What does the public think?
On September 18, militants stormed a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base near Peshawar. In the ensuring attack over 42 people, including 14 militants, were killed.
The attack brought back to life a few old questions, and posed a couple of new ones. For starters, how does an attack like this happen in a country that is currently leading an operation targeting terrorists? The success rate has been touted time and time again as being more than satisfactory, with many leaders even going as far as claiming that almost all terrorist are gone. If that is so, then who were the men that attacked the Badaber base? Right after the attack Pakistan was quick to point fingers at Afghanistan, only to discover a few days later that the first few terrorists to be identified were all Pakistanis.
The situation is confusing at best for the Pakistani public that has no choice but to hope for the success of all operations against terrorism — and fear those that don’t seem to succeed.
An Islamabad based blogger, Hassan Raza, says that attacks such as the one on PAF is nothing new for Pakistan. Verily, we have been in this situation before. What we need to do is clean the dirt from our own quarters before we go looking to wash other people’s filth.
“Even if it was planned by Afghanistan, let’s not forget the people who were used were our own people and if Pakistanis are willing to go against their own country on the orders of Afghanistan or even India then that is a sign of worry. We need to ask what we did to turn our people against us. This should be answered”
“I believe Pakistan military does have the ability to clean its soil from these elements that have waged war on us and the people who are killing our people to this day. As a country, first of all, people of Pakistan HAVE to accept it as our war, no second choice!” he said.
“One of the biggest reasons we are not winning this war is because of the division of people on this matter, a large part doesn’t even consider it our war, unless we are all united in this war nothing can be done because when people are confused, then they start going towards the wrong side and that is when presence of such elements increase,” he added.
Raza feels that we need to face the fact. Such elements are a part of our institutions. Attacks on the GHQ, Mehran Base, Kamra Base, etc don’t happen by accident.
“Our military has to clean its own house of those people who hold mutual mindsets, or those who sympathies with them and even those who have a soft corner for them. I don’t totally deny the role of Afghanistan or even India in the current chaos but then again, this is their job,” Raza said while adding that Pakistan itself has played a similar role in Kashmir and Khalistan where it stoked the fire of insurgency.
“Similarly, enemies of Pakistan would definitely take every chance to destabilise the country. That said, nothing can be achieved by the outsiders unless the people on the inside are making mistakes,” Raza asserted.
“Even if it was planned by Afghanistan, let’s not forget the people who were used were our own people and if Pakistanis are willing to go against their own country on the orders of Afghanistan or even India then that is a sign of worry. We need to ask what we did to turn our people against us. This should be answered,” he added.
Maria Zahid, a banker based in Karachi, feels the complete opposite. “I think if we keep talking about how it’s India or Afghanistan then we aren’t going to get anywhere with this. This stuff got old years ago. Right now we need to see whether our processes in terms of training and monitoring need to be improved. A huge shift is needed in terms of how people think and see things. You need to re-educate people so that when the time comes they don’t want to go help the people planting bombs in their neighbourhoods,” she said.
“This is what you get when you breed hate,” she added.
Chaudhry Shoaib Saleem, a lawyer based in Lahore, feels that whether the attack was coordinated and planned from across the border isn’t relevant — what is relevant is that the intelligence agencies have the responsibility to take pre-emptive measures for security.
“There are some logical questions which need to be answered as to how some terrorists from Pakistan, as reported in the media, were able to cross the border, get FC uniforms and heavy weapons and reach right into the heart of the province where an important military installation was situated,” Saleem lamented.
The need of the hour is to perhaps accept our weaknesses and move forward from there on. “This is not for the first time that armed forces’ apparatus has been attacked. We should not be reluctant in acknowledging that it was an intelligence failure on our part and we need better coordination between military and civil agencies.
“Protecting the interest of state from any aggression, planned or managed anywhere in the world, is the mandate of intelligence agencies and mere putting blame on neighbouring countries won’t bring substantiate to the claim of being best army in the world,” he said.
“Military preparedness may become compromised from time to time for various reasons. But if at all there’s an institution which has the resources to protect itself, it’s the military”
The problem with intelligence gathering is one that is on many minds at the moment. Abdul Majeed Abid, a writer and doctor based in Lahore, feels that it isn’t entirely possible to defend against Fedayeen attacks.
“That can only be achieved by improved intelligence gathering. Unfortunately, many of the groups attacking our forces today were nurtured by the same people. Until we improve intelligence gathering and stop harbouring terrorists for strategic purposes, incidents like Badaber will continue to take place,” he observed.
Abid feels that Pakistan’s habit to pin the blame on someone or the other every time something goes wrong is becoming redundant.
“It is our national habit to blame the ‘other’ after every accident, be it a burst tire or an earthquake. More often than not, our own people are involved in terrorist activities on our territory. Even when foreign countries support or fund such activities, our intelligence agencies should be vigilant enough to trace that and expose the connection,” he said.
Abid feels that the media too has a role in the chaos. “Pakistan’s electronic media has consumed the Kool-Aid and it is irrational to expect neutrality from them. They were the ones who pinned this incident on Afghanistan and they should be reprimanded for this,” he said.
Mariam Khan, a government official from Karachi, doesn’t think that defence institutions are in any real danger at all.
“Military preparedness may become compromised from time to time for various reasons. But if at all there’s an institution which has the resources to protect itself, it’s the military,” she said.
Mariam felt that a terrorist’s origin is also a moot point. “Plus wherever the people are from — be it Pakistan or Afghanistan — it doesn’t matter and it is insignificant at this point in time. We have to take into consideration how intricate and interrelated terror networks have become. You don’t know where the funding is coming from, where the agenda is coming from, and where the attacks have been secured from,” she added.
Whether it was planned in Pakistan or elsewhere, whether it was executed by our own or not, and whether more of such attacks are coming, the answers to these questions is irrelevant in the face of the impact such an attack has on the country.