EDITORIAL: Bloody battles rage on
Twelve policemen lost their lives on Saturday when two Taliban militants attacked a police station in Dera Ismail Khan. “The attackers were a husband and wife. We will keep carrying out attacks with different strategies,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman, told Reuters. There was a five-hour standoff between the police and the two terrorists who were dressed in burqas. During the siege, there were reports that between seven and 20 attackers were involved but as it turned out, only two Taliban militants carried out the attack. Five policemen were shot dead while seven others lost their lives when the couple blew themselves up at the end. The fact that a man wore a burqa to deceive the policemen is nothing new. Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) fame tried to escape from the mosque in a burqa back in 2007. The Taliban are not getting innovative; they are just following in the footsteps of their fellow radicals. What is worrying though is the frequency of attacks on the security forces. Yesterday, a bomb explosion targeting a police checkpost wounded three police officers in Multan. It seems that the terrorists now have a very good idea of our security forces’ capacity. The audacious attack on PNS Mehran last month showed how a handful of terrorists can wreak havoc in an otherwise ‘secure’ military base.
Most of our police stations do not have adequate weapons to counter terrorism. We saw what happened when the Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked in Lahore two years ago. There were reports that the police did not have enough weapons to come to the rescue. The terrorists are either better equipped in some cases or the weaponry and means available to both sides is more or less equal. On the other hand, despite continuous attacks, there is no sense of urgency and it is business as usual, especially in remote isolated places. These attacks are indeed a lapse in security. Our security forces have now become, in the words of Lord Tennyson, “lotus-eaters”. Not only are we unprepared for the challenges staring us in the face but we refuse to acknowledge that the whole country is at war.
There are some steps that we must take in order to deal with this issue. One, there must be a review and purge of the fifth columnists within the security forces. The process has already begun with the arrest of some jihad-sympathisers within the army but those who are in cahoots with the terrorists within the police forces also need to be taken to task. Two, a general alert should be raised countrywide instead of specific cities/towns. Three, the security forces must not let their guard down at any point. And last but certainly not the least, our intelligence agencies need to sharpen their intelligence-gathering methods. Timely intelligence can prevent many a disaster from taking place. For this, we need to give up our duality of policy. Most terror networks operating in Pakistan were nurtured by our state. Some of them still enjoy overt or covert support of the military establishment. Exporting jihad to other countries in the world, especially in the South Asian region, has now led to internal warfare. If the loss of 35,000 precious lives at the hands of terrorists in recent years is not enough reason for the security establishment to wake up to this grim reality, then there is no hope left for Pakistan. *
SECOND EDITORIAL: Osama’s Pakistan links
The military has sharply reacted to the ‘insinuations’ of the recently published New York Times report, ‘Seized phone offers clues to bin Laden’s Pakistani links’ that Osama bin Laden had some kind of support from Pakistan’s intelligence agencies through a militant outfit. According to the report, the cell phone of bin Laden’s courier recovered during the raid on his hiding place in Abbottabad had contacts of operatives of Harkatul Mujahideen, considered close to Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI. However, the American officials conceded that “there was no ‘smoking gun’ showing that Pakistan’s spy agency had protected bin Laden”. Despite this categorical disclaimer, Pakistan has been portrayed and perceived as being complicit in sheltering bin Laden in Abbottabad by media that picked up this report around the world. Therefore, there is a defensive tone in DG Inter-Services Public Relations Major General Athar Abbas’ statement: “It is part of a well-orchestrated smear campaign against our security organisations.” There has recently been a stream of suggestive news in the international media about Pakistan’s security agencies, reflecting suspicion and mistrust, although no proof that Pakistan’s officialdom knew about Osama’s presence on Pakistan’s soil has been brought forth. Perhaps it would be more fruitful for us to ponder why an atmosphere of mistrust keeps haunting us and why we have been condemned to defend our innocence whenever such a report surfaces.
If Pakistan wants to clear the army’s good name in this whole affair, it will have to conduct a credible investigation into the May 2 incident. The government has announced the formation of a commission for this purpose, which can serve as a very good tool to establish the facts surrounding that event. Unfortunately, the opposition has raised objections about the composition and mandate of the commission even before it has started functioning, rending it non-credible. This is too serious a matter to be dealt with by the government in this cavalier fashion. In terms of restoring the credibility and reputation of the military and intelligence services, the commission must be made acceptable to all parties. The opposition must be taken on board and its reservations addressed. This is the only way to absolve the military of the blame that has stuck to it for the foreseeable future. Otherwise, this stream of negative news will continue. *