Idon’t know whether to laugh or cry? Musharraf departed, leaving a demoralised military. One in which over two hundred soldiers under a lieutenant-colonel surrendered to a score of Taliban, without offering resistance. Ashfaq Kayani took over and, within months, the change was visible. Come 2008, the military was back to being the professional, highly respected institution that it used to be.
On May 2, US SEALS killed Osama bin Laden in an unannounced raid in Abbotabad – and the military’s image, built over three years was destroyed. And every Pakistani was baying for the military and the ISI’s blood. Twenty-one days later the PNS Mehran is attacked and everybody loves the security forces again! Perhaps it’s time to get off it and view things a little dispassionately.
Firstly, against terrorists, it is essential to understand that the initiative lies with them. Unless we fortify each and every building like the US embassy and spend our life imprisoned within four walls, like our president, we are, I repeat, we are, and will remain vulnerable. Sometimes intelligence agencies will get a whiff of something and attacks will be thwarted, as they have been; and sometimes not. Sometimes an alert security person will spot something suspicious and prevent it, as they have; and sometimes not.
Neither baying for someone’s blood, nor singing the military’s praises will help. Nor will continuously enhanced security. This is in no way intending to imply that our security agencies and intelligence agencies cannot do better. They can and they must; but they cannot perform miracles! On the assumption that the entire country has followed the events of this, the latest attack, I have no intention of dwelling on the events, except for one aspect which, in my view, deserves special attention.
Whenever terrorists have targeted security agencies, they have targeted personnel; high ranking officers or security/intelligence personnel; never equipment! But this time, if the information available is correct, the first rocket they fired was directed at a P3-C Orion. Is anybody else also wondering why? This is a highly sophisticated aircraft; with submarine detection and kill capability. For the PN, this is their most potent force multiplier against the threat from the Indian Navy. To those unaware of these details, now my desire to focus on this aspect should be as obvious as the answer to my question; why did they target equipment instead of personnel?
Now to revert to what we should do? I am certain that all security agencies will be reexamining their standing operational procedures, plugging holes, revisiting options etc. So, let’s leave them to deal with their jobs. I have two suggestions for us; the people, and one for those who make policies. I start with the latter.
I don’t think anybody has any doubt that the sudden acceleration in these attacks is a direct consequence of the (supposed) execution of Osama. If so, why are we being killed for an act committed by US forces? Quite obviously, in their view, our security forces are synonymous with US forces. They think that by killing us, they are avenging themselves on the US. Meanwhile, all of the US is also baying for our blood. Isn’t it time that we, at the very least, delink ourselves from the US war. We could ask them to fight their war, while we fight ours.
For us; the average citizen, I say repeat my earlier exhortation: don’t blow hot and cold too swiftly, and bear in mind that we are and, for some time, will remain, vulnerable.
Secondly and, perhaps, far more importantly, when you realise that our vulnerability is collective, so too is our responsibility. It is our responsibility to remain aware and to keep our eyes open. So far, our national trait is avoidance of responsibility, particularly when it comes to approaching a representative of the police or security agencies.
Under these circumstances, we will have to learn to coexist and be of mutual assistance. Report your remotest suspicion. Do not grudge your discomfort or the cross-examination you might be subjected to. You might save some lives. Just might; maybe once in a hundred tries. It’s still worth the effort.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2011.