Pakistani security forces have reclaimed the Mehran naval base in Karachi after an 18- hour battle with militants who had earlier infiltrated it. The attack on the base by the Pakistani Taliban, which has claimed responsibility for the assault, left ten security men dead and at least twenty injured. This latest predicament in which Pakistan finds itself comes only days after some naval buses came under fire from the militants. In October 2009 , the headquarters of the Pakistan army in Rawalpindi came under a similar assault, leaving open the question of how much of a breach of security has occurred in the country's armed forces. The Mehran incident only reinforces the feeling that Pakistan is today in a most vulnerable state from the very militants its notorious inter-services intelligence has often been accused of patronising. There is little question that Pakistan's people are trapped in conditions their government is unable to handle. Certain regions of the country, such as Waziristan, have clearly slipped out of government control and into the hands of the militants. The mountainous borders between Afghanistan and the Pakistani provinces of Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (former North-West Frontier Province) have been easy routes for militant elements to move around freely. Add to that the recent sighting and killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad only yards away from Pakistan's elite military academy. Compounding matters further for Pakistan is the regularity with which American drone aircraft have been pounding militant positions. President Obama has held out the promise of more such attacks should they become necessary. The attack on the naval base is a patent reaction to the Osama killing. What is worrying, though, is the absolute inability of the Pakistani authorities to prevent the militants from operating so freely as to target the country's military establishments. It will be easy to suggest that the Islamabad government take adequate measures to halt the drift to further chaos. The reality, however, is that for now the militants clearly have an upper hand. And Pakistan's military, long the dominant voice in the country, salvaging its image. The picture is disquieting for Pakistan and the region. Pakistanis deserve a better deal.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Thieves sometimes follow in the traditions set by their politicians. When Abdul Qadeer Khan peddles the idea that had Pakistan been privy to nuclear arms in 1971 there would be no Bangladesh, he only reminds us of the flaws his country has systematically suffered from, to its eventual shame and regret. You think back on the killing and rape and pillage the Pakistan army indulged in so cheerfully in occupied Bangladesh forty years ago. And then you come to the present, to pity that same army which must now contend with the ( till recent) presence of a global outlaw residing within yards of its principal training academy for officers, which must watch horrified as armed men invade its headquarters in Rawalpindi and set chaos loose among its brave jawans. There is something of comeuppance there. So we are not surprised at A.Q. Khan's fulminations, for he is not the first Pakistani to display a propensity for the barbaric to be brought into a handling of civilised people elsewhere. Back in the 1960 s, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, always prey to delusions of grandeur, saw nothing wrong in threatening Bengalis with the language of weapons should the latter insist on carrying their autonomy movement forward. In case you have missed it, the fact remains that until its not too glorious defeat in the 1971 war, Pakistan consistently pursued policies distinctly racist in tone when it came to dealing with Bengalis. In the 1950 s, Iskandar Mirza made himself a silly spectacle when he spoke of shooting the very respectable Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani like a dog. Bhashani was to die a venerated figure in politics. It was Mirza who did not find a grave in his beloved Pakistan. Leading Pakistanis have not quite been known for their sophistication of language. As foreign minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto told the world that Pakistanis would eat grass but would have the atomic bomb. Well, Pakistanis did not eat grass. It was just that A.Q. Khan stole nuclear technology from the West and scampered back home. You now raise the question: is nuclear power so crucial as to have a nation eat grass to come by it? Bhutto's education, now that you think of it, had been misplaced. At the United Nations Security Council in 1965 , he described the Indian delegation led by the eminently honourable Sardar Swaran Singh as dogs. He got away with it, just as he was to get away with his puerile behaviour before the same forum in December 1971. Lyndon Johnson, Alexei Kosygin and Harold Wilson despised him. In early 1971 , he decreed that any West Pakistani lawmaker travelling to Dhaka would have his legs broken. In 1974 , he did have some legs broken -- those of his party colleague and minister J.A. Rahim and Rahim's son. Large sections of Pakistanis have not quite got over their time- honoured attitude to Bengalis. Any demand for political rights in East Pakistan was always, for them, an assault on Pakistan's integrity. Pakistan's break-up in 1971 ( and you can check it up in the history Pakistani schools teach their children) was the result of a conspiracy by treacherous Bengalis and India's Hindus. General Yahya Khan, having had the political negotiations in Dhaka aborted through stealthily making his way out to Rawalpindi on March 25 , 1971 , felt not a bit of embarrassment terming Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, leader of the party winning the elections three months earlier, as a traitor to the cause of Pakistan. Subsequently, he would refer to Indira Gandhi as "that woman." In the mid-1960 s, Ayub Khan would demonstrate his contempt for the short-statured Lal Bahadur Shastri, until Shastri taught him a lesson in September 1965. Language, then, has generally been a casualty at the hands of the mighty in Pakistan. Bangladesh's freedom fighters were "miscreants" (and these "miscreants" eventually ran Pakistan out of Bangladesh). For years on end, the Pakistani establishment promoted a lowly propaganda programme it called " Crush India." We now know who got crushed in the end. Pakistan has since its creation found itself regularly caught on the wrong foot. In January 1948 , Mohammad Ali Jinnah sent Pakistani soldiers, disguised as tribals, into Kashmir. It was a blunder that was to leave a dispute festering over time. In 1960 , Francis Gary Powers took off from an American base in Peshawar in a U2 aircraft and was soon shot down over the Soviet Union. The incident left Pakistanis red in the face. It was consistent Pakistani provocation in 1965 which impelled General J.N. Chaudhury to have Indian soldiers march toward Lahore. When Pakistan's air force attacked Indian bases in early December 1971 , the act swiftly led to conditions where, in addition to losing East Pakistan to the Mukti Bahini, Pakistan was threatened with obliteration in the west. In 1999 , Pakistan's army chief Pervez Musharraf kept Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the dark as he ordered his forces into Kargil, leaving Pakistan once more vulnerable to charges of aggression. In early 1971 , Z.A. Bhutto cheerfully described the hijackers of an Indian aircraft to Lahore as heroes. The Indians swiftly imposed a ban on overflights between West and East Pakistan. The Pakistani military, through Inter-Services Intelligence, beefed up the Taliban and cheered its ascent to power in 1996. In 2008 , the terrorists who hurled themselves on Mumbai came from Pakistan by sea. Abdul Qadeer Khan has only tried to build on this tradition. Why expect any better from a felon, one who should have been hauled up before the International Criminal Court long ago and put away for good?