Vigilante pre-emption

Daily: The News
Date: 28.05.11

The Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) finally met on May 25 to review the security
situation in Pakistan. The DCC decided to undertake coordinated efforts to prevent and
preempt acts of terrorism.

Pre-emption is a word earning notoriety in Pakistan. On May 17, on the pretext of pre-
empting a suicide terrorist attack, five Chechens (two men and three women – one of them
was seven month pregnant) were killed by the Frontier Constabulary (FC) at Kharotabad,
Quetta. Later on, it was revealed that an Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) of airport police
station tipped off the FC labeling Chechens (as) terrorists only because his palm was not
greased by Chechens on their way to Quetta. The FC inflicted a pre-emptive strike on
Chechens by killing all of them on the spot at their first sight. The FC officials swaggered
around the dead bodies as victors but before they could be adorned with the medals of
valor, the media debunked the truth. When it was shown in the media that Chechen women
had already been tethered the head of every conscientious Pakistani hanged in shame.

Such incidents not only fill people with scorn for the security forces but also instill the
feeling of insecurity in their hearts. In Balochistan, rumours are already rife that intelligence
agencies are kidnapping and killing Baloch dissidents extra-judicially. Such kind of incidents
traumatizes people further and evokes hatred for the state machinery.

Parenthetically, what is a difference between FC’s act of killing unarmed five Chechens at
Kharotabad and four terrorists’ act of killing Pakistani soldiers at the PNS Mehran base,
Karachi? Virtually, both FC in Quetta and terrorists in Karachi devoured lives of innocent
people mercilessly. When a Chechen woman was pleading for mercy by waving her hand,
pity did not stir in the hearts of the spectators, and conscience did not smite them either.
Perhaps, the pre-emptive strikers did not want to squander the opportunity for becoming
machismos. The FC replied by piercing bullets into their bodies. On the contrary, at the
Mehran base, when two of the terrorists were encircled by naval commandos, the terrorists
were asked to lay their weapons and surrender themselves to the authorities. Perhaps,
unarmed innocent people can be killed in a few minutes by Pakistani forces but it takes
sixteen odd hours to kill four terrorists (aged 23 to 25 years) at PNS Mehran. Isn’t it shame?
Taken both issues together, it is vividly clear that not only the security situation is fast
deteriorating but also the judgmental sense of the security forces is being stupefied.

Against this backdrop, if the resolve of the DCC to allow the security forces to undertake
pre-emptive strikes is valued, what havoc the security forces are capable of playing with the
lives of innocent unarmed people can be well imagined. Susceptibility of any person can be
exploited or any person can be declared a suspect after being snooped about. The
situation is especially alarming for those who are destitute of any socio-political clout in this
country.

By symptoms it seems that it is beyond Pakistan’s means to fight the War on Terror – it
owned in 2008 – on its soil. To help someone defeat a superpower on someone else’s land
is one thing but to let one’s own territory be used as a battleground (for any two opponents)
is altogether a different story. Pakistan is in a tangle. On the one side, the US is coercing
Pakistan into launching a military operation in North Waziristan (and on the Quetta Shura);
on the other side, terrorists are forestalling any advancement of the military, besides taking
revenge of those killed in drone strikes.

The PNS-Mehran incident alone divulges that Pakistan is in difficult moments of its history.
Without the help of an insider’s leaking out vital information, the assault was impossible but
then how come this phenomenon was new? The attack on the GHQ Rawalpindi was led by
an insider, a paramedic. In a recent cable leaked by the Wikileaks, it was revealed that in
March 2006, Pakistan’s Air Vice Marshal Khalid Chaudhry confided in the US officials that
the ground (technical) staff tempered with the F-16s to trammel their efforts of flying and
consequently bombing the Taliban hideouts in the FATA along Afghanistan border.

It seems that ideological leaning of the lower staff in the security forces of all hues are
different from those of higher ups. The Taseer-Qadri episode was another memento of the
same reality. If the ranks of Pakistani security forces are infested with Taliban sympathizers,
even if not with Taliban agents, what rationale would be left to fight against the Taliban?
The question is – is Pakistan able to cleanse the ranks of its security forces or not? Instead
of applying first to the innocent unarmed civilians and tyrannizing the weak, the formula of
pre-emption should be applied to the security forces themselves by purging their ranks of
Taliban supporters.

The Abbotabbad incident on May 02 shattered the outer defence of Pakistan, while the
PNS Mehran episode on May 22 crumbled the inner defence of the country. Now, Pakistan
is left with only high sounding claims to avow that Pakistan’s nuclear assets are in safe
hands. Will the world believe? Will the world wait for a testing moment to figure out if
Pakistan’s claim about the security of its nuclear arsenals is true? NATO Secretary General
Rasmussen has expressed his concern about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
One or two more terrorist acts analogous to that of on PNS-Mehran in the coming few days
and that is it. Pakistan will enter the phase of breaking-point. Under duress, Pakistan would
be vulnerable to do mistakes – even if by overreacting to a normal situation as the FC did
in Quetta by slaying Chechens – the consequences of which may boomerang on Pakistan
in the future.

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