Pakistan Army’s citadel of power, the General Headquarters complex in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, was subjected last weekend to an audacious suicidal attack by Pakistani militant organizations within days of bloody attacks in Islamabad and Peshawar. The sheer audacity of the Taliban attacks on the Pakistan Army command and control complex guarded twenty four hours by elite commando troops and heavily fortified area, and succeeding in killing senior officers and holding hostages for twenty four hours, speaks volumes of the fragility of the Pakistan nation-state and the internal vulnerabilities of the Pakistan Army. The Pakistan Army in its bid to destabilize India and Afghanistan had created multiple Islamic Jihad terrorist groups for its proxy wars against its neighbors, including the Taliban. That the Taliban and other such groups earlier aligned to the Pakistan Army should now turn against their mentors, financiers and trainers is an ironic testimony to the suicidal policies that the Pakistan Army has indulged against its neighbors.
The Pakistan Army had it coming to them for the reckless and wanton encouragement and subsidizing of such groups. The Pakistan Army has been aware that its core today consists of a highly Islamized group of officers and rank and file. Many of them especially from the elite Special Services Group who trained such terrorist outfits became attracted to the Islamist ideology of such groups and their cause and switched sides. They were angry that the Pakistan Army Generals had sold their souls to external patrons and were now in their perceptions fighting and destroying their own people.
It is reported that the mastermind and leader of the attack on Pakistan Army General Headquarters was a former Special Forces officer. The precision and focused targeting skills employed in the present attack could have been possible only with specialized commando training and professional capabilities.
The Pakistan Army General Headquarters was targeted not only to avenge the killing of their leader Baitullah Massood by US drones on leads provided by the Pakistan Army intelligence but also to warn the Pakistan Army that should it proceed ahead with its proposed military offensive in South Waziristan, the Pakistan Army should be prepared to face more of such violent reprisals.
Notable was the fact that the Pakistan Army failed to follow-up its much vaunted success in Swat and Malakand in South Waziristan by launching a major offensive in the heart of the Pakistan Taliban territory. It has dithered for more than three months now. What needs to be construed from such dithering is not that Pakistan Army was short of military resources for a major military offensive in South Waziristan but that it was short of military will to do so.
The Pakistan Army military hierarchy is aware that such a military offensive could widen the internal cleavages within the Pakistan Army ranks as most of them view that the Pakistan Army is fighting somebody else’s war against their own co-religionists. Under such conditions the Pakistan Army could be faced with defeat when within its own ranks there are doubts of the righteousness of the military campaign.
It is also possible that the public support that the Pakistan Army won in the Swat operations against terrorist and militant groups could dissipate when the Pakistani public realizes that the Pakistani Army rank and file views such military campaigns as leading to civil war situations.
Notwithstanding the direction in which the Pakistani public perceptions unfold on this issue, some notable conclusions emerge as follows:
- Pakistan Army created demons like the Taliban and other Islamic Jihadi groups trained and subsidized by it would increasingly turn around to hit at it should it expand military operations against its self-created demons.
- Pakistan Army’s main protégé, the Taliban has vividly demonstrated by its recent attacks on Pakistan Army General Headquarters that the Pakistan Army has not been able to suppress the Taliban despite its claims made to the United States.
- That the Taliban could survive and retain its military punch to strike back at the Pakistan Army in the heavily guarded garrison town of Rawalpindi, a stone’s throw from the heavily fortified capital city of Islamabad, indicates that it enjoys support not only in the Pakistani public but more importantly within the Pakistan Army itself.
Pakistan’s neighbors and the global community could have sympathized with Pakistan and the Pakistan Army on such violent attacks against the very citadel of Pakistan Army military power had it itself not sponsored and subsidized these Taliban and other Islamic Jihadi organizations for proxy war against its neighbors.
In a militarily ironic turnaround the very demons that the Pakistan Army created to devour its neighbors are now set to devour the Pakistan Army itself. The Pakistan Army has had it coming to them.