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AFP
May 12, 2011

A defining moment

Sports

AFP
May 12, 2011

Bin Laden’s hideout in a mainly garrison town seriously compromised the credibility of our intelligence agencies and our armed forces. That he was not in some cave was no surprise. The embarrassing security lapse in the failure to locate him within days and weeks, let alone nearly six years, was shocking. The terrorist’s presence close to the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) defiled what is “hallowed ground” for all army officers who have graduated from Kakul. The intelligence treasure trove of computer hard discs, storage devices, documents, etc., recovered by the US is perhaps the only silver lining for us in this sorry episode.
Pakistani accessories complicit in the murder of nearly 3,500 of our soldiers, over 2,000 policemen, and more than ten times that of innocent Pakistani civilians can now be positively identified. These scoundrels deserve vengeance with the same vehemence as the Americans very rightly sought for the 9/11 atrocity. Has the “support system” “nothing official about it”? If there was any official connivance, it must be exposed. However, if no “smoking gun” is found, one expects the US will correct the prevailing perception about official culpability with terrorism.
The US repeatedly told us bluntly that they would go after Bin Laden wherever he was. While it is demeaning to our self-respect that they did not trust us enough to take our consent, President Obama told ABC’s “60 Minutes” that for security reasons he did not tell even some close associates in the White House or his family. The US navy Seals needed that blanket of silence for “mission accomplished.” When the Pakistani government’s response to security and PR disaster finally materialised, it was patently awful. For the record, it was the Americans who flew Bin Laden into our lives in the 80s, so it is fitting that they flew his dead body out a quarter century later.
Stealth helicopters notwithstanding, gaping holes were exposed in our air

defence system. Modified Blackhawks and Chinooks with main rotors increased from four to six to slow down rotor speed to reduce the thumping noise, covering of the main rotor and tail motor hubs, use of special paint, etc., or not, three hours in Pakistan airspace is almost forever for such a strike mission. The PAF must not fool itself behind PR rhetoric and insist the radars were working. Even the Indian COAS got the occasion to become bellicose. An enquiry to find out criminal negligence and/or dereliction of duty should not be used as a “cover-up.” Let’s fix the system and procedures that failed us when it is meant to work to perfection. When Musharraf allowed foreign combat aircraft and drones to not only operate from our airfields but roam Pakistani airspace with impunity, with their own traffic control, he set in motion the disintegration of our aviation security. Abbottabad was simply a security compromise waiting to happen.
Without the nexus of corruption with organised crime feeding our democracy, it would be impossible for terrorism to proliferate. Yet for political expediency a dedicated Counter Terrorism Force (CTF) at the “ground zero” of terrorism is non-existent, allowing terrorism’s evil roots to spread without check within our heartland. Why is the army complacent and reconciled to its men dying in the field, while civilians, uniformed personnel and their families are increasingly being targeted? Why is the government reluctant to accept that without a CTF there is no hope of combating terrorism? Could Bin Laden have escaped a CTF dragnet as easily as he escaped the attention of our law-enforcement agencies?
Economically speaking, one can paraphrase “sixteen tons and what do you get, another day old and deeper in debt” into “over forty thousand dead and what do you get, more and more blame and deeper in debt.” Zardari is a fairly stubborn person. It must have cost him some measure of pride to have the badly split PML-Q as uncomfortable bedfellows to have Abdul Hafeez Shaikh get the federal budget passed in June. While it is important to correct the injustice done to the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the Pakistanis living today deserve some priority by having the Supreme Court judgment on the NRO implemented and/or the Supreme Court tackle related issues that have made our present governance a farce. One really admires the present superior judiciary, one can only respectfully request that they must not let the constitutional oath become a convenient camouflage for chicanery and fraud. The rule of law is being flouted at will under the cover of democracy. Where do you think terrorism gets the ingredients to flourish? Prime Minister Gilani’s belated attempt at damage control in the National Assembly notwithstanding, the faith in our armed forces has been badly shaken by Abbottabad. Our tremendous counterinsurgency operations, which inflicted many times more casualties on the terrorists than all the coalition forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere combined, have been brought to zero. While this faith must be restored, we cannot afford to lose our newfound one in the superior judiciary.
Unlike his predecessor, Kayani put a premium on merit over loyalty in the promotions to the upper echelons, particularly to the rank of lieutenant general. Even though some who really deserved promotion more than others were not promoted, Kayani has not promoted anyone who should not have been. He would have made a good chairman of the JCSC, making the JCSC operationally effective as it should be. He opted instead for three years’ extension as COAS. This was two years too much. This was grudgingly accepted within (and outside) the army because of the adverse security situation. By next October the last of “Musharraf’s Mohicans” remaining in service would have retired. The turnaround in professionalism and morale effected by Kayani through the broad spectrum of the Pakistani army from soldiers to officers is truly admirable. It is always good to go out when you are ahead. He should seriously consider an honourable exit on a “high” one year into his three-year extension on Nov 27, 2011.
By the time the first day of May 2011 was barely over, we can be excused for sending out the internationally recognised distress signal “mayday, mayday.” Without drastic measures taken immediately, the very existence of the country as a sovereign state governed by the rule of law will come into a question. Even for an incurable optimist like me, the loss of hope has been devastating, but the successful US raid to get Bin Laden was shock therapy, a moment of truth that can be used to turn challenge into opportunity. Terrorism not only gives us a bad name but causes us considerable pain and grief. Removing its dregs from our soil is a must. Do we slide further down into the abyss or have the courage to use this defining moment to seize the opportunity to redefine our values?
The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: [email protected] com

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