Naval base attack: When will we learn?

Published: May 23, 2011

Why our military does not take measures to prevent such incidents is a question on many minds.

Pakistan has a habit of not learning from its mistakes. We are stubborn and arrogant, and we scoff at others when they tell us we’re wrong, and let’s not forget, we believe our armed forces are brilliant and unstoppable.

In 2009, ten terrorists managed to enter the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and killed 11 soldiers and two civilians. The terrorists were dressed in army uniforms when they entered the base.

Fast forward to two years later – More than ten terrorists enter PNS Mehran, the air support base of Pakistan’s Navy, and destroy two air surveillance aircrafts worth $36 million each.

Once again our armed forces have been caught napping. The attackers did not use the frontal assault route, but rather entered using sewerage lines behind the base.

Was there no security present at the base?

Did those who handle the base’s security look at the sewer line and say “it’s okay, nobody is going to take this route.”

Most importantly, why is an air support base with crucial apparatus located next to a museum and a shaadi lawn – places which the public has access to seven days a week?

The interior ministry was quick to announce that it had warned the military of a possible attack, much like the Punjab Home Department had passed on intelligence that the military might come under attack by men wearing army uniforms in 2009. This is a matter of serious concern.

Where is the military intelligence in this?

Considering that the navy has been under attack during the past month, where is our intelligence failing?

Who are these terrorists, and how deep have alliances to militant organisations become rooted?

An inside job?

Given the latest WikiLeaks cables on radicalisation within the ranks of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and the sabotage of its equipment by its own men, there is a strong possibility that insiders were once again involved in the attack on the navy.

When the navy buses were last attacked in Karachi, there was news of insiders being involved but it was never disclosed by the agencies if this was true or not.

With the PNS Mehran attack, there are reports that the attackers were dressed in black, but bodies of those who were killed are not being taken out of the base because the government ‘does not want to disclose ethnicities.’ There have also been unconfirmed reports of some terrorists being captured alive and some of the men killing themselves during the operation.

Did the Taliban do it?

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attacks just as they had done in 2009 after the attack on the GHQ.

However, there aren’t too many factors linking the TTP to this attack. For starters, the Pakistan Navy is not involved in operations being carried out in the north, nor does it provide any kind of support to those operations. Secondly, the equipment destroyed in the attack is used for maritime surveillance.

Also, several defence analysts are of the view that the Taliban cannot be involved in this attack. Security Analyst Ikram Sehgal talking to the media categorically said that sabotaging maritime warfare can only benefit one county, that is, India. This speculative sentiment is currently making the rounds on most TV channels in Pakistan, along with other far-flung theories ranging as far as the relevance of control of Gwadar port and Pak-China ties to the current attack.

Defence Analyst Maria Sultan said that the attacks were carried out by well trained personnel who seem to have been backed by higher powers to show the world that Pakistan cannot adequately protect its military equipment.

The navy has repeatedly come under attack now, and while there are several possibilities as to who could be behind them, why our military does not take measures to prevent such incidents is a question on many minds.

Shaheryar Popalzai

Shaheryar Popalzai

A sub-editor on the web desk of The Express Tribune.

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

  • Usman Ahmad

    Dude! We are Pakistanis, and by the grace of God, we are never going to learn!Recommend

  • Moazzam Salim

    Over a very long period of time our armed forces have evolved not as a lean mean fighting machine but as a corporate entity doing business in sectors as varying as property dealing, banking and fertilizer production. Not only the retired but serving officers have enjoyed positions of fotune in these subsidiary corporations and authorities established under direct control of the armed forces. Almost on a parallel course ISI has been busy with its games in the arena of politics and their reported connections with organized crime syndicates in the country. In short the leaders of the armed forces have become complacent and satisfied thus neglecting their true duties and obligations. Now, in a time of war the flaws that have been allowed to exist and develop in an apparently professional army are being exploited with a brutal precision. Unfortunately there is no immediate cure for this. The leaders and planners of the armed forces will have to sit and actually revisit their professional attributes and trainings to chalk out a long term strategy to counter the complacency that now plagues our forces. For once they will have to think and act like soldiers or else the state of Pakistan will be no more. Recommend

  • ash 40

    Being an average Pakistani,these episodes of terrorism are quite horrific.Leaving so many poor innocent Pakistanis dead. God knows which destination we are heading to.Save our soulRecommend

  • TightDhoti

    Look, this is such a complex long drawn out conspiracy against Pakistan and Islam that no amountof precautions are going to stop the US, Jews and Hindus….We are destined to sit here and blame everyone under the sun apart from the Taliban.Recommend

  • Huesain Al-Turk

    Pakistan armed forces un-fortunately have been focusing more and more on luxury and commercial ventures.

    Yes, why should there be a Shaadi hall in air-force base?

    Have you ever seen a Brigadier or a General travel in Jeep without an escort?.

    I feel the big bosses of armed forces need to huddle and internalise and turn the things around.

    We all as citizens need to fully support our armed forces in these difficult times.

    Let us see how many persons in Navy voluntarily offer their resignations and say “this happened under my watch and I assume full responsibility”. My gut feel is no one will resign.Recommend

  • Mariam

    Military hangers aren’t built around shaadi halls but shaadi halls etc are bulit around them . When the base was made that part of the city was hardly populated. Recommend

  • ashok sai

    What a foolish argument, stating India behind the attack, same way can we say OBL was found at the military garrison so Pakistan military has tie-up with Al-Quaeda ? Recommend

  • Silent Observer

    Mr. Popalzai,

    Quite frankly your ignorance should not be blogging of such events. Shame on you.Recommend


    “Pakistan fighting war of India and Israel against Islamist Fighters.”.

    Main root cause of this war is the occupation of Palestine by Israel and Kashmir by India.and both these occupants are very proactive in terming terrorism to freedom struggle of people of these areas.Most of Pakistani soldiers are muslims therefore it is simply impossible for them to fight against their own people.In 1971 Pakistan was forced to fight against its own province, now same conspiracy is going on, and conspiracy of Bhutto and Yahya is being repaeted by Zaradari and Kayani.

  • Fahad Raza

    Pakistan’s war for its survival is in the most crucial stage, our ruler’s are sold out, our security forces are sleeping. This not the time to give up this is the time to struggle for the positive change. Those who don’t believe in Pakistan have lost. We believe in Pakistan and we have not lost hope yet. I think we need to
    SACK the chiefs of our security ARMY AIR NAVY ISI then we need some patriots to fill in for them. Parliament should demand Impeachment of President and Prime Minister. We cant loose Pakistan. Lets destroy T.T.P. and not negotiate with the terrorist. Recommend

  • http://comments Sultan Ahmed

    There is chances of Indian involvement.Recommend

  • http://comments Sultan Ahmed

    I am not disagree with you,
    really, we are stubborn and arrogant.Recommend

  • Balwinder Sandhu

    Mr AKRAM, normally I am very polite on Pak blogs, just grateful that they publish my opinion.#
    But there are times when I AM VERY ANGRY- Palestine and Kashmir have nothing to do with your mess. Bluntly speaking, who are you guys to even worry about the ummah- look at your house first.
    these terrorists are Pakistanis who will kill other pak without flinching.

    Just dont bring india, cia, jews into every problem, Mr Popalzai.
    Saudi bans Osama’s wives from returing to Saudi, and you guys worship evil Osama so much that you kill to avenge his death.
    My best wishes to all in Pak, crush the terrorists and cleanse your minds.
    balwinder , londonRecommend

  • Talat Haque

    Who benefits? ………….. lets make a list ………… India, USA, Taliban, Army [Martial Law] : anyone wants to add to the list? ……….. analyze all of the options ………. God we never learn ……….. suffer the fools!Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    @Usman Ahmad:
    if you can’t say any thing positive you have to go for the -ve. Do you??Recommend

  • Sanjoy Das (Manhattan, KS, USA)

    It is high time that Pakistan come to term with the reality that its real enemy is within. Undoubtedly India has committed atrocities in Kashmir, and Pakistan’s stance was legitimate. However, Pakistan made a pact with the devil. In nurturing Islamic extremists to fight a proxy war against arch rival India, and in making a huge mess of a whole country, Afghanistan just to gain strategic depth, is stretching things too much. Let’s face it: the boundaries of nuclear nations can never be changed.The only solution to Kashmir is to convert the LOC into an international “soft” boundary. Likewise, Tibet and Xinjiang will remain within China.

    Pakistan should shed its obsession about India. With an economy that is 7 times bigger and expanding at a remarkable rate, India can well afford a large nuclear arsenal, and a formidable military. It not only has a large economy but also a big R & D base to support its military expansion. Although not a world power yet, India is on its way to being one soon. Its trade even with remote Africa is several times more that Pakistan’s trade with China. It helps keep the Indian ocean safe from piracy. It is a part of an international consortium for fusion energy research. It is a member of the G-20 and BRICS and sooner than later join the UNSC as a permanent member.

    Pakistan should put its house in order first. I hope the Pakistani people succeed in rooting out these terrorists and their closet ISI sympathizers and make Pakistan a stable, modern, progressive nation. A welcome rivalry between the two developing nations of India and Pakistan should be in economic development, not the battlefield.Recommend

  • Haris S

    How can we learn when we have Attention deficit disorder..?Recommend

  • tauseef shah

    These events make it clear that defending critical importance areas is not easy when there are those that do not hold life dear-either their own nor others. Really, how does one deter those who are already resigned to death?
    How does one confirm now that even more critical installions are invincible?
    If family planning had been done at the right time the cheapness of todays life could have been prevented.
    The law of diminishing marginal utility applies to all life forms with explosive unchecked and mindless growth, hence the increasing willingness of many to do away with their lives- no matter at whose behest or for whatever incentive.Recommend

  • parvez

    All these disasters with the armed forces, appear orchestrated to convey an image of incompetence and to destroy national morale and the strategy is succeeding.
    Immediate action at the highest level is vital. The Admiral commanding the base must be removed publically (he has to take one for the team, although may will agree he deserves to be sacked). Our intelligence services have failed miserably. Any sensible person realises that the best of security measures can not keep a determined intruder out. It is intelligence and only credible intelligence that prevents such incidents.Recommend

  • HB

    India benefits from the destruction definitely but why would they do it in peace time and when they can be easily replaced? Seriously – what kind of defense analysts would come up with this scenario – may be – the ones who are told to come with that by the hmm..ISI ? military?
    Unless this attack is followed by all out attack by India, this blame game is ridiculous. Or may be not – isn’t the entire identity of your country dependent on the assumption that you are superior and better than others and you are hated for that and this is why your country needs a strong military and nothing else really matters.Recommend

  • Jolly Good

    “we believe our armed forces are brilliant and unstoppable.”
    That belief is immensely threatened by the fact that our armed forces have never won a war.

    “Security Analyst Ikram Sehgal talking to the media categorically said that sabotaging maritime warfare can only benefit one county, that is, India”
    You are feeding the beast here. None of our shortcomings is ever our fault. It is always them – India, US, Israel…. If it were not for them we would be perfect!

    “the relevance of control of Gwadar port”
    The Chinese have washed their hands off Gwadar for many months now. It is now ostensibly managed by a Singapore entity.

    In 1999 there was an incident (remember Kargil, anyone?) of incursion into IHK by armed persons that was repulsed by the Indian military with heavy losses. Our government denied that it was our troops on those godforsaken mountains, no one in the world believed the denials, the guy who ordered that misadventure ruled us for a decade, about a decade later we award the highest military award to a “non-state actor” who died on those hills in uniform.

    I think Kargil might have been the final nail in the coffin for the very-religious soldier who thought his country was good. I do my General’s bidding. And when I die by enemy fire, my commander-in-chief denies I work for him?
    The brass don’t care about the soldiers, why should the soldiers care about the brass?

    We used the money the US gave us to defeat the USSR and created the Taliban.
    Pakistan has always been its worse enemy. Time to bring the military under civilian control. More importantly, time to get Pakistanis to care about Pakistan.Recommend

  • pagla

    Where is God? My question is…Recommend


    Our Armed Forces (specially TOP Brass) are (sole) responsible for my country’s all miseries.

    Ayoob-Yayah-Zia- and on top of the rank Musharaf. Recommend

  • Asad Hasan


    What has happened is happened. Now do the gentlemen from the Navy – the Chief of Naval Staff, Officer Incharge PNS Mehran Base and the Director Operations Naval Operations, have the courage to acknowldege their failure and resign from their posts.

    It doesn’t matter if they were at fault – or who was at fault. It is THE defining moment for our Navy. If they do resign, they would set a precedent for others and maybe we can in future come out of our hopeless mo’rasse; otherwise lay the blame game and we carry on as a cowardly, hopeless nation that can but blame someone down the line, some poor sailor/soldier, or guard, who was not vigilant’e enough whilst the high ones were at their usual game of golf or fast asleep in their airconditioned homes.

    Best Regards

    A Civilian PakistaniRecommend

  • hassan

    So I am told that the Indian guys are so great that they not only have the capability to attack the naval base by stealth but they also have got the ability to indoctrinate and get inside help from the Navy !!!! I mean then they must be real GENIUSES !!!

    You mean there are hindus inside the navy willing to help India so they can destroy their own costly aircraft?
    Are there Muslim soldiers in India willing to go on suicide missions deep inside of Pak just because they feel so patriotic?
    Or are there Muslims in Pak who are working for India for the sake of money or whatever?

    Will someone explain to me how Indians could have done this? (Or The only explanation should be : Indians are more powerful than US and they can do anything on earth)Recommend

  • Navile

    Lets just stop blaming India for everything that goes wrong in Pakistan, just like them. Lets suppose it was Indians who attacked the base, does that condone the fact that there was a serious security lapse.

    Its our fault that army bases continue to be sitting ducks by being located within populated areas, despite everything which has happened in the recent past. Its only after the attack that they scramble to their feet to first make excuses and then make half-hearted amends. Why weren’t proper measures taken to pre-empt the attack.

    This, after we continue year after year to spend billions on our defense.

    Apparently there is much more security around Bilawal House, also in karachi, than around Mehran Base.Recommend

  • Alien

    How many young officers and juniors like jawans will have to die for the cause they even dont know????……..How many innocent people will have to die………..its about time our leaders the politicians and the real masters our top military brass take responsibility………Recommend

  • Sami Ullah Gondal

    Just few years back we heard such news and applaud when such Fidaies attacked indian bases in Kashmir and now the same monsters are out to destroy Pakistan.
    May Allah save Pakistan but i am afraid Allah wont help us as we Pakistanis are living in denial and still many praise Talibans and these so called Jehadies whom our Establishment made to eat others, now these Frankenstein Monster is out of control and we are drowning in the same grave we had dig for others.Recommend

  • Forbidden Fruit
  • Krishna

    99% of people in Israel do not care about Pakistan. Frankly India did so much to Palestinian cause than Pakistan can ever do. I am Indian and always wished the two of us can live in Peace. But I had enough with hate India propaganda.

    Good Luck Pakistan!Recommend

  • mona

    @pagla: Allah helps those who help themselvesRecommend

  • Junaid

    I cant understand why you guys bringing these events again and again, Remember it was past now think about our future now you all blaming pakistan armed forces but can some one answer whose gonna defend the country if there is any attack on the country right now. Yes, Definately we will be looking towards our armed forces and ISI, then I dont understand the reason of critisizing them. First we need to backup them b/c our enemy is trying to demoralised them by attacking aganist them through a very trained people all the news channel in pakistan are part of this propaganda. Today Pakistan,and his armed forces needs us to backup them. thums up if you agree to stand beside your armed forcesRecommend