Rawalpindi attack is a lesson for Pakistan
I wouldn’t say that nemesis caught up with the Pakistan Army when its Rawalpindi-based General Headquarters, better known as GHQ, came under terrorist fire followed by a siege that lasted nearly twenty hours. It might be true but one must desist mocking when an adversary is at the receiving end of a common enemy. It should be viewed as an opportunity to change mindsets, to show to the anti-India lobby in Pakistan that the fight against terror cannot be selective.
Regardless of their identity, the heavily armed gangsters who went for the heart of the army establishment didn’t ostensibly aim to take General Ashfaq Kayani hostage. Their objective was to make Pakistan’s most potent institution look weak and vulnerable.
That the audacious strike coincided the army’s decision to extend its operations into South Waziristan—where lines blur between the Taliban and the Al Qaeda— was evidence of their growing desperation. Waziristan is where suicide bombers are conceived, delivered and reared on a diet of revenge, misplaced ideology and religious bigotry. It’s a crucible that integrates killers, smugglers, mercenaries, drug lords, warmongers and self-styled jehadis of different nationalities.
By the admission of many security experts in Pakistan, the attack on GHQ was a joint operation with clear imprints of Punjab-based groups against whom India demands decisive action. Even if it’s mere conjecture, it makes out a case for fighting terror without playing favourites. The case in point here is that of the LeT’s Hafiz Saeed against whom the Punjab High Court is reported to have dropped charges under an anti-terror law.
From the Indian standpoint, Pakistan’s prevarications are indefensible.
After the Peshawar bombing preceding the GHQ incident, NWFP’s Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain had claimed the provincial government was handicapped in its efforts to contain killer groups enjoying sanctuaries and training bases in other provinces, notably Punjab, where they are trained and funded. “Instead of blaming (the provincial) NWFP government for not doing enough, there is a need to tackle terror where it’s born,” he said.
Rather then paying heed to Hussain’s lament, Interior Minister Rehman Malik contrasted what he called Indian “signatures” in Balochistan with Pakistan’s action in booking some people for the Mumbai attacks. Other Pakistani commentators, including retired spooks, drew parallels between the GHQ attack and the 9/11 hit on the Pentagon. They said the Waziristan operation wouldn’t be successful unless the area was insulated from the Taliban and Al Qaeda’s potential supporters in Afghanistan and adjoining tribal habitations in Pakistan.
One former army officer suggested withdrawal of troops from the eastern borders— where “enemy India is unlikely to attack” to beef up the Waziristan offensive. I found the adjective (enemy) hugely inappropriate. But it only showed that Rehman Malik has company to keep among Pak faujis, spooks and clerics who have made a living out of demonizing India.
It’s about time policymakers in Pakistan made up their mind as to who’s their real enemy: India or terrorism? Confusion on this score could be suicidal; the attack on the GHQ having conclusively proved that the merchants of terror have penetrated vital institutions with moles and sympathizers.
In the not too distant past, bombs exploded in the high security offices of the federal investigating agency, the navy war college, buses carrying air force personnel and a police training academy on Lahore’s outskirts.
There were three attempts on the life of then Army Chief Pervez Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto fell to an assassin and so did a general in his official car in Rawalpindi. After Baitullah Mehsud died in a drone attack, there were apprehensions of a major government installation coming under terrorist attack. But nobody expected it to be the seat of the Pak Army.