By BABAR CHEEMA
Twelve of my boys laid down their lives and many more were injured when terrorists overran the defences of the Zhob/Sui cantonment in the early hours of 12th of July 2023. According to the sketchy reports filtering through, the terrorists commandeered the officers mess and the FC mess along with other places . Till late in the day, heavy exchange of gunfire was continuing. ISPR issued a statement regarding casualties, which continued to rise.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.It is just one in an unending series of lethal attacks, which continue to extract a heavy toll on lives of the security services of Pakistan.
Zhob area witnessed the second attack in July against the security forces .A few weeks earlier,many lives were lost in an attack on the Muslim Bagh area on the FC camp. On 25 January 2022, insurgents stormed a post in the Kech district in extreme south of this province. Ten soldiers embraced martyrdom. A month later , another deadly attack occurred on the FC installation on 22nd February 2022 in panjghur and Noshki.
A helicopter carrying commander Southern command, came down in flames two years earlier, followed by another similar fatal helicopter crash. The cause of these two crashes is in the realm of the unknown till today. Western and southern Baluchistan have witnessed heightened Militant violence for the last many years. The eastern and northern areas adjoining erstwhile Fata and southern KPK, are now bearing the brunt of such attacks. The twin menace of Baluch and Pakhtoon militancy could be a security nightmare for Pakistan.
Admittedly, Baluchistan comprises 43% of the total area of Pakistan and the security forces are spread thin. However, the recent attacks must raise alarm bells, and even more importantly, raise some tough questions to be answered by the relevant quarters. Pakistani people deserve to have the answers to the pertinent questions that have inescapably arisen.
These audacious attacks and the success of the terrorists in penetrating deep into heavily guarded facilities is too serious to be ignored. The insurgents must be in possession of the detailed knowledge of the cantt itself. Such an attack cannot be a random event. This must require a long and meticulous planning.
The security forces seem to have been unprepared and caught offguard. Our soldiers are the bravest in the world and are willing to lay down their lives for their country. But were they ready and prepared ? Why were they caught napping? How could such a monumental breach of security take place ?
The nation is shocked. Defenders of the nation are supposed to protect Pakistan. But unfortunately they’ve been unable to protect the cantonments in which they reside themselves . Last year, the terrorists were able to penetrate deep into the Bannu cantt, occupying the CTD premises, which resulted in a hostage situation. . How could the terrorists breach thick layers of security, with such ease and impunity, beggars belief and is deeply troubling.
How insurgents and militants, in sizable numbers, and armed to the teeth, can freely roam in the countryside? They have acquired the capacity and capability to launch, highly coordinated and sophisticated attacks. They can inflict massive casualties, almost at will. Patriotism, nationalism and sacrifices of the troops should not be used to hide the fatal flaws in our systems that allow the enemies to achieve their unholy objectives.
It has to be a spectacular intelligence failure. More importantly, it’s an all round failure at various levels. Someone should take responsibility. Someone should be held responsible and accountable. How long can we afford to lose our young men needlessly. Our brave soldier should not be allowed to become Canon fodder of the preventable failures at the level of intelligence, planning, adherence to SOPs and provision of capable guidance . They should not succumb to the the blunders of decision-making and ineptitude of the decision makers, as happened in Kargill and in East Pakistan.
The most important instrument to fight militancy and gorilla warfare is to possess the support of the local population. Under no circumstances, the local population should be alienated . No armies in the world can win a war against a hostile population. Public support is of crucial importance to attain victory in the war against terror.
The most fundamental question which demands an urgent answer is whether Zhob massacre was preventable? If so, which it clearly was, why wasn’t it prevented? In answer to this question, lies the future security and safety of Pakistan and the Pakistanis.
Pakistan armed forces Zindabaad