Bannu — an ominous attack

Published: April 19, 2012

The writer is a retired army officer who served in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa khalid.munir@tribune.com.pk

The ease with which the Taliban entered Bannu, broke through the jail and took away hundreds of prisoners has sent shock waves across the country. The failure of intelligence, the inability of the quick response force deployed in the area and the suspicious behaviour of the jail security have all left many questions unanswered. It is unbelievable that the attackers came in such large numbers undetected and did not suffer a single casualty.

Bannu jail is located on the Bannu-Kohat road right next to the Indus Highway bypass road. Bannu Township, which is the city’s affluent area, is right across this road. The Township’s rear touches the FR (Frontier Region) Bannu area. The road connecting Bannu to Thal also passes through this and straddles the left bank of the River Kurram. From Thal, one can travel to Mir Ali.

This road is also an approach to an area by the name of Ping, where criminals of all ethnicities and tribes have settled. The Township Police station is just across the road where the jail is located. The headquarters of the FC is also located on the same road about four kilometres from the jail. A large number of Wazirs from Thal have settled in the area and are mostly involved in agriculture. Former chief minister Akram Durrani’s village is also in the same area. The Wazirs have their own villages, along the Indus Highway, and these stretch till Lakki Marwat to the southeast.

An attack of similar magnitude was carried out in Tank in 2005, when around 500 Taliban from South Waziristan attacked the city and looted banks, police stations and returned without any significant losses. Attacking in large numbers is a tactic often used initially by the Taliban. Those deployed at security check posts would usually be outnumbered and normally surrender. However, lately their ability to use this tactic was assumed to have been weakened — and Bannu has proved that wrong.

All roads leading to the jail have police check posts at reasonable distances. The army’s quick response force also patrols the roads. The Taliban normally travel in pick-ups which can carry 10 to 12 persons. If the figure of 200 attackers is assumed to be correct, then a minimum 20 pick-ups may have been used to bring the Taliban to the jail. Another ten may have been used to ferry the prisoners. It is impossible that such a large number of vehicles in the shape of a convoy could have crossed numerous check posts. There is the distinct possibility that the Taliban came from Waziristan not in a convoy but separately on different days or times and without arms. They may have taken shelter with local Taliban and obtained weapons from them. Even transport may have been obtained locally. There are many open spaces around the city which could be used as an assembling area.

Another possibility is that local Taliban were used in the attack. Bannu, Lakki Marwat and the adjoining areas are infested with them and every village has their presence. In any case, the events of March in Lakki Marwat and Bannu were indicating the re-emergence of the Taliban. That month, six schools were destroyed in Lakki Marwat and a member of a prominent family of Jani Khel Wazir, Khalid Wazir, was assassinated in broad daylight.

One can blame the intelligence agencies for their failure and the police for not fighting the Taliban the way the Afghan security forces fought and killed the Taliban attackers a few days ago in Kabul. The message is loud and clear: the Taliban are back and have now the capability to attack in large numbers.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, April 22nd, 2012.

Reader Comments (11)

  • ayesha khan
    Apr 19, 2012 - 1:46AM

    Pakistani army and government (Rehman Malik for sure) claim that TTP is funded by India right? SO does this mean that Pak security agencies failed vis-a-vis India? When Indian intelligence agencies and and response team performed poorly on 26/11, heads rolled. Not some SP but the Home Minister of India and Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Home Minister because that is hwo RAW reports to. Will Kayani and CM of Balochistan resign due to this failure?

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  • Arindom
    Apr 19, 2012 - 2:07AM

    The Afghan Security Forces seem to be doing a great job fighting the Taliban! Isn’t it ironic that the Pakistani Army wanted to train the Afghans! Think about it!!

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  • Rao
    Apr 19, 2012 - 4:04AM

    The Taliban are not back on their own, but have been invited (by?)!

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  • Pushtun voice
    Apr 19, 2012 - 4:12AM

    Look I am from this area. You cannot reason with the Taliban. It is a tough world where there is no place for the weak. You have to operate from a source of strength. Helicopter gunships should have flown and taken out atleast 4 to 5 of these pickups – that would have been 50 Taliban dead. Police/Army should go house to house and find out who helped the Taliban. Any helpers should have their houses demolished.

    Be ruthless and DO NOT TAKE ANY PRISONERS!

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  • Always Learning
    Apr 19, 2012 - 7:13AM

    Excellent analysis. This could be a major setback for us and the forces combating the Taliban. Thank you.

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  • T Khan
    Apr 19, 2012 - 10:26AM

    DO NOT TAKE ANY PRISONERS! [2]. Crush them, mercilessly, before they crush us!!

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  • Sadhu
    Apr 19, 2012 - 11:38AM

    Pak is now a mansion of shifting shadows and multiple mirrors. Nobody knows who is doing what. Who are the actors behind the shadows, who is the director. You can only analyse the actions by the results, who will benefit from such actions etc. So make logical and intelligent guesses and donot bother about the claims made and spins offered by the authorities.

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  • Shyam
    Apr 19, 2012 - 12:14PM

    Pakistani army as usual seems to be doing everything other than fight

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  • kamran
    Apr 19, 2012 - 1:49PM

    Looks like Pakistan is the new Somalia.

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  • Bitter Truth....!!!!
    Apr 19, 2012 - 5:53PM

    @Sadhu:
    keep your fingers crossed…If US loses interest in India then you will be next in line for same fate….remember Pakistan was blue eyed boy of US in 1980s due to USSR ….USSR ends and Pak is left…now if US sorts China then …..kabooooooom…!!!! India is going to be left in similar fashion…….!!!!!!

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  • observer
    Apr 19, 2012 - 10:19PM

    @Bitter Truth….!!!!

    remember Pakistan was blue eyed boy of US in 1980s due to USSR ….USSR ends and Pak is left…now if US sorts China then …..kabooooooom…!!!! India is going to be left in similar fashion…….!!!!!!

    Bitter——- Yes

    Truth———- No

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