Earlier, I noted that the Pakistani military’s lack of response to the assault on Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi is going to have serious repercussions. A comment from a former Pakistani Army officer, passed along from my friend Ravi Rikhye at Orbat.com, drives the point home.
The note below was written by Agha H. Amin, a retired cavalry officer in the Pakistani Army currently working for a power transmission company in Afghanistan. Mr. Amin provides a scathing look at the Pakistani military and its inability to quickly and effectively respond. The military’s authority has eroded and is no longer feared by enemies within the state, Mr. Amin argues, and the effectiveness of the terrorist assault and the poor response of the unit guarding the headquarters and the officers within make the military look weak. Here goes:
The attack on Pakistani GHQ [General Headquarters] raises more serious questions about Pakistan Army’s military effectiveness and potency than answers.
The most crucial and grave question is that the Pakistani military seems to have lost in a great degree its coercive value and moral deterrence. Something which is the foundation of any political system and on which all agree starting from Freud, Aristotle, Plato down to Marx, Lenin, Mao, and Khomeni.
Once General Musharraf decided to make a U turn under coercion by USA the army lost its moral credibility in the eyes of a large section of Pakistani populace, not the majority but a sizeable minority far more effective in tangible potency than a far larger minority.
The first most serious question is not from where the threat originated but how did a small minority of a few handpicked young men developed the resolution to attack the citadel of Pakistani military, the GHQ ? Its an intangible question but far more serious than whether these men had their organisational centre in Waziristan or Afghanistan.
The second serious question is the response to the attack.Or one may say the lack of response !
If ten or so armed men can terrorise and paralyse a half a million plus army’s headquarter for 22 plus hours the issue is strategic rather than tactical ! If ten civilians trained by irrational mullahs can penetrate a citadel hitherto considered impregnable and impenetrable and 1600 officers inside it are like chicken in a barbed wired coup at mercy of ten armed and highly motivated men then the situation is grave, not routine. A witness states that the attackers held some 4 to 6 officers from major to colonel rank hostages and also offered them their dry rations.This shows that the attackers wanted to deliver a message and did not want to inflict fatalities on the Pakistan Army.
In a nutshell the serious aspects of the issue are :–
1. The most serious threat to Pakistan is internal and not external.
2. The military has lost its strategic and coercive deterrent value.
3. That ten armed civilians penetrated a military headquarters guarded by an infantry battalion and a similar number of DSG soldiers [Defense Security Guards] is a serious strategic imbalance.
4. That 6 plus armed men were roaming the GHQ for many hours and had the opportunity to kill many generals, an opportunity that they for some mysterious reasons chose not to exercise is a cause of grave strategic concern.
5. The fact that the perimeter guarding battalion 10 Punjab although it killed some four intruders failed to hold the few attackers from penetrating the GHQ is a grave matter.
6. The fact that the battalion plus DSG soldiers although armed with G 3 and SMG rifles just bolted away is a grave matter.
7. The fact that it took more than 18 hours and the fact that SSG troops had to be brought from some 70 miles away to redeem the situation is ironic par excellence.
8. The fact that Pakistan’s enemies both state and non state are so ineffective still is the only consoling part of the issue.
Here is a case of a military machine :–
1. Fighting a civil war with serious internal fractures.
2. A military machine which has lost a great degree of its coercive value.
3. Lack of initiative in the officer rank and lack of forethought in not allowing the some 1600 officers in GHQ not to carry weapons.
4. The primacy of non state actors in Pakistan.
Sad is the story. Hilarious are the praises being heaped on the military’s response. Where is the honour and dignity of danger in overcoming six well motivated irregulars by a commando force outnumbering them by 100 to 1. This is not a criticism. I am not a paid journalist. This is a call for reflection .Serious reflection and serious inner thinking that may be the spur to serious reorganisation in the Pakistani military. The enemy is not in Waziristan or Afghanistan. The enemy is our own damn inefficiency and complacency. It merits serious thinking at all plains, tactical, operational and strategic.