Pakistan Navy seems to be in the grips of fear and insecurity in the wake of Taliban attacks on the PNS Mehran Naval Aviation Base at Karachi a few weeks back. Media reports indicate that the Pakistan Navy Chief has now ordered all Pakistan Navy major combatant ships out of Karachi which hithertofore had been Pakistan Navy’s Main Naval Base. Pakistan Navy destroyers and frigates have been re-located to Ormara on the Balochistan coast. This is a telling commentary on Pakistan’s security state where the Taliban induced insecurities have gripped the Pakistan Army in its frontier regions and to that uncertain state now gets added the insecurities of the Pakistan Navy.
The Taliban attacks earlier on the Pakistan Navy Aviation Base at Karachi was an inside job and facilitated by Pakistan Navy personnel having sympathies for the Taliban and the cause for which they are engaged in an armed struggle with the Pakistan military establishment. This stood proved by the reports of the slain Pakistani journalist Saleem Shazad reportedly liquidated by the ISI for having brought into public domain both nationally and internationally that the Pakistan Navy stood infiltrated by the Islamic fundamentalist forces in Pakistan.
Karachi as the main seaport of Pakistan and its financial capital stands engulfed in violent ethnic and sectarian strife with daily killings in dozens. Karachi has become virtually a civil war battlefield with the Mohajirs, Sindhis, Balochis and Pashtun communities which dominate Karachi battling each other.
The spillover from these internecine conflicts in Karachi coupled with the fact that the Pakistan Navy assets are now in the cross-hairs of the Taliban and their associates may have generated fears in the Pakistan Navy higher echelons that Pakistan Navy combatant ships could be the next targets for destruction. It would be recalled that in the PNS MEHRAN attacks the attackers managed to completely destroy three P3C Maritime and Surveillance Aircraft with submarine hunting capabilities also. These were the state of the art aircraft supplied by the United States to Pakistan.
The depth of penetration of Taliban and Islamic fundamentalists’ elements in the Pakistan Navy is reported to be widespread. This week the Pakistan Navy has ordered court martial proceedings against middle level officers in connection with dereliction of duties during the Mehran attacks. This has caused murmurs within the Pakistan Navy that there were many senior officers who also should share responsibility and be so charged.
The destruction of major cutting edge maritime surveillance assets of the Pakistan Navy in the Mehran attacks, the court martial of Pakistan Navy officers related to these attacks and now the shifting out of Pakistan Navy major combatant ships out of Karachi are all indicative of the fears and sense of insecurity that currently grips the Pakistan Navy.
All these developments combined can be said to potentially create command and control problems within the Pakistan Navy besides impacting the overall morale within the Pakistan Navy.