The Pakistan Navy is keeping its main battleships away from Karachi, and has moved them to another port in Ormara, Balochistan, as security threats continue, sources in the navy say.
The navy sent its warships away from its main base in Karachi as a “precautionary measure” after a 16-hour siege of its main naval airbase, PNS Mehran. The commando-style gun and rocket-propelled grenade attacks resulted in the destruction of two P3C Orion airplanes – which were key naval assets.
(Read: PNS Mehran attack: Vulnerable, embarrassed and targeted)
Since the terrorist attack, battleships have been stationed in Ormara, navy sources say.
According to one person familiar with the matter, the navy chief ordered the immediate movement of an entire fleet after the PNS Mehran attack keeping in view the all-time high security threats, which continue to loom even today. The May 22 base attack occurred just weeks after three navy buses were bombed in the city on April 26 and April 28.
However, another senior navy official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that not an entire fleet, but “definitely quite a few” warships had to be moved to Ormara for security reasons after the attack. He added that, despite the movement, Karachi remains secure since there are other naval assets in place guarding the city.
A Pakistan Navy spokesperson declined to comment on the report and said that the navy does not comment on “operational details.”
Senior retired navy and air force officials, however, welcomed the move and termed the navy chief’s decision as “pragmatic” and “positive”.
Retired Vice Admiral Tanvir Ahmed said that one of the golden rules in warfare, especially when facing a threat from an unknown enemy, is to disperse your assets in as many bases as you can. “Never put all your eggs in one basket,” he said.
Ahmed said it would be wrong to portray that the navy felt so threatened by four terrorists that it had to move away its warships from their main harbor in Karachi. “It’s not a question of fear, but a matter of tactic,” he said.
Retired Vice Admiral Javed Iqbal underlined another important benefit of the move: “Unlike many navy bases in Karachi, such as Mehran, that are in the centre of residential areas, Ormara is a far off base,” he said, adding that any terrorist there would be spotted from miles away.
He said the movement of ships to Ormara would give “strategic depth” and better defence positions to the navy. He also rejected the notion that the fear factor may have played a major role in the decision. “I’ve been a commando myself and I can tell you this is a brilliant tactical move,” he said.
Retired Air Vice-Marshal Shahzad Chaudhry said the navy has been keeping its assets at the Ormara port for quite some time, but obviously it was not as huge as the “home base” of Karachi. He said that, further down Ormara, some aerial assets have also been kept at Pasni in the past, adding that moving assets is a sensible move.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2011.