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Unwilling to learn

Published May 23, 2011 03:16pm


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Flames and smoke belches out from a PNS Mehran Base after an attack by militants, in Karachi early on May 23, 2011. - AFP Photo

On the night of May 22, 2011, over a dozen armed men, wearing suicide jackets, infiltrated into the Mehran Base of the Pakistan Navy Aviation.

When challenged, they mowed the challengers down with automatic fire, then proceeded to destroy the chosen targets - Orion P 3 maritime surveillance and anti-submarine platforms, said to cost Pakistan USD 30 million each. Eight such aircraft were contracted, out of which three were received, one crashed during a routine flight along the Mekran coast and the remaining two are believed to have been destroyed by the Mehran Base raiders.

The question is how did the attackers manage to get into a supposedly well guarded base where all the naval aviation's air assets were parked, and why did it take 18 hours to regain control of the base. It is clear that the Navy doesn't think that Pakistan is at war with an internal enemy who has been striking targets with impunity all over the country – and in doing so, they have time and again exposed the weaknesses in the security systems employed by the defence forces.

Take the attack on the GHQ for example - the terrorists had managed to break into the GHQ and hold the Military Intelligence Directorate as hostage. They could have blown up the directorate, but didn't, in a grave miscalculation that they could swap their hostages with their colleagues in the army's custody. Had the Navy learnt its lessons from the GHQ raid, they just might have put into place a more effective security system and spared the country more humiliation, barely three weeks after the humiliation it faced as a result of the Abbottabad raid.

The repeated failure of the Pakistani security forces to pre-empt terrorist activity has demoralised not only the Pakistani soldiers, sailors, and airmen, but has also severely dented the reputation of the three services in the eyes of the people they are expected to defend. Worse still, the servicemen and the people have begun to see the terrorists as ten feet tall.

In the face of tactics, strategy submits. The need of the hour is to get the basics right, that is to say, developing an imaginative system for the security of National Vulnerable Points (VPs) and Vulnerable Areas (VAs). The objective should be to prevent infiltration into VPs and VAs, and if the terrorists manage to infiltrate, they are intercepted/taken out in time.

Apart from this, the intelligence services need to increase their resources and effectiveness aimed at surprising the terrorists before they set out on a mission. This would obviously involve penetrating the various terror groups operating in the country. The failure or success in combating terrorism depends entirely on the intelligence services.

If we don't get the basics (tactics) right, however brilliant the high policy and strategy may be, they would count for nothing-and the country will continue to suffer humiliation time and again.

The writer is a defence analyst.

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Comments (8) Closed

HRS May 23, 2011 10:18pm
And why did the Army Chief not accept the ISI guys' resignation pls?
Laxmi May 24, 2011 01:33am
Pakistani Armed Forces have become "Joke of the Month"
aditya May 24, 2011 05:03am
What You Will Sow,Thou Shall Reap..Pakistan will suffer and suffer long as the world laughs
Agha Ata (USA) May 24, 2011 08:53am
Mr. Javed you said it all in this line: "...but has also severely dented the reputation of the three services in the eyes of the people they are expected to defend. . . " Now people think that our army has learned only three things, 1) Bullying civlians, 2) wearing smart uniforms, 3)and table manners.
BIMAL CHANDRA JHA May 24, 2011 09:32am
Sir, First of all I would like to congratulate "the dawn" for reporting and publishing the news in a balanced way.I am a regular reader of this esteemed newspaper.The basic problem which Pakistan faces today is terrorism from inside the country. Some days ago I learnt from media reports that ISI chief has warned USA against drone attacks, but the attacks are continuing. What Mr.Pasha is doing ? He has made himself a laughing stock. Nawaz Sharif is right when he says that India is not the biggest enemy. The biggest enemy not for Pakistan only, but for whole of south Asian region including India is the poverty. We must identify our main enemy. Unfortunately, all wings of the Pakistani government are suffering from India obsession. This is the main reason that the security system in protecting PNS Mehran base has collapsed. Yours faithfully. BIMAL CHANDRA JHA,Samanpura Road, Patna, Indi
tauseef May 24, 2011 10:42am
they are not learning any lession and will never learn, it seems. innocent people are losing their lifes. what is happening in my country?
Usman Shahid May 24, 2011 12:05pm
If forces pre-empt and kill terrorist before any activity, media make them innocent like they did in Quetta incident.
Aftab Zaidi May 24, 2011 03:06pm
Totally wrong analogy. The media did not exonerate them rather the eye witnesses account also reveals that unarmed people were shot at close range. The post mortem report also gives credence to their innocence. The police and rangers have till not able to bring forward any sort of ammunition or suicide belts as was claimed by the security forces intially. The video footage also shows the rangers shooting at unarmed people. Their conduct was brutal and animalistic. You need to get your facts right.