Saturday, October 10, 2009


This is only a tentative assessment on the daring commando-style attack on the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army at Rawalpindi for which responsibility has been claimed on behalf of a so-called Amjad Farooqi detachmentof the Pakistani Taliban known asthe Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Sixteen hours after the attack started around mid-day on October 10,2009, the Pakistani Army,including its Special Services Group (SSG), are still engaged in an attempt to flush out at least two to four terrorists, who managed to gain entry into the premises and take at least 20 to 30 inmates of the premises as hostages to negotiate their demands. An Army spokesman has claimed that 22 of these hostages have since been got released and that the operation is coming to a successful conclusion, but this is not confirmed by independent sources so far.

2.It is understood that the terrorists have put forward a number of demands such as the release of all those captured by the Army during the operations in the Swat Valley and the rest of the Malakand Division of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), the calling-off of the reported plans to start a military offensive in South Waziristan,immediate stoppage of aerial strikes by the Pakistani Army in the tribal areas and of the Drone strikes by the US intelligence, the termination of all counter-terrorism co-operation with the US and the trial of PervezMusharraf on a charge of treason. The terrorists have reportedly been projecting their successful attack as in reprisal for the death of Baitullah Mehsud, the then Amir of the TTP, in a US drone attack in South Waziristan on August 5,2009.

3.The facts are still sketchy and confusing. From the available facts, one could attempt the following reconstruction. A group of at least four terrorists, wearing the uniform of SSG commandoes, drove up to the Security Gate No.1 of the GHQ premises. There was an exchange of fire lasting about 45 minutes between them and the security picket at Gate No.1. During the exchange, a Brigadier, who was in charge of the physical security of the premises, a Lt.Col assisting him and four other military personnel and all the four terrorists who came by the vehicle were killed.

4. As the exchange of firing was going on in Gate No.1, the members of the security picket guarding Gate No.2 rushed to Gate No. 1 to help the security picket there. Taking advantage of the unmanned Gate No.2, two to four other terrorists----also wearing the SSG uniform----managed to enter the premises, rush to the Army library and take hostage a number of persons who were there. It is not known whether they have been kept by the terrorists in the library itself or whether they have been taken to some other building. It is also not known whether the terrorists have captured any other person in the GHQ premises.Also not clear is whether this second group came by the same vehicle or reached the GHQ independently.

5. The identities of the hostages have not been revealed by the Army. The commando-style attack on the GHQ---like the commando-style terrorist attack in Mumbai in November last year--- has the imprint of the operational methods of the SSG. The terrorists in the GHQ have had the benefit of the kind of training and expertise, which is available in the SSG. The reported death of Ilyas Kashmiri of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) in a recent Drone strike brought out in Pakistani media accounts the fact that he was a trained officer of the SSG, who had gravitated to the world of jihadi terrorism and joined the HUJI.

6. There are possibly other SSG officers---serving and retired---- who have similarly gravitated to the world of terrorism. As a result of this,knowledge of commando-style operations seems to be widespread in Pakistan's jihadi world. Till now, the international focus has been on the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as the sponsor and trainer of jihadi groups. Indications of a similar role being played by at least some elements in or of the the SSG---- possibly in tandem with the ISI --- are coming to the fore now. ( 11-10-09)

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