The US raid on Abbottabad pierced the bubble of invincibility that we allowed ourselves to believe. Two shocking facts were exposed on that fateful day: One is that the world’s most wanted terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden was living comfortably with his family in the shadow of PMA Kakul; Second is that the US military could enter our territory, carry out a mission, and leave without being noticed.
Two weeks later, a second military attack was carried out on Pakistan’s soil. This time it was not against a foreign element but against Pakistan’s own security installation at PNS Mehran. For 17 hours a band of militants wreaked havoc, destroying our crucial military assets and killing our brave soldiers.
These attacks do not indicate that the military is incompetent. This was confirmed by Peter W. Galbraith, former deputy UN representative to Afghanistan. We should remember that even the mighty US military was attacked on one of its own bases by an Islamist militant who by himself killed 13 people and wounded 30 others. So even the mightiest military in the world is vulnerable to terrorists. But this vulnerability cannot be an excuse for complacency.
Reading the news and listening to people discuss these events, I am concerned that there is a section of society willing to sacrifice Pakistan’s actual security to maintain a shattered mirage. We continue making excuses, being unwilling to believe that anyone calling themselves Muslim cannot commit such acts. If Blackwater calls themselves Muslim will we believe that they are our allies also? We must give up this mirage and embrace the hard reality required to protect the nation.
The News makes this point perfectly in their editorial.
PNS Mehran is not a remote outpost in a tribal area but one of our biggest bases. That half-a-dozen well-armed, well-trained and determined men were able to penetrate one of our – supposedly – most heavily guarded airbases and inflict crippling damage indicates a disconnect between the security forces’ level of preparedness against attacks of this type and the level of threat they face. What this attack demonstrates is that the level of preparedness in every sense is outweighed by the threat.
The attack on PNS Mehran was not a failure of might, it was a failure of focus. We have been so long focused on the wrong threats that we have allowed ourselves to get caught by surprise. We were so focused on one threat that we allowed rabid dogs into the house as protection. This was a mistake. Now these rabid dogs are biting us and yet still we continue to pretend that there is no problem. If Pakistan is going to survive, this must change.
If our top generals agree that drones are useful tool against Pakistan’s enemies, if they believe that working with the Americans will make Pakistan more secure, if they will say this privately as is exposed by Wikileaks, why is this not admitted publicly also and explained to the people? No, I am not calling for resignations. Whether anyone should resign or not resign is not for me to say. But, honestly, it doesn’t matter whose name is on the khaki shirt if the man wearing the shirt is thinking the same way.
Pakistan’s security requires leadership, not excuses. These events may be demoralizing, and the public may be angry and confused, but this can be overcome. These are threats only if we ignore reality and avoid responsibility for making difficult choices required to improve national security policy and educate the public. Our military officers will face down the most bitter terrorist if he threatens Pakistan. Why will they not face down the most bitter TV anchor? The most bitter political opportunist?
An editorial in Pakistan Today outlines another important part of the nation’s security solution:
For nearly two decades after 1980 a comprehensive campaign was conducted to prepare the people for jihad. A propaganda campaign was launched which among other things involved idealising the jihadi groups and their leaders. The extremist clerics even radicalised security personnel and elements in the intelligence agencies. Some of those who fell under their spell were found later on to be involved in a conspiracy against the elected government while others conducted attacks against security establishments and personnel. This requires a comprehensive and all out de-radicalisation particularly of the military and intelligence institutions.
We may have allowed the rabid dogs to enter the house, but there is no reason to continue letting them stay. Such a policy of ignoring reality is suicidal. Najam Sethi is right.
The jihadi terrorists were here before drones. The suicide bombing of Egypt’s Embassy in Islamabad in 1995 pre-dated America’s war on terror. It pre-dated drone strikes. As we stand staring into the wreckage of our naval station in Karachi, we are faced with some hard truths. Pakistan is at war. Not with US. Not with India. We are at war with jihadi militants that are killing innocent Pakistanis, killing innocent Muslims. Not because NATO troops are in Afghanistan. Not because drone strikes. But because they believe that Pakistani society and culture does not conform to their idea of what qualifies as Islamic. Because they believe that Pakistan should be wiped from the map, our borders erased and our culture also. The green and white to be replaced by a black flag under the rule of self-appointed mullahs imposing their own twisted ideology on us.
We have ignored the growing band of rabid dogs that have encircled us, and we are suffering for it. Continuing to ignore the reality will not make it magically disappear, it will only make us suffer further.
No more excuses.