The filing of the FIR by the Pakistan Navy in the PNS Mehran case seems to suggest that the civilian and military authorities are not on the same page regarding possibly the worst attack ever on our armed forces. While the government, through the interior minister, has said that terrorists were part of the attack, and of these two may have escaped, the FIR, filed in Karachi on May 24, states that between 10 to 12 people stormed the naval base, out of which only four were killed while the rest escaped. This discrepancy may seem minor, especially when compared to the massive intelligence failure that permitted such an attack to be successfully pulled off, but by now the authorities should have known how many people were involved in the attack, what their names were and where they lived, given that the attack wasn’t something that happened and was over in a flash but lasted almost 17 hours. That they can’t even agree on the number of attackers shows that an investigation has barely begun and this will only serve to embolden the militants.
The ease with which military installations were attacked and how, according to a BBC report, the attackers knew, for instance, the barracks where Chinese engineers were being housed, hints at some kind of collusion or help from the inside. Those who may have sympathy for the cause of the terrorists may be in low-level positions but they need to be identified and removed from the services. Another internal inquiry, which is what the government has promised, will not suffice since these may be less concerned with gathering information and more with hiding failures.
What is needed even more than independent enquiries is an improvement in the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the agencies. Even if they do not support militant groups now, we know that the military used them as part of their Kashmir and Afghanistan policies of the 1990s. This alone should be a huge advantage in gathering intelligence about them. Without knowing where militant groups are going to attack in advance, the agencies all but ensure they will attack often and successfully.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2011.
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