The siege within

The Pakistan Taliban had promised to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden. And it has done so by attacking a major military base in Karachi. Besides killing over a dozen soldiers it had taken many, including Chinese military personnel, hostage at the Mehran naval aviation base. It has done considerable damage to military hardware. At least two of the Pakistan navy’s premier anti-submarine attack jet - the US made P-3C Orion - were set ablaze. Since bin Laden’s death, the Pakistan Taliban have accelerated their attacks.

They carried out a twin suicide bombing at a paramilitary police training centre in Shabqadar, killing at least 80 paramilitary recruits. Then on Friday a US consulate convoy in Peshawar was attacked, killing a Pakistani. The siege of the Mehran naval station is among the deadliest attacks militants have carried out in recent years, on par perhaps with the 2009 storming of the army headquarters in Rawalpindi.

 That around a dozen militants were able to storm a major military installation in Karachi and were been able to keep the security forces at bay for such a long time has laid bare their immense capacity to plan and execute major operations. Globally its credibility is under a cloud for having provided sanctuary to bin Laden. At home, it has been criticised by Pakistanis for failing to protect civilians from horrific attacks. Since bin Laden’s killing it is under fire from Pakistanis for allowing US military helicopters to fly deep into Pakistan.

Now the military has shown itself to be incapable of protecting a supposedly heavily guarded military installation. The attack on the Mehran naval station will add to global concerns over the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear installations from Taliban/al-Qaeda attacks. The Pakistani government has often said these are safe, but serious doubts have now cropped up.

 The attack on the naval base would not have been possible without support from within i.e. help from military officers. It confirms yet again that there are sections in the military that are working for and with the militants. Unfortunately, so bitter is the rivalry between the military and the civilian government that the two are unable to work together to rid the Pakistani state and society of extremists. The attack on Meheran base should serve as a wake-up call.

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