People all over Pakistan are angry with their Armed forces for being caught with their pants down. I remember feeling somewhat similar during the Kargil thing. And no, before anyone wonders, this isn’t an India-Pakistan thing, I’m just saying, that I remember what it feels like for the country’s security to be caught off-guard.
It is easy to say that the forces should be prepared for “anything”, but that is an impractical use of resources. Eventually, it is always probability that will dictate how resources make most sense.
PAF is scrambling to respond to outrage about the “blocked radars” which turned out to be switched off instead. They are explaining how due to the expensive nature of the radars, they don’t use them on the Western border. Makes sense, seeing as how the only incursions are likely to be American drones, which they assured they can shoot down if needed. Can I hear some frustrated radar operator somewhere? “Incoming, incoming!!! oh its a drone. Down boy, we can’t shoot it down. We’re allies”
Humor apart, it made sense. The Taliban doesn’t have air power, and America is an ally. No one else may have been flying in the area, leading to the decision. More than likely, the control freak Amrekis probably had radars monitoring the space anyway. Why waste our money?
Who could have guessed that the allies would be the intruders? And, who would have believed that allies killing a common enemy would spark such outrage?
Then, there is a lot of questioning of Zardari. No National Shame is complete without paying respects to him, I think – some strange protocol. When in doubt, bash Zardari, the non-Punjabi wimp. Never mind that Zardari isn’t personally responsible for seeing that the Forces work as advertised. He must have done something to make our glorious forces somehow incompetent.
There are other big related news. Protests and funerals, warnings and threats to India and US – hey, what did India do now? A lot of chest beating and that moment of shock and introspection, though louder, is stiffled yet again. Just like no one is outraged any more about the Sialkot killings, where they were once lamenting that they were animals. Just like hundreds of incidents where people are shocked at the price they are paying for a senseless play for power, which they don’t even have the capacity to control, if they got it.
Less noticed, is how the conversation very smoothly moves from important questions, to manufactured outrage over less relevant things. Pay attention folks, I predict that in another week, you’ll have stories about how this was a RAW-CIA-MOSSAD conspiracy, just like the 26/11 attacks.
Two really important questions have somehow been vanished by some clever media jugglery in Pakistan.
- Considering how close the operation was to the Military Academy, I dare say that the soldiers could have run there on foot if so inclined and still reached there in time to wave bye to the SEALs and take one good look at the dead body. What Air Force were they talking about? The crashed helicopter was on the ground. The raid was on the ground. The location was one where they probably do their morning jogs often. Indeed Musharraf had walked by often.The place is described as a high security area. People have talked about snipers, drive by surveillance…. if none of it reached, I dare say it wasn’t because they couldn’t. Heck the guards for the Military Academy could probably have taken shots at the choppers as they flew overhead. They definitely could. So why didn’t they?
- Regardless of whether the ISI put Osama bin Laden in that compound, or whether he moved there himself, the point was that he was there, and for a long time. It isn’t about whether they could have detected him or not. It is about what made it safe for him to be right there? In a largely ungoverned country, with gazillions of places where a person wishing to hide may find haven, he chose, or was placed where he was. Did he trust the ISI/Army with his life, or did he trust them to be so incomplete that they would not find him?What made this place a good choice for him, by anyone’s thinking – whoever was responsible? Looking at it like this, it seems extremely unlikely that a person with infinite choices will gamble upon the incompetence of people hunting for him rather than ensure own safety…. unless that place was believed safe – by whoever made the choice, and it is extremely difficult to believe that anyone except the forces can predict safety from them on such a high risk matter. If it was not the forces, it isn’t about Pakistan’s incompetence, it is about their forces being compromised by the Taliban to such an extent that they can ensure safe houses under their noses.
Questioning the radars and all is just a manufactured smokescreen. Bring up National Security and push a lot of things out of sight. What would the PAF have done if intercepted on time? The US were going in anyway. PAF would have engaged? Fought war with US in defense of an international terrorist in the name of soverignity? Fought war with a country that pretty much pays for their ability to fight in the first place?
What would Zardari have done? Run into the US Embassy with an AK, demanding that the helicopters return to Afghanistan and leave Osama alone? Or, if he said Pakistan would capture him for US, could they have done it without tipping him off, without triggering civil war with the extremists? Without looking like he was selling some “true Muslim” to the “evil West” to suck up to them in the jihadi media? Sure, his was an irritatingly lukewarm response that looked like abandonment of the country in a time of shock – even his choice of writing for Washington Post rather than using national media. But that is exactly what it was – a response. Zardari was not a problem. He is simply the guy to divert people’s anger to for however he reacts.
And the people are angry. They began angry with the ISI for “doing this to them” for bringing shame. Then they got angry with the Army for not responding/defending. Then they got angry with Zardari and an even less relevant in terms of response PAF for assuming what made sense in operations under limited resources. So who exactly is talking about the ISI any more? Who is questioning what they do, and what it means for Pakistan? If you have thought through all this tangle, here’s another red herring. Pasha may resign. You have your sacrifice, but no answers.
Even out of these two questions, the first is less interesting. What likely happened was that nobody realized it was a foreign operation till the helicopter crash and subsequent blast drew attention to the fact that it was a foreign helicopter, and the operatives were not Pakistanis. The rest of it is simply a way to avoid saying the embarassing truth. No one thought anything wrong was happening till it was too late.
In other words, an outstandingly planned and executed operation by the SEALs – which they will get lynched if they admit.
This is also the illness of a dominance based Armed force. You can’t acknowledge an enemy’s good operations (unless they are Taliban, who are enemies, but don’t “feel like enemies” apparently) specially if they are US, who are allies, but don’t “feel like allies”. Forget about the kind of recommendations of bravery made by the Indian Army post Kargil, that acknowledged the bravery of the Pakistani soldiers, even in an unethical and illegal operation.
The SEAL operation was outstandingly executed from the sound of it. Even those who heard the choppers, saw the crash and pretty much witnessed proceedings never really figured it out. And the team got out without incident save one self-demolished chopper, which they also got time to ensure rather than abandon it for someone to find. Safely back. All the way to America. If the Pakistani Army can admit this, then they have more real possibilities to work with. This method of deflecting questions and making excuses only gets their credibility shot further.
Which leaves the main question:
In a country with vast opportunities beyond the reach of the law, if an international terrorist lives in a safe house in a military garrison town, what does it mean – regardless of who put him there?
It means, terrorists are safe from the Pakistani Armed forces – regardless of who ensures it.