We have not forgotten APS and we will not forget Badaber

Published: September 22, 2015
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Why is it that the Taliban are so arrogant so as to attack, repeatedly, our military? Why wasn’t the Taliban communication intercepted? PHOTO: SCREENSHOT

The mosque in Badaber was the first mosque I ever prayed at. Eighteen years ago. It is now covered in blood. My father, Air Marshal Riazuddin Shaikh, was Air Commodore at the time. We lived in Badaber for a year and a half. That was when I decided that I wanted to be a pilot. An Air Force fighter pilot, like my father. But it wasn’t very long ago before I realised that I was just not cut from the same cloth these remarkable men and women are made of.

Badaber, since the time I have known, has been a residential area primarily for officers, their families and an important human resource base for the Pakistan Air Force. It was a beautiful base, built by the Americans in 1952, not very large. It consisted of small wooden houses, large pavements, playing grounds, a walking track, a sports complex, a school, a hospital, small shops, small technical units and a mosque. It hosts about 250-300 families.

Photo: PAF Camp Badaber Facebook Page

Photo: PAF Camp Badaber Facebook Page

Photo: PAF Camp Badaber Facebook Page

The biggest threat to this Air Force base was a bee attack. And it was serious – officers would make rounds warning people to stay inside their houses, school teachers were told to make sure the kids remained in their classrooms and older siblings were told to keep an eye on the younger ones. A little boy was critically injured (that was the only instance it ever felt okay to use that word) when a beehive fell next to him and bees swarmed his body. He was taken to the hospital immediately and all preventive measures were put in place. We were not allowed to go to that particular park for weeks until the matter was resolved.

Photo: PAF Camp Badaber Facebook Page

Then came September 18, 2015. But this attack was of a different breed altogether.

The attack took place at Fajr time on Friday; not at midnight, not day time either. There were approximately 20 attackers who breached security at the main gate. They divided themselves into two groups, one of which entered the mosque in which PAF personnel were busy in their ablution rituals in preparations of the prayers, perfectly vulnerable. According to my father who is also a defence analyst, the goal, it seems, was to penetrate into the camp in a sneak attack, eliminate all possible resistance and then take hostages. Hence, the importance of the timing chosen. Bend the forces at their knees. And what better way to do it than to take valuable human resource hostage?

Badaber is located on the outskirts of Peshawar, on Kohat Road with Chamkani, once considered a Taliban stronghold, in close proximity. It would not be farfetched to assume that once these men had breached security and taken control, they would have called upon their comrades to further infiltrate the base and strengthen their hold. They were obviously prepared – they had done this before – at the Army Public School, at Mehran base, at GHQ, at the Karachi airport, and they had succeeded each time.

This was just a residential camp, how difficult could it be? It was a sure shot. But they had not anticipated such a coordinated effort of resistance. The only difference between this attack and some of the ones mentioned earlier was timing. Barring the Peshawar school attack and GHQ, all the other attacks took place at midnight. This gave them enough time to eliminate everything and flee before day light. In this particular incident, my father surmised, that because they entered at Fajr, so close to day light, they may have intended on staying longer.

A few days prior to the attack, the military had been warned that something like this was going to happen – this time against an Air Force installation. A very big hint. Measures were taken, but they probably gave higher priority to protecting those bases housing material assets. And within this groundwork there was a lapse – Badaber. And this loophole proved to be a massive oversight; especially in light of the Peshawar School attack. In that attack, we learnt that the Taliban didn’t care how big or small, how old or young its target was, so long as eliminating it fulfilled their purpose – weaken the military in whatever way possible.

At the heart of this situation, we are left with many puzzling questions. The first one being, why wasn’t Badaber’s security amped up when the warning of the attack was given? The second, more obvious one, why wasn’t the informant of this attack able to provide our intelligence agencies with more information about the whereabouts of the Taliban? Why wasn’t their communication intercepted?

The answer to the first question is quite obvious; the attack was countered and where the Taliban thought of this as another APS moment, the resistance proved that ready or not, the Air Force was capable of putting up a valiant fight. But the question begging to be answered is why aren’t these threats thwarted even when a hint as gigantic as that threat is dropped? Isn’t an ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure? Why is it that the Taliban are so arrogant so as to attack, repeatedly, our military? Again, why wasn’t communication intercepted? If we go by my father’s deductions of this incident, in the event of this attack being successful, and the goal being accomplished, the Taliban would have succeeded in not only bringing our armed forces to its knees, but would have also managed to acquire media coverage they have been starved of. Regrettably.

In the hours, days, following the attack, has the area surrounding Badaber been scoped for remnants of the enemy? Of 20, 14 were killed, where are the rest? Did they have abetters? Inside – possibly. Outside – certainly. Have we gone in to Chamkani and its neighbouring areas? Is there an undercover operation underway that we don’t know about just yet?  I hope so. Those who housed them, fed them and equipped them should be held just as accountable. Or do we still believe in the good Taliban and bad Taliban narrative?

Whatever the case may be, those men who defended the Badaber base that day died in service of this nation, and there was one too many deaths. Some of the best memories I have of my life in the Air Force were made in Badaber. It was a home to me and to many other people I know; a little sanctuary where the most frightening thing was the prospect of being stung by a bee. On Friday, the Taliban learnt that Pakistan was not going to give in – that with every attack they have only managed to unite this ideologically divided nation. Our resistance, our counter assault set a new precedent on Friday – we have not forgotten APS and we will not forget Badaber.

Let’s clean up the mess we made so many years ago. And let’s do it across the board. For real, please.

erum.shaikh

Erum Shaikh

The writer is Blogs Editor at The Express Tribune and has an Undergraduate Degree in Law from the University of London. She tweets @shaikherum (twitter.com/shaikherum)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • wb

    These pictures are evident how the military, air force officers in Pakistan have looted the country to live in luxury. Manicured lawn? Nice! And 50% of Pakistani children are illiterate. Why? So these people can send their children to fancy schools and abroad and once they get citizenship, these Marshals and General can sneak out all the money and live abroad.

    Thank you Jinnah.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Erum, that was a pretty balanced blog without jumping to conclusions, I guess this is the need of the hour.Recommend

  • Rohan

    They had boards in Peshawar which read ‘Those who support terrorists are bastards’

    Don’t you have mirrors in Pakistan???Recommend

  • Headstrong

    Both APS and Badaber were likely ‘false flag’ operations. I recall both happened when Afghan pressure due to pakistan-exported terror was mounting. That’s not a coincidence, and the Afghan government knows it. The ‘boys’ will go to any extent to achieve their black aims.

    Recommend

  • Asad

    LOOL. as if there is no illiteracy in your country. Such lectures coming from a person belonging to a country which is home to 40% of world’s poor population and where recently PHD degree holders applied for jobs of peons is very very funny.Recommend

  • Asad

    says a keyboard trollRecommend

  • Maverick_NZ

    What utter tosh. If you’re itching so much to live in luxury yourself, make something of your life in the private sector, which pays little or no tax, earns unlimited and blights the country with corruption. Military families pay higher income tax and live under greater threat.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    Takes one to recognise one ;-)Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    “We have not forgotten APS and we will not forget Badaber” Oh yes we have and we will, Just as we have forgotten the Hazaras Shias Ahmadis Christian massacres. No NAP no Zarb can defeat this menace as long as it is not taken care of in the constitution. #Repeal2ndAmendment. mother of all sectarianism and root cause of all terrorism.Recommend

  • Parvez

    To provide a balance…….according to TOI newspaper, RVS Mani, who as a Home Ministry official signed an affidavit claiming that both the 2001 attack in Delhi on the parliament and 2008 attack on Mumbai were both ‘ set up ‘ in other words were ‘ false flag ‘ operations………………..?Recommend

  • Headstrong

    Lol! Still in denial? Heard of Tariq Khosa? The DG of FIA at the time of the Mumbai attacks, no less. Read his revelations on the investigations carried out – and how the cover up happened. OTTH, APS and Badaber were carried out by the ‘boys’ on their own! How cold blooded is that? Recommend

  • zoro

    Symphatise with both APS and Baraber … same as Mumbai Carnage will never be forgottenRecommend

  • wb

    I’m tired of abusing Pakistanis. Why can’t you people read something and understand even 10% of it? Why can’t you use your common sense and some basic human sense?

    Mani never said that. Don’t share a link. But, please share a quote from any Indian news paper where he has claimed that. Please, I beg you.

    Now, let me enlighten you.

    What Mani has written is that he has accused another colleague of making baseless accusation on the government of India that Mumbai attacks were inside jobs.

    Do you understand the difference? Do you understand? Or are you too slow?

    It’s like WB claiming that Parvez claimed that Pakistan army conducted APS attack.

    He said, she said, they said.Recommend

  • wb

    You clearly didn’t understand my comment. Poverty and illeteracy exists everywhere. However, in Pakistan’s case, money is being sucked up by the military leaving very little for country’s progress.

    Also, India is elevating 100 million people out of poverty every year.

    How many millions of illiteracy are you eliminating every decade? Would none be a more accurate estimate?Recommend

  • wb

    This is the balderdash the military has been feeding you people for 70 years.Recommend

  • wb

    Correction: Not every year. Every decade.Recommend

  • Maverick_NZ

    Tastes better than communism and untouchable caste system you’ve been fed. Don’t even get me started on cows. The Hindu only behaves when ruled.Recommend

  • Asad

    you clearly didnt get my point. i know you and your countrymen like to make up stories that happen in your imagination. just like Saif Ali Khan said, what happens in movies will not happen in real life, it is what we imagine happens. whatever happens in Pakistan, is none of your business. why are you not interested in posting on websites of Bangladesh, Australia, etc. ? Ill tell you why, because you are obsessed with Pakistan, the only country in this region besides China, that never bows down to the false ego of India. And another major reason being your inferiority complex of the 1000 times better looks of Pakistanis. sorry, but i cant help you with that.Recommend

  • Asad

    “I’m tired of abusing Pakistanis”. Why not ask modi to get you a job that he promised but didnot provide ?
    Oh sorry, Ph.Ds are applying for jobs of peons in India, no hope for you. Continue.Recommend

  • wb

    India neither has communism nor untouchable caste system.

    Google: Indian Constitution, pdf and download a copy and read thoroughly and then come back.

    So when does Muslim behave? Whether it is a country ruled by Muslim or by others.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    To be fair, Parvez is actually one of the more reasonable of that lot. He probably doesn’t subscribe to that view, but is coming back at me for ascribing ‘false flag’ to APS and Badaber – which is what most of that lot have been brainwashed into believing – hence my original comment :-)Recommend

  • Parvez

    Obviously both you and @Headstrong did not get my comment….let me spell it out so its easier for you…… a wild accusation can be countered by another wild accusation….end result ZERO….understand ????Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    But, its ok for the Pakistani Airforce to bombard poor viillagers in FATA. The actions of Pakistani Airforce has resulted in 2,000,000 people becoming homeless – their houses destroyed, their livelihoods destroyed, entire regional economies vanish in few seconds when F16s started carpet bombing FATA.

    You are talking of just one side of the story. But, completely ignorant of the other one. Where is your sense of justice and humanity?Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    They live under greater threat because of the monster they themselves created. They supported Taliban, cut deals with Fazlullah, they still support Hafiz Saeed. Now, they claim they are under threat!

    They started 1965 war with Operation Gibralter and then they murdered millions of innocents in 1971.

    You guys approached the IMF for balance of payment because your military is interested in buying all the expensive toys.
    Remember, you have to pay your loans. Don’t blame India then.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    You do realize the current PM is from a backward caste. Your views on India are both outdated and prejudiced.
    Pakistan is now fighting monsters like you.Recommend

  • Nadeem

    Parvez, leave them… on one hand they (perhaps rightly) mock Pakistan for the abundance of conspiracy theories, but on the other hand leave no moments before slipping into delusions themselves.

    To say APS was a falseflag is akin to saying 9/11 is one too (with dubious evidence presented). There can be no dialogue with those deep in denial.

    @wb, even if Mani didn’t, Satish Verma (part of the CBI-SIT probe team) did and believes that Mumbai was a false flag”with the objective of strengthening the counter-terror legislation

    ” so Parvez’ point still stand.Recommend

  • UsmanAjmal

    And Muslims never learned to behave even when given all freedom under democracy. Don’t get me started on bacha bazi culture.Recommend

  • The Book Says

    How do you know he is Hindu? Pakistan as a nation lost BD and now can’t even rule FATA and Balochistan, forget about ruling Hindus.
    Just because he is saying something you don’t agree, you resort to name calling, I guess that reflects your intellectual maturity.Recommend

  • JP

    Trust you to write under a Muslim name.
    patheticRecommend

  • Headstrong

    Exactly what I said above. You do realise that most of your countrymen believe both 9/11 and 26/11 to be false flags? Why not add APS and Badaber too? Recommend

  • Parvez

    Thank you reading my explanation and understanding it.Recommend

  • J

    If you are so tired why do you keep on commenting and “abusing” on this website??Recommend

  • J

    Yeah he is so tired of ” abusing” but keeps coming to this website! Recommend

  • Nadeem

    The point of contention was about what you believe not anyone else since you were the first one to post. From your original comment YOU seem to believe that APS, etc was a false flag.

    Do you or do you not, simply answer the question so we can access your mentality.

    I can vouch for Parvez that he does not believe that 9/11 or Mumbai was a falseflag. You justifying falsehoods with more falsehoods was what Parvez was doing in the first place.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    Just paying you back in your same coin, buddy. Funny how you guys get all roiled up when someone does this to you. It CAN happen, you know? Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.

    Or is all this too deep for you? Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nadeem, they are neither as smart as they make themselves out to be nor as bad as we make them out to be. I normally do not retaliate to the usual garbage they put out …….but now-and-then a reply is needed.
    Recommend

  • wb

    You wrote a lot of irrelevant stuff. However, I’ll answer this:

    “why are you not interested in posting on websites of Bangladesh, Australia, etc. ?”

    Because, neither Bangladesh, nor Australia waged four wars against us and lost them all.Recommend

  • wb

    I curse the day I got my PhD.Recommend

  • wb

    Yes, and that was the person Mani was accusing of making false accusations.

    Do you still not understand or you’re incapable of understanding?

    Believing is not evidence. There are thousands of idiots who believe Harry Potter, Star Trek and Game of Thrones are real. That doesn’t make it so.Recommend

  • wb

    It’s still fun.Recommend

  • J

    Wow “abusing” is fun for you! You seriously need to get out more!Recommend

  • Rd px

    The base was made by americans so all houses and styles are designed by them. After the americans left, should we have destroyed the houses because they appear lavish?Recommend

  • Sane

    Pakistan Air force is bombarding on those terrorist who came from neighbor countries. We will finish them all and this pains you. Fight against terrorists is just, fair and as per humanity. If you want to save them stop sending them.Recommend

  • Sane

    Your constitution says India a secular country, but you massacred Sikhs and Muslims. You want to ban on cow sacrifice. Why you don’t amend your constitution.

    Anyways, Muslims in India shall practice their religion, no matter how much you curb. Muslims in Kashmir freely sacrificed cows, but you could not do anything. Try something else.Recommend

  • Sane

    India has a rich history of state terrorism in neighbor country. You PM Modi confessed himself that he was part of a terrorist group in former east Pakistan (Bangladesh). And Indian government in-filtered terrorist in former East Pakistan (Bangladesh). You massacred Sikhs, Muslims. You do not have any face to condemn terrorism. India is epicenter of all sorts and forms of terrorism. Peace in the region can only achieved when India changes its state terrorism policy and stop sending and funding terrorist outfits globally.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Nonsense. All the attackers in the recent attack on an Airforce base are from Pakistan. These guys are NOT foreigners, so were Baitullah, Hakeemullah and Fazlullah.

    Heck, Ilyaz Kashmiri was part of the SSG in your Army, who had achieved fame after decapitating an BSF soldier. He later turned too. He was then killed in a Drone strike, after targetting Musharaff. Once a patriot, later an enemy of the state.

    You created these monsters and they turned, some are finding shelter in Afghanistan. Your “stop sending them” statement makes no sense!

    Why did you guys create them in the first place? Reap as you sow..

    Why did you guys hinder the anti-Taliban fight in Afghanistan? If you had not supported Afghan Taliban, maybe Afghanistan would be a stronger state today. The ex-patriots are now taking shelter in Afghanistan. Recommend