The 27th night of Ramazan is supposed to be one of prayer and quiet reflection. For a group of militants, operating under the guise of religion, it became a night of carnage and death as they attacked the PAF base in Kamra and kept the security forces at bay for over four hours. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has accepted responsibility for the attack. The first thing this audacious raid shows is that, despite a general drop in the number of attacks, the militants are still able to strike at will at some of the most well-guarded security installations in the country. PAF Minhas is the site of some of our more advanced weaponry, including the Saab-2000 surveillance aircraft and our nascent drone programme. Needless to say, militants should not have been able to get within striking distance of a base that should have been impenetrable.
What makes this attack even worse is that it was not a one-off event. We have seen similar militant attacks at the GHQ, PNS Mehran and at the police training academy near Lahore. It would appear that our security establishment has not learned from past mistakes or, even if they have, we would not know about it since any investigation into the attacks is kept under wraps. This time, the military cannot even claim that they were taken by surprise. As a report in this newspaper a few days ago had revealed, intelligence reports received by the home department had claimed that the Taliban were planning on attacking the PAF on the 27th or 28th of Ramazan. As this forewarning was not enough to halt the militants’ progress in Kamra, some would say that it shows our security forces just aren’t prepared to take on the militant threat. The level of security and alertness was found thoroughly wanting.
An investigation into the attack must be held and its conclusions made public. We are generally kept in the dark about militant attacks, such as the ones targeting the GHQ and PNS Mehran. This time, keeping the investigation under wraps should not be an option. There are many questions that need to be answered and the public must be kept informed. Perhaps, the most important question is whether the militants had any inside help. We know that the military, especially in the lower ranks, has people sympathetic to the militants. Not only should anyone who may have assisted in these attacks be named and court-martialled, the military must also cleanse its ranks off any militant sympathisers. Previous investigations into similar attacks have only resulted in the suspensions of a few personnel at best, with no one being held accountable for the serious security lapses.
This and other similar attacks are in many ways an outcome, so to speak, of our skewered security policies, such as of ‘strategic depth’ and of instigating proxy wars in Kashmir and Afghanistan. The ‘assets’, or at least some of them, that the state used for these proxy wars, particularly the military and its agencies, have now turned against us. However, those in the military are not the only ones who need to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Even society at large has obstinately stuck its head in the sand and refused to confront the obvious: that these militants are home-grown and not part of some diabolical American or Indian conspiracy, and failure to recognise even that basic fact is, perhaps, one of the reasons we are unable to extricate and wipe out terrorism and militancy from its root. One TV channel even claimed that one of the attackers was a foreigner, although it never explained how it found this out, especially since the ‘news’ was reported while the attack was ongoing. Conspiracy theories and denial only end up helping the Taliban as it allows it to deflect the blame away from our own society and heap it on foreigners. This mentality will not help in defeating the menace of militancy and terrorism. There is a need to decide on a broader strategy to tackle militants. Foremost among any strategy should be to tackle the TTP head on and at the same time, dispense with our past strategy of using ‘strategic assets’ as part of our foreign policy.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2012.