Tuesday, March 4, 2008




The Pakistani Navy, which has till now been spared by pro-Al Qaeda jihadi terrorists after the attack on some French submarine experts working with the Pakistani Navy at Karachi in May,2002, came under attack at Lahore on March 4,2008. Two unidentified suicide bombers, operating in tandem, attacked the prestigious Naval War College located in a high security area of Lahore. They were both on motor-cycles. One of them rammed his motor-cycle against the security gate at the rear of the building breaking it open. The other drove through this opening into the parking area and blew himself up.

2. Their target was the naval institution and not any particular individual or individuals inside. They wanted to demonstrate their ability to penetrate the campus and cause damage. Six persons were killed--- one of them a naval officer, three members of the security guards at the gate and the two suicide bombers.

3. Since the commando raid into the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July,2007, and the subsequent military and Air Force operations in South and North Waziristan, there have been 49 suicide attacks directed specifically against military targets in Rawalpindi and other parts of Pakistan---mainly in Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). All those attacks were directed against the Army, the Special Services Group (SSG), the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Frontier Corps, and the Air Force. All but two of the units had participated either in the commando raid into the Lal Masjid or in the military operations in the FATA and the Swat Valley of the NWFP. The only fatal victims of the jihadis, who had nothing to do with either the Lal Masjid operation or the operations in the FATA and in Swat, were some officers of the Army Medical Corps who were killed at Rawalpindi on February 4,2008, and Lt.Gen.Mushtaq Baig, the Army Surgeon-General, who was killed by a suicide bomber at Rawalpindi on February 25 ,2008.

4. Till now, there was no jihadi attack on naval personnel and institutions. The Navy had no role to play in the operations in the Lal Masjid, the FATA and Swat. However, during January,2008,there were attacks on convoys of vehicles of private contractors carrying rations meant for the NATO forces in Afghanistan from the Karachi port through the tribal belt. Initially, the attacks were on convoys carrying oil. Then, convoys carrying food rations were attacked by Al Qaeda and pro-Taliban elements, which looted the rations and sold them at low prices to poor people. This increased their popularity with the people and became an additional source of funding for their terrorist operations.( please see my article of January 15,2008, titled "Al Qaeda, Pak Taliban Loot Food Rations Meant For NATO Forces" at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers26/paper2552.html)

5. The logistic supplies for the NATO forces are brought to the Karachi port, unloaded there under the protection of the Pakistani Navy and then transported to Afghanistan by trucks. While the Pakistani Army and Air Force have no operational role to play in the US-led military operations in the Afghan territory against Al Qaeda and the Neo Taliban, the Pakistani Navy is a member of the US-led international naval force which patrols the seas to the west of Pakistan to prevent any hostile activity which could hamper the operations in Afghan territory. The Combined Task Force (CTF) 150, established near the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, comprise naval forces from France, Germany, Italy, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The task force conducts maritime security operations (MSO) in the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean. The leadership of the Task Force is rotated amongst the participating navies. A Pakistani naval officer commanded it in 2006.

6. During the recent election campaign, one of the issues raised by Mr.Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister, was the need to re-examine the implications of the US declaring Pakistan a non-NATO ally. He apparently felt that this declaration was meant to facilitate the involvement of the Pakistani Navy in the Afghanistan-related joint naval operations of the NATO and wanted a re-think on it.

7. The attacks in the Naval War College have come after the assassination of the Army's Surgeon-General, a suicide attack on the funeral procession of a Deputy Superintendent of Police who was killed by an explosion in the Swat Valley, another suicide attack on a congregation (jirga) of pro-Government tribal leaders who were meeting in the Dara Adam Khel area of the NWFP at the nudging of the Pakistan Army to consider the raising of a volunteer force to act against foreign terrorists and an attack of a relatively minor nature in the Bajaur Agency of FATA.Over a hundred persons died in these four attacks.

8. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan headed by Baitullah Mehsud and the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) of Swat led by Maulana Fazlullah, which observed a cease-fire during the elections in return for a Government promise to release Maulana Abdul Aziz Gazi and others arrested during the Lal Masjid raid and set up Sharia courts in the Swat Valley, have resumed their operations after the Government failed to keep up these promises. Reports from the US about the growing US involvement in the training of the SSG and the Frontier Corps have also aggravated their anger. (4-3-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )