Drigh Road or Shara-e-Faisal? – Dr Mohammad Taqi

The secular leaders have abdicated all foreign and security policy-related matters pertaining to the establishment but WikiLeaks suggest that privately they keep venting their spleen to the US diplomats about it

“I keep six honest serving-men,

(They taught me all I knew);

Their names are What and Why and When,

And How and Where and Who” — Rudyard Kipling.

Another week, another tragedy: the series of unfortunate events has no end. But each catastrophe, no matter how enormous, is matched with a conspiracy theory of even bigger proportions. The predilection for gossip and intrigue to explain away the existential threats has morphed from a national pastime to the national creed. The fear of mirrors appears to have robbed this nation of the last vestiges of objectivity.

But first things first: no matter how spectacular the attack on the Pakistan Naval Station (PNS) Mehran, far greater remains the sacrifice of the men of Pakistan’s armed forces who laid down their lives in the line of duty. Lieutenant Yasir Abbas and his comrades, martyred while wrestling back the control of PNS Mehran, deserve a collective bow from this nation. May their souls rest in peace.

It would have been highly desirable if the top civil and military leaders had deemed it their responsibility to attend the funeral of these heroes, for boosting the rapidly plummeting morale, if not to send a message to the terrorists. In a country where vicious killers like Mumtaz Qadri are garlanded for the most heinous acts, such omissions are literally a dereliction of duty on the part of the civil and military leadership. For our part, we can only offer our deepest condolences to the bereaved families to whom we shall remain ever indebted.

The leadership’s ambivalence points towards our real dilemma. While the killers and their supporters are absolutely clear about their objectives and how to achieve them, the state seems to be clueless and rudderless. From an absolute denial to dodging accountability, those at the helm come up with the lamest possible excuses: foreign hand a la American-Indo-Zionist agents unleashing a reign of terror on one of the oldest military establishments of the subcontinent. Is it possible? Well, theoretically it is. But if such is the case then perhaps someone needs to turn in a cap, pips, baton and a belt.

However, even if the blame for a security lapse or breach is affixed justly and all questions are answered appropriately, it may only satisfy the what, when, where, who and how of the event. A military investigation would likely focus on the methods and weaponry used by the attackers and the response of the security agencies. From a tactical perspective this could certainly be very helpful in hardening and thus safeguarding any potential targets. But from a strategic standpoint, unless one seeks an answer to the why, all inquiries, no matter how impartial, will remain meaningless and lead to dead ends. The domestic, regional and international implications of any such attack are myriad and it is imperative that lessons are drawn, and swiftly at that. But it would be impossible to formulate a response without clearly identifying the enemy and determining its motive. And that is where it becomes tricky.

India or the US may be looking at the PNS Mehran attack with glee but there is absolutely nothing strategic that they gain from two P-3C Orion aircraft being destroyed. The psychological impact of audacious attacks on iconic targets is a tactic in asymmetrical — not conventional — warfare. The al Qaeda-Taliban have announced not only their viability through this attack but it perhaps marks the arrival of Saif-al-Adel, who had masterminded a similar attack in Riyadh, as al Qaeda’s new leader. And nothing induces recruitment of cadres than a high profile retribution for bin Laden’s killing.

Pakistani right-wing politicians like Imran Khan and Munawar Hassan would have one believe that everything was hunky-dory in Pakistan till the big bad US rolled into Afghanistan in 2001. They would go blue in the face talking about the dollars that bankrolled the anti-Soviet mujahideen. But they conveniently gloss over the fact that Saudi Arabia matched the US dollar-for-dollar to help Pakistan create the jihadist monster. That great patron of jihadist pan-Islamism, General Ziaul Haq, consummated the tying of the knot with the Saudis by rechristening many cities and places in Pakistan. The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base Drigh Road thus became the PAF base Shara-e-Faisal in 1977. (Arabic word ‘Shara’ and not the Persian ‘Shahrah’, was used for the road). The PNS Mehran is an extension of that same PAF base Drigh Road.

However, this is not just where the selective amnesia ends. These ultranationalists and their cohorts in the media, who are projecting them 24/7 into our living rooms, take great pains to avoid pointing a finger towards the jihadists, especially the ones who are predominantly India-oriented. Parallels are being drawn between the PNS Mehran attack and the one on the GHQ in 2009, which is a partial truth. The first such attack that had showed a high level of strategic vision through an erudite choice of high profile target and deployment of sophisticated tactics was on the Red Fort, Delhi, on December 22, 2000, carried out by the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT). Subsequent attacks, including on the Indian parliament, Mumbai, Sri Lankan cricket team, Manawan Police Academy, the Pakistani GHQ and several in Afghanistan have the fingerprints of the assorted jihadist franchises affiliated with al Qaeda.

But people like Imran Khan who leads sit-ins attended by members of banned terrorist outfits, whose lieutenants are seen literally holding hands with Hafiz Saeed of Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD), and who makes it a point to visit every major madrassa from where the jihadist leadership has graduated, can hardly be blamed for protecting their ilk. These obscurantists will continue to weave webs of lies and deceit that perpetuate not just the confusion in the general public’s mind but make an already perfidious enemy even more nebulous.

While the pro-Taliban leaders led by Imran Khan have been steadily building a neo-jihadist narrative, the secular leadership has been missing in action. The secular leaders have abdicated all foreign and security policy-related matters pertaining to the establishment ….

Read more : Daily Times

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