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PNS Mehran Attack: The War Of Minds And Opportunities

Posted by yourpakistan on June 4, 2011

Usama Nizamani – Fortress

Pakistan’s sovereignty has become booty of violation, by its supposed allies and declared enemies. Either they are in form of predator drone carrying out surgical strikes in its tribal areas or gorilla styled do-and-die missions executed by TTP (Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan) and its sympathizers. In both contexts, the losses are incurred by the overwhelming innocent people of Pakistan from the civil and armed forces.

The never ending serial of planned and hostile terror attacks against Pakistan has become an everyday norm. In fact the magnitude of losses surpasses the horrific events of 9/11, 26/11, or 7/11 which is no-match to the sacrifices made by the resilient Pakistani people.

The recurrence of another terror attack on the night of 22nd May, 2011 at PNS-Mehran base, are an evident fact that CIA operated drones or RAW assisted TTP are an emphatic threat to the national sovereignty of Pakistan.

While, this belief has become concrete, selection of timing, place, target, objectives and strategy raise severe (action-oriented) concern for the people and leadership of Pakistan.

According to reports, the terrorist attack at PNS-Mehran was carried out by a total of 6 terrorists. They were geared not only with sophisticated equipment including RPGs, plastic explosives, automatic assault rifles, snipers, night vision goggles, grenades, suicide jackets, and GPS, but with lethal asymmetrical warfare training and commando-style execution. These terrorists penetrated the base from the rear end of the naval base, which is adjacent to a sewage line. Surprisingly, the terrorists prime-target were the stationed P-3C Orion aircrafts which are elite assets of Pakistan Navy, the terrorists hurriedly made their way to the base-hangars, and destroyed one of the P-3C Orion aircrafts-costing a loss worth $ 36 million. However, with the brisk response of naval forces the terrorists were retreated and naval forces along with the reinforcement of Rangers physically towed the other aircrafts to safety. The operation conducted by SSG-Navy and the other armed forces reached conclusion after a 16 hours standoff with the terrorists. As a result, 4 terrorists were eliminated and two had managed to escape, ten navy personnel including Lt. Yasir Abbas, two Rangers and 4 other shaheeds from the Navy personnel embraced shahadat.

The P-3C Orion aircrafts were inducted in June 2010 by Pakistan Navy to boost its air surveillance capability. The aircraft is primarily used for reconnaissance, maritime patrol, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare. It is deployed by the Pakistan Navy to operate in the Arabian Sea, as a measure to counter any threats to its Naval-Borders. Selection of this multi-functional aircraft as a ‘target’ is alarming, since these aircraft were never deployed in any operations against the TTP, and it is no less than a strategic blunder when the TTP have chosen (to destroy) it as their strategic-objective. Whilst, it has never been relevant to their conflict, designation of Orions’ as ‘objective’ (by TTP) clearly indicates that, it is India that will fundamentally, primarily and in the long-run benefit in the naval realm from such a vital loss. And how India is a potential stakeholder in this covert terror-attack will be elucidated later in this article.

Recently while giving an exclusive interview to BBC correspondent Andrew Marr at White House President Obama emphatically replied on the question if Abbottabad-like raids will be repeated in future? He replied, “Pakistan has been very obsessed with India; they see it as their existential threat. I think that is a mistake. What we are trying to do is talk to the Pakistanis how they can reorient their strategy, so that they understand that the biggest threat to Pakistan is homegrown, i.e. Terrorism.”

Despite how naïve this assertion is, it is also based on the ignorance of established facts. In 2009’s spring and fall when Pakistan launched operation Rah-e-Rast and Rah-e-Nijat sequentially against TTP elements in Swat and South Waziristan, it recovered substantial evidence of Indian assistance given out to the miscreant elements.

This assistance ranged from provision of arms and ammunition, logistics and monetary resources, given straight out from the network of Indian consulates in Afghanistan

. Establishment of this fact excludes the Indian-sponsored ethnic-separatist insurgency in Baluchistan, pertaining which in April 2009 the P.M. Yusuf Raza Gillani handed over a dossier to his Indian counterpart P.M. Mahmohan Singh at a meeting in Sharm el Shaikh, containing the proof of direct-Indian involvement from across the border in Afghanistan.

On September 20th 2009, Gen. McChrystal Former Commander ISAF submitted his 66 page assessment to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, which categorically implied the counterproductive repercussions of the Indian influence in Afghanistan for the region and neighboring Pakistan.

“Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan, including significant development efforts and financial investment. In addition the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian. While Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani counter-measures in Afghanistan or India.”

Although McChrystal’s assessment about Indian presence narrowly focused on her role in socio-economic development, it treads lightly in restraining to highlight India’s latent involvement in destabilizing Pakistan. However, with indication of India’s exacerbated political influence and proof of tangible Indian assistance to insurgency in Pakistan, Obama’s assessment about Pakistan’s perceived threat from India remains paradoxical. Despite Islamabad’s exchange of proof about New Delhi’s involvement (in Pakistan’s destabilization) to the U.S. Officials, it seems that Obama administration is either turning a blind eye to this grave situation or it’s complicit in Indian political aspirations for the region. Hence, Obama’s referral to homegrown threat is integrally relevant to India. Thus, Indian threat to Pakistan is as relevant as it was in the past.

Furthermore, in Pakistan when the domestic tide politically and nationally was turning against the Drone strikes, and people were voicing their consensus over the national sovereignty, which was evident in the first blockade of NATO logistics carried out by Imran Khan’s PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) on 23rd April 2011 at Peshawar. Soon, after the U.S. carried out the most controversial “Operation Neptune Spear aka Geronimo” on May 2nd, which claimed to have killed Osama Bin Laden- The Al-Qaeda leader. The operation was a breach, violating Pakistan’s sovereignty under national and international laws. It was not just a setback for the Pakistani people and its army which was reiterated with zealous accusation and propaganda in Indo-western media of being accomplices with OBL. Concomitantly the Obama administration had no proof of such complicity. Since Pakistan was never informed about his presence and the raid was carried out unilaterally with the use of top-secret stealth helicopters and despite all this John Kerry on his recent visit to Islamabad continued to warn Pakistan of ceasing its aid.

Not until recently when Pakistani people and its institution could have overcome the dismay caused due to the U.S. indifference towards Pakistan’s sovereignty. Pakistani sovereignty came under attack yet again, but in the guise of another enemy. However, the interesting factor in the political realm is that this attack took place when people were recollecting their resolve to demand the Government to ‘stop the drones’ at Karachi city on May 22-at the last night of second NATO blockade organized by PTI- It happened, the terrorists had attacked again, with a brilliant and deadly planning not only to kill but to destroy strategic assets.

To any surprise, this attack (on PNS Mehran) had done the damage alike the Abbottabad raid. It seems that the common motive of these attacks (either on Abbottabad or PNS-Mehran Base) is to hijack the growing public sentiment which is turning against the U.S. drones or any act carried out (by U.S.) to violate Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Secondly, it has puzzled many skeptics that why would TTP carry out an attack at such a defining moment in the whole decade, when people are starting to voice their concrete opinion against the U.S. alliance which benefits one of their primary motives for which they push their war against the Pakistani armed forces. Instead of waiting and allowing the political environment to nurture it has either proven that it gravely lacks the political vision and wisdom or that its working in collusion with external forces (read Indian RAW and the CIA) to destabilize Pakistan. The latter is much sound and valid than a mere assumption, since the precision and core objectives of this attack proved and established the latter hypothesis, which can also be ascertained with a report which was published on May 25 over BBC’s website: “New kind of militant behind Pakistan-Karachi attack: By Syed Shoaib Hassan” which sheds detail on the tactical and strategic aspects of this attack-especially the attackers objective to target Chinese-engineers and P-3C Orions.

Further, it has happened for the first time that an Indian Minister right after the first hours of any such operation has given a statement condoling over the loss of the lives-of members of Pakistan armed forces- and other tangible damage done. The statement didn’t even come from the Indian Foreign Minister but from Chidambaram the Indian Interior Minister. Such condolences didn’t come lately when there was a suicidal attack leaving behind carnage of 89 newly trained FC recruits in Charsada, and neither in the past when GHQ of Pakistan Army came under attack in October 2009. The condolence and concern expressed by Chidambaram could have been a part of ‘damage-control’ strategy or to evade any criticism by Pakistani media and analysts of covert Indian involvement in the attacks due to the severity of the aftermath or the sensitivity and relevance of the target with the Indian naval-threat.

The Psy Ops of “Slow Desensitizing Damage Strategy” against Pakistan:

Attacks carried out by predator drones, border violations by NATO Troops/Choppers or Taliban attacks launched throughout the country are occurring constantly, slowly and yet surging in efficiency in terms of the damage and destruction caused.

Analysts believe that the ultimate target of such actions (by U.S. & TTP) is to set a concrete premise in global community to denuclearize Pakistan. However, the tactics on ground are combined with application of Psy-ops strategy.

In my opinion I name the strategy as, “Slow Desensitizing Damage Strategy”. The strategy primarily encompasses at carrying out large-scale damage to the enemy, however in form of small attacks carried out with intervals over a period of time. While, psychologically the premise of such attacks is to desensitize the-enemy populace which would eventually become apathetic and indifferent to such attacks- either if these attacks are in form of drones or suicide-bombings. The strategy is seemingly inspired by the Gestalt school of Psychology, which follows the principle, “the whole is greater than the sum of its part”. Since, if we add up the whole damage of all the attacks (either in form of drone or terrorist attacks) carried throughout the years, we realize the mammoth destruction caused to Pakistan.

It is also believed that India & Pakistan, both possessing nuclear deterrence will not engage in any conventional war on its international-borders. Although, the cold-start doctrine was initially designed to be launched from Thar-desert (in Sindh province) bordering with India.

However, India’s assistance to Tehreek e Taliban is seen as a revised materialization of the cold-start strategy. There is possibility that India has reviewed its strategy and implemented it in these unconventional times benefiting from the prevalent security environment in Pakistan. Hence, allowing (India) to accomplish similar objects, but in a different fashion.

What are the objectives of such attacks on vital military installations?

Objectives & Motives:

The hampering of armed struggle in Jammu & Kashmir: The Indian Media, Civil and Security establishment has used the insurgency inside Pakistan to the best of its interest. The Indian Troika has attempted to generalize all militant groups with one brush, by giving the impression that Kashmiri armed militant groups such as LeT (Lashkar e Taiba) and etc. are also involved in insurgency inside Pakistan. Hence, creating a domestic and international perception throughout the world that such groups are a mutual threat to Indo-Pak security, and simultaneously reinforce the international perception that primary threat to Pakistan remains from within and not its regional counterpart India.

A state of anarchy: The recurrence of terror attacks remain on surge, due to Pakistan’s corporation with the U.S. & NATO on this infamous war which is losing popularity back home and world-wide. Pakistan’s sacrifices are unparallel with loss of more than 5,000 troops, 38,000 innocent civilians and a devastated economic loss of $ 70 Billion. The constant resurgence of attacks at sensitive and vital military locations is allowing the Indo-Western media to undermine Pakistan’s commitment and on the contrary perpetuate the perception that Pakistan is on the brink of anarchy-where terrorists are on the let loose- and its civil-military institutions have failed to capitalize over the prevalent deteriorating condition of peace and stability.

The rogue military: Since inception of Pakistan was based on the Islamic ideology. Islam remains the bedrock of Pakistan’s armed forces. However, it was observed in attacks such as one on the GHQ where few former personnel of the army were involved in the attack and a similar suspicion is being expressed in the recent attack over the PNS-Mehran Base that few insiders (serving or former personnel) of the Pakistan Navy having sympathies with the TTP may be involved. There is a concern that irresponsible and illegal actions of the few personnel can be used as a premise in the Indo-Western media to inculcate the belief that Pakistani military is evolving into a rogue institution filled with overwhelming radical Islamists. This hype is already under progress, a recent such article by Dean Nelson: Pakistan Army’s next generation, ‘anti-American, devout Muslims’ depicts the concern that future Pakistani military leadership are followers of conspiracy theory and ‘anti-American, devout Muslims’.

Continuation of raids, drone strikes or an operation in North Waziristan: With Indian RAW’s assistance to TTP from Afghanistan. Pakistan’s internal sovereignty may remain compromised in near future and as a result the U.S. may continue its drone strikes or carry out unilateral special raids inside the North Waziristan territory to primarily target the Hizb e Islami faction-Haqqani network or compel Pakistan to itself launch a broad military operation inside the North Waziristan Territory targeting Haqqani network & TTP. It is worth considering that Haqqani network is not regarded as a threat by the security establishment of Pakistan.

Denuclearization: After the well-planned attack on PNS-Mehran Base, the old rhetoric of unsafe and poor security of Pakistan’s nuclear is being bashed about combined with the fear that the terrorists may try to steal and detonate them in western countries. Hence, urging the global community to denuclearize such an ‘unstable-state’ which is incapable to adequately secure its important military installations. However, on 27th May, as a preemptive measure to counter such propaganda, the NA Defence Committee demanded extra safeguards for its nuclear assets.

The Remedy

Pakistan is treading lightly at cross-roads, where it has to decide for how long it can compromise the security, peace and prosperity of its people for the national interest of some other country. The ‘War on Terror’ has pushed Pakistan to be an object of ‘reaction’ for both (The U.S. & the TTP) and it too had retaliated in ‘reaction to their reaction’. Pakistan stands in high time than ever to start-off with a ‘proactive’ rather than reactive or indifferent policy to this war with respect to its people.

The decade long war has not only affected Pakistan’s economy and peace, but its foreign policy in a severely adverse manner. It has on a proactive level turned loath or remained ineffective in drawing world attention towards the struggle of Jammu & Kashmir, as it did in the past.

Pakistan’s civil and military leadership, including the foreign office require asserting a ‘proactive’ gesture. A composition of a comprehensive policy which is a product of delicate calculation of cost & benefits attached with the U.S. led ‘War on Terror’, and how Pakistan can set a road-map for evolutionary ‘withdrawal’ from this war which is eventually leading Pakistan to be a soft-target for venting frustration by U.S. and TTP.

A reconsideration of Kerry-Lugar aid is also pivotal since it’s conditioned with Pakistan’s cooperation with the U.S. and compliance with certain conditions which may contradict its interest.

Simultaneously and direly, a road-map for peace-process needs to be worked out, which ensures a peaceful exit for U.S. and NATO troops and facilitates a peaceful political settlement which includes major political forces of Afghanistan and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), in order for the sanity to prevail in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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