Carnage all around

Published: June 12, 2014
The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto

The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto

What happened at the Karachi airport tells us in no uncertain terms what exactly is wrong with us: we inherently lack the capacity for dealing with situations such as the one presented to us by only 10 murderous ‘Taliban’ mostly drawn from the ‘Mujahideen’ of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), who have infested our country’s tribal areas since they were forced from Afghanistan after the US assault in 2001.

Whilst it is of the utmost import to see why they have not been uprooted from this country in all these years and expelled to their own, we first have to look at what happened in Karachi; the utterly shambolic way in which the media reported the matter, even exposing the actual positions on ground of our troops to the attackers’ handlers on the ground in Karachi, who could as well have been watching television and instructing/warning off the terrorists; and the immediate deployment of the army into a situation that should have been controlled by the Airport Security Force (ASF) using their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in dealing with emergencies, with the police providing outer perimeter defence.

Consider: the ASF has been around almost 40 years now; its ranks contain many ex-military men; it is led by army officers; and it is equipped with exactly the same weapons that the terrorists used. It has a training academy/school in which training to handle all sorts of security-related situations is supposedly given to the force. Whilst the army is always there to help in dire security situations, it should have been kept in reserve, maintaining an outer cordon to prevent any reinforcements from reaching the murderers.

It is obvious that the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of this force must be revisited at the earliest and made more efficient, more effective. And if it is found that they are ‘poorly equipped’ as alleged in the aftermath of the audacious attack (though why that is the case escapes me), it should immediately be given the equipment/munitions it lacks.

We must also consider another important aspect of this particular case. Twitter-scape, Facebook, and other social media and our silly talk-shows were full of criticism of the interior and defence ministers for their ‘inaction’, the refrain going something like this: ‘The federal government was nowhere to be seen’; ‘The defence and interior ministers should resign for not being ‘there’’, and so on.

Now, while criticism of the government for carrying on dialogue with cold-blooded killers and murderers holds water, the demand for the ministers to have ‘been there’ is utterly inane, nay completely absurd. In the first instance, nowhere in the world would the presence of ministers at an unfolding security situation in which a group of violent terrorists were being targeted by security forces be tolerated. Indeed the next day’s papers would have blasted them for coming in the way of operations; hungering for photo-ops and so on. As friend Ather Kazi who teaches journalism says: “In disaster zones the last thing you need is a bleeping ‘visiting’ VIP”!

But let’s for a moment consider the fact that we are a unique people who do unique things, and our defence and interior ministers had departed for Karachi on a special executive jet the very moment news came in of the attack, to ‘take control of the situation’. Right then. The news of the attack hit the TV screens at around 11:30 PM on that murderous night. Say it was 30 minutes late in coming to our screens and that the ministers found out about the attack at 11:00 PM.

It would take, at least, an hour and half for the aircraft to be made ready; the pilots to reach the airport from their respective residences, give another 30 minutes for unforeseens. So, the plane carrying the two ministers takes off from Chaklala, Rawalpindi, at 1 AM and lands at 2:45 AM at PAF Base, Masroor, formerly Mauripur, situated near the under-siege Karachi airport (which was closed).

Now picture this reader: In the meanwhile, the Sindh government has been informed of the two ministers’ arrival: just imagine the shemozzle that would ensue looking for bullet-proof vehicles; escort vehicles; guards and all. Imagine this convoy then hurtling to an already jammed with vehicles airport road with soldiers and policemen running hither and yon following orders, and these two hapless ministers caught in the melee making confusion more compounded.

Recall, too, that other high officials including the chief minister of Sindh and several ministers; the commanders of the Sindh police; the Corps Commander, Karachi and his staff; the GOC Malir and his staff; and Brigade and Unit commanders and their troops were already there trying to control the situation as best they could. How in heaven’s name would Chaudhry Nisar and Khawaja Asif have helped? Indeed, the next day’s papers would have headlined the fact that their presence actually made the operation that much more difficult and that, you guessed it, they were just there to make brownie points.

As for the ‘federal government not being seen’, er, last I heard the Pakistan Army; and the ASF were very much part of the federal government of Pakistan. Unless, of course, something changed on the night of June 8, 2014!

Finally, might I once again express my utter disgust and extreme sadness at the death of more of our Shia brothers and sisters and their little children, in Taftan, Balochistan. When will this slaughter of innocents in the name of sectarianism stop? When will this country become safe for its minorities?

An immediate and high-powered inquiry should be ordered under senior justices of the Supreme Court to look into why our myriad intelligence agencies, both federal and provincial, failed to detect both acts of terrorism in time. It is not enough to say that 19 (I’ve made the number up) warnings were given to the Sindh, and 29 to the Balochistan governments, when none of those warnings were target-specific.

We must all help stop the inexorable slide of our country into more chaos and turmoil. So help us God.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (28)

  • Jun 12, 2014 - 10:42PM

    How about the top heads rolling at the ASF? It is led by ex military men.
    And the top command at ASF is retired armed forces officers. Massive failure.
    The uproar about the federal ministers absence was absolutely right. There
    should have been face time by the ministers. At least visit and stay for awhile.
    The author should not get into mundane technical details about how long a
    plane flies. He knows perfectly well what the criticism is about. The public is not
    a little child where you explain the logistics and such. No need to cover glaring
    failure of the Nawz Govt. Even the ‘Dehati Aurats’ can see it.
    Even Obama goes to sites and location of disasters. At the earliest.


  • Sonya
    Jun 12, 2014 - 10:42PM

    Mr shafi being a friend of PML N and candidate for heading any good foreign mission has tried to spare the federal government and pushed the brunt towards media and ASF unnecessarily. He needs to understand that TTP who claimed the responsibility is the one who is close to Nawaz Sharif’s federal and punjab government. Who knows the the terrorists Nawaz Sharif had released from the jails to kick start the talks are the ones who carried out the Karachi airport terror act.


  • saleem hatoum
    Jun 12, 2014 - 11:41PM

    So, Ahsan Iqbal says that airport security and terrorism is provisional problem under godforsaken 18th amendment. CM Shah says that the terrorist have bad neeat and blames ASF incompetence and fault. And you retired drummed out major don’t know anything


  • Kay
    Jun 12, 2014 - 11:54PM

    No mention of Commando today. Strange!!


  • antanu
    Jun 13, 2014 - 1:17AM

    K’S appears to be a very learned person…surprisingly he doesn’t do anything except toetoeing the PMLN.


  • antanu
    Jun 13, 2014 - 1:18AM

    wait for next issue…HE can’t resist for more than that.


  • Fazal Mahmood
    Jun 13, 2014 - 3:45AM

    Let me correct you on couple of things. Yes! The American president visits the disastrous areas but he does not do it in the middle of the situation (obviously for security reasons). Please for God sake use some commonsense. What good the defence or interior minister would have done? Second please know that ASF saved the airport from a bigger disaster by giving their live. They deserve lots of credit for their courageous and timely action. We are just bunch of thankless yahoos.


  • kamran Choudhry
    Jun 13, 2014 - 7:01AM

    It is high time for all Pakistanis to understand that our enemies are internal, not external. We have been sheltering them in our country at our own peril and they are threatening our existence as a free and democratic country. Our leaders should stop appeasing those killers of innocents and make very efforts to get rid of them with all the resources we have under disposal.


  • Jun 13, 2014 - 7:57AM

    They say there is an opening for a clerk in the
    Papua-New Guinea Embassy. Or Burkina Faso
    Consulate needs a Passport Clerk, take your pick.


  • Usman Aziz
    Jun 13, 2014 - 9:34AM

    When we accept rigging in election as a routine matter and want to “move forward” nothing could go right, accept rigging and expect wisdom ……….


  • Toticalling
    Jun 13, 2014 - 10:28AM

    All very well said, but then you finish your piece with: “We must all help stop the inexorable slide of our country into more chaos and turmoil. So help us God.” Surely if you want to involve God, must ask why he is letting that happen, not in Pakistan, but majority of Muslim countries? So I say leave the almighty alone and find human ways to curb lawlessness. It may help if you read Richard Dawkins. But then that author is probably not allowed to sell in the country.


  • Samir Ashraf
    Jun 13, 2014 - 11:05AM

    As usual, nothing but theories. Kamran forgave these attacks during Musharraf’s era and now they seem a carnage. Rise above yourself mr. Author and say that nawaz sharif is the biggest culprit in making us week.


  • Gp65
    Jun 13, 2014 - 11:13AM

    Thoughtful and humane comment,


  • Zaid
    Jun 13, 2014 - 11:17AM

    The root of the problem is Kashmir. We need Kashmir asap


  • Jun 13, 2014 - 11:19AM

    Hindu trolls not wanted here. Go apply in Fiji Islands.
    Lots of hindus there.


  • Toticalling
    Jun 13, 2014 - 12:54PM

    @Landhi wala: Hindu Trolls? And Tribune printed it. I am sure if he had said: you know what trolls, it would not see the light. And I am not a hindu and I am from Pakistan. Only disillusioned.


  • Parvez
    Jun 13, 2014 - 1:18PM

    ….and my comment got shot down.
    ET please let this one go…..its simply stating the truth.


  • TJD
    Jun 13, 2014 - 1:23PM

    The author (so called intellectual) of this opinion piece has a definite tilt towards the PML govt. ET can you please put a disclaimer on each of his article’s header mentioning this please?

    Again total and utter crap by Kamran Shafi – if the sitting govt and their ministers are not to be blamed for this fiasco, then please go ahead and blame Imran Khan for the faliures of sindh and federal govt. I bet Mr. Kamran was desperately itching to put the blame squarely on IK –

    And finally ET, please find some good thinkers, intellectuals to write in this section – you guys are becoming a total joke with the kind of stuff you are publishing here by fellow ‘liberals’ –


  • 2paisa (Khi)
    Jun 13, 2014 - 1:23PM

    PML-N is ultimately responsible because they have been elected by the country to deal with the security and terrorism issue. Just as when a worker in a company messes up, you place the blame directly at the leadership and the CEO. The same yardstick applies. Moreover, Sharif brethren have been fraternizing with the terrorists for a while know (“No difference between us and the Taliban” – Shahbaz shariff, supporting banned outfits in Punjab, etc). They are inisting on negotiating with these people, they are not whipping up a public support against these, etc. If their policies vis a vis terrorism fail, and we continue to see such severe attacks, PML-N and the army are rightly to be blamed.


  • Ahmed
    Jun 13, 2014 - 1:32PM


    Was this article written by Mariam Nawaz??? The foreign minister in waiting? ofcourse you want to make brownie points with the Sharif family since only their toadies and family members get any position of substance


  • Rex Minor
    Jun 13, 2014 - 2:05PM

    ET mod you have problems with my comments, which I have revised;

    For the author, the clock of reality stopped ticking the moment he retired from the army world. This is not his fault, infact he is one of the few gifted individuals who not only used his strong backbone while on duty, also managed to use his brain as a journalist par excellence. But before I forget to mention that they were not 10 uzbek talibans but the commandos indeed who were there to test the defenses of the karachi airport. It is the areal bombing of the Pakistan army in the autonomous waziri land and their rocket attack in Afghanistan, cnsidered the Red Line or no mans land between the two countries, which has sent shock warning signals to the talibans throughout central Asia and the caucasus. It was fortunate that they failed to highjack the planes, which would have brought them to Islamabad. Unless Pakistan army rolls back from the brink, the country will see the Taliban train which Afghanistan experienced once and is presently rolling in the land of Mosel and Karbala.

    Rex Minor


  • Ajamal
    Jun 13, 2014 - 7:36PM

    Surely there was a massive security lapse. If provincial government is responsible and not federal government, then Sindh government should be dismissed by Islamabad.
    Both are just passing the buck till the next disaster strikes and airport tragedy is forgotten.


  • Arshad Kamran
    Jun 13, 2014 - 8:33PM

    Mr Shafi needs a reality check!! The world does not revolve around the Sharif’s.


  • Weirdity
    Jun 13, 2014 - 8:48PM

    @Landhi wala: says “Hindu trolls not wanted here. Go apply in Fiji Islands.”

    and he gets 40 likes. This is what is wrong with the foundation of Pakistan.


  • Agnostic
    Jun 13, 2014 - 10:04PM

    The author is suggesting that media hysterics do not help in emergencies. Nor would dispatching a couple of ministers make a difference. So where is the problem with that?
    As for the comments, these boil down to ‘paralysis by analysis’.
    And why the disarray among the trolls???


  • Imran Zafar
    Jun 13, 2014 - 11:33PM

    I would like to ask Mr Kamran Shafi that wasn’t it responsibility of the Aviation Ministry or Division. Where was The ex Air Force cashiered officer in charge of this Ministry. Missing?? He has a long history of AWOL in Air Force also.


  • Rex Minor
    Jun 14, 2014 - 5:34AM


    How can the federal Government dismisution allow this?s the Provincial Government? Does the country’s constitution allow this?

    Rex Minor


  • Np
    Jun 15, 2014 - 10:01PM

    ET mods- are you sure the post of @Landhi wala meets your comment guidelines? If it does not, please remove the post.


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