Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Protecting the protectors

The terrorist’s reaped havoc this Friday inside a mosque in the military garrison city of Rawalpindi. So far according to the news reports, forty lives have been claimed, 17 of the dead were children. Nine of the killed were military personnel, including a major general, a brigadier, two lieutenant colonels and two majors.

The Parade lane mosque is located within the highly protected ‘Red Zone’ and is a short distance away from the Military general Headquarters.

This fresh attack claimed by the Taliban in Pakistan, is another severe blow to the military and to Pakistan’s security. Just a few weeks back, the Military General Headquarters was the target of a separate terrorist attack, this attack outlined major security lapses and the perversity within the otherwise highly coveted Pakistan Military.

Investigations carried out by the Crime Investigations Department (CID) of Punjab, a civilian organization, had learnt (some of the details) during its investigations of the Sri-Lankan team attack in Lahore, that "terrorists belonging to the Pakistan Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), were planning to attack the GHQ. According to the news reports the (CID’s) investigation report also included reference to the Taliban militants using Army personnel uniforms and vehicles which may mimic vehicles frequently used by Pakistan Army to by-pass security at the GHQ. Despite these warnings, there was little communication between the CID and the relevant Military intelligence agencies. The GHQ was subsequently attacked by the Taliban and company in the exact manner as outlined in the CID report.

The war-fatigue within the Pakistan Military is at the highest level within the recent years. The Army is tired after the travails of its recent and on-going campaigns in Sawat and North Waziristan. The military is continuing to claim control of these areas, the collateral damage has been considerably less compared to what was expected due to the scale of the operation and the Army along with the local government and federal governments aid, has done an impressive job in getting the majority of the internally displaces citizens back to their dwellings. The situation is still chaotic, but given the nature of the beast of war, it is difficult to ask for much more, presently.

The task at hand for the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani is difficult and consuming. The wallops of the Taliban attacks have left the military vulnerable; there is a developing consensus within the Pakistani people that the current military leadership is incapable of cleansing itself of the Taliban cronies within its ranks. This is a serious problem.

It is a known and documented fact that the American CIA with the help of Pakistan Army propped-up and propelled the Taliban movement in 1980’s, as the Taliban movement has taken a life of its own. It’s mutated to a point that it is now directly challenging the Pakistan Army and its writ in the capital of Pakistan. The situation is grave.

General Kayani, on his own resolve (which was supplemented by United States encouragement and the developing public opinion in Pakistan) has engaged with the Taliban and its Al-Qaeda allies on the front-lines. However the General is yet to take any concrete action to break clear of Pakistan Army’s past relationship with its current foes, the Taliban.

The questions is, is General Kayani, the former chief of the Pakistan Clandestine Service (ISI) and the current Army Chief, willing to hold himself accountable for the lapses in security, the break-down in communication, the lack of or co-ordination between security agencies, and the meaningful translation of security data into actionable intelligence?

The current situation is undermining Pakistan Military’s credibility, not only in Pakistan but across her borders. Is he willing to hold himself to the same standards of integrity, discipline and effectiveness which his organization has so often used an excuse and as a tool to march into the corridors of power?

The discussion here is not aimed to ‘blame’ the lack of civilian leadership on the Army. The question is, does the General in charge of the military, has what it takes to get the job done? Is he willing to take on ‘anyone’ and investigate and correct the problems facing his organization?

The siege of the Military GHQ and the attacks on the top leadership of the Army is begging to do exactly what the Taliban want, to undermine public confidence in the Army, the Army which is thought to be the last functioning and the most powerful organization in Pakistan.

The people of Pakistan are standing by their military in this time, albeit the fact that time and again the double dealings have left little faith for the nation to believe in anything.

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