to the “kafir”? I am surprised our bearded bunch have not issued a “fatwa” ages ago. May be I missed it.

    Before I leave I must mention that some bright gentleman said to me that there are/were orders not to “escalate”.

    If, so, why have an air force?

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  • It Is Economy Stupid
    Nov 29, 2011 - 9:16PM

    “Information is not evidence and there is need for concrete legal evidence” that NATO was involved. “All the information provided by Pakistan is story” from Lollywood. “Dossier provided is just full of useless papers”I am just playing with the quotes of certain minister of Pakistan on India’s 26/11 and substituting for Pakistan’s 26/11.

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  • Muhammad Ahmad
    Nov 29, 2011 - 10:12PM

    Muhammad Ahmad from rahim yar khan

    I think enough is enough now. Govt must have to take some strong action going a bit ahead of just condemnation. We also have to act wisely. We can not do something else on this issue which could be the cause of isolation of Pakistan internationally.
    We must have to take our brotherly countries (Muslims/non-Muslims) into confidence while taking any action.
    The bycoat of BOON conference in Germany, closing ultimatum of shamsi air base and stopping of NATO supply through Pakistan are encouraging steps of Govt which must be acknowledged.

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  • hedgefunder
    Nov 29, 2011 - 10:30PM

    @Meekal Ahmed:
    Sir, you are very right on your assesment of this situation from day one , i recall your comment, which clearly stated that it simply does not add up and people should await for outcome of investigations, however such is the human nature and forces at work that principal objective has been overtaken by all the possible outfits for their personal agendas.
    I recall bomb blasts where hundreds of civilians have died in past few years in Pakistan and we have never seen such outcry!
    So why now?? After all, these were Army personal and its always been occupational hazard in their profession, while those poor innocent civilian consisting of women and children were killed by suicide bombers in the bazaars of towns and cities in Pakistan .

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  • Hu Jintao
    Nov 30, 2011 - 10:20PM

    @Mirza:
    Are you having difficulty stating that entire Abbotabad is not an army base.
    Let me correct you. The supposed compound is a civilian property not military

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  • Hedgefunder
    Dec 1, 2011 - 12:37AM

    @Hu Jintao:
    Mirza is not having difficulty stating the facts !! But the situation simply does not add up, considering that ISI and Army are supposedly the two of the best organistaions in the world, how possibly can it be possible for No 1 High value Asset is found within the vicinity of Pakistan’s Premier Academy ??
    The denial s are acknowledged, however it is not bought by western intelligence agencies !!!
    Thats the principal reason for the lack of trust of Pakistan !!!!

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