Friday, December 4, 2009

Carnage in Rawalpindi

Soldiers take up position outside mosque (credit: Voice of Asia)

In one of the most violent attacks in Pakistan's history, armed militants stormed a mosque in one of Rawalpindi 's secure military residentail areas killing 40 people and injuring 80 others. Among the dead were 16 children, several high ranking military officers including an army general and soldiers. The attack at Laal Askari misque involved grenades, atomatic weapons and explosions.Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed repsonsibility for these attacks.

Details regarding the attack remain unclear. According to New York Times (NYT),  at six militants carried out the attack while AlJazeera English reports that  eight were involved. Both sources claim that four militants were killed in battle with security forces, with NYT claiming that an additional militant detonated himself. Dawn reports that at least four militants were involved, of which two blew themselves up. Times of India claims that a total six militants were involved, of which one blew himself up and four others were killed in security fire. According to BBC, at least four militants were involved of whcih two detonated themselves and the rest were killed in firefight with the army.

 Many important questions have emerged in the aftermath of these attacks and serioucly call into question the compentency of Pakistan's security forces to deal with the Taliban. Considering the heavy military presence in this area, how were  militants able to carry out this attack? If "only military officers and formal officers who have screened by the intelligence services were supposedly allowed in the mosque", then how could militants able to enter its premises?  Numerous attacks of Pakistan's security apparatus (Rawalpindi GHQ, Naval Headquaters) leaves no doubt to the fact that Taliban affiliated organizations (TTP, AlQaeda, Punjabi groups) consider the Pakistani state as the enemy. This also begs the question, whether there are serious holes in security protocol or if insider information is involved.

The recent spate of attacks on civilian and security targets proves that Taliban are an enemy of the Pakistani state and its people and must be considered as such. However, both the civilian government and the military continue to ignore the scope of this problem. Firstly, it must be recognized that the Taliban are no longer limited to the NWFP, FATA region and pose an immediate threat to Pakistan's heartland. Secondly, the public must shed the Pashtun image of the Taliban. If the ongoing attacks in Punjab prove anything, it is that the Taliban have diversified on both a regional and ethnic level. In addition, the Taliban cannot be considered  an organized entity. Rather it is a set of factions loosely tied to a series of nuclei which at times operate independently and at others provide intelligence and logistical support. The harder the secuirty forces clamp down, the more independent these factions become. We need to act now. The longer we wait to deal with the Taliban, the harder it will get.

It is the very least we owe our dead