Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Pakistan military: the enemy within ?
The breach of security at a major Pakistani navy base in the southern city of Karachi has, inevitably, raised questions of complicity, which must be the greatest worry once the night-long siege by the militants ends and the military has finished counting its losses.
That a group of 15 or more attackers armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades could gain access to the inner perimeter of the Mehran base and succeed in blowing up one U.S.-supplied P -3 Orion maritime aircraft and damaging another aircraft, while holding off security forces for more than 12 hours speaks of a large, complex attack that needs some level of help from within. One former Pakistani navy official told a TV channel that the attack appeared to have been planned from a map of facility.
Time magazine’s Omar Wahraich wrote that most analysts believe the success of an apparently well-organized attack on this scale would have required at least some complicity from within the military. In terms of the sheer audacity of the attack, this one is similar to the Oct. 10, 2009 attack on the Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, in which militants penetrated the heavily guarded installation and held several senior and junior officers hostage. The attackers were found to have links to low-ranking military personnel with fundamentalist sympathies, Wahraich notes.
Is the ground starting to shift under the Pakistan military ? First the militants that it nurtured turned against it. such as the Pakistani Taliban which has vowed a war against the state and has claimed responsibility for the Mehran attack. Now, are elements within the military turning against the state as it comes under unprecedented international pressure to roll up the militant networks ?
It’s a crisis the military seems to have been grappling with as far back as 2006 as a recent set of U.S. diplomatic cables reveal. Pakistan’s air force was concerned about radicalisation within its ranks and reported acts of petty sabotage of fighter planes deployed for security operations along the Afghan border. A March 2006 cable from the U.S. embassy in Islamabad quotes then Deputy Chief of Air Staff for Operations, Air Vice Marshal Khalid Chaudhry, as saying that the airmen, most of whom came from villages, were being radicalised by extremist Islamic clerics. The cable also says that Chaudhry claimed “to receive reports monthly of acts of petty sabotage, which he interpreted as an effort by Islamists amongst the enlisted ranks to prevent PAF aircraft from being deployed in support of security operations in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghan border.” Hers’s a link to the cable released by India’s NDTV.
Here’s a video of the Mehran siege