Scrutinising terrorists’ attack on APS | By Muhammad Usman


Scrutinising terrorists’ attack on APS

THE Maginot Line was the most expensive and elaborate defence line ever prepared by France at the time.

It could be equated with the F 35 of present time. It was considered a mighty and nigh- unassailable however, stood bystander when in a surprise attack, Germans just bypassed it while crossing through Ardennes forest, thought to be impassable for mechanized forces; a prelude to humiliation of France later.

Again, the Bar Lev Line had a chain of formidable fortifications, built by Israel on the Suez Canal.

It was considered impregnable and a symbol of Israeli military perfection yet it was overrun by Egyptian military forces in the 1973 War.

The catch was again the surprise and it stems from an element of initiative, invariably held by the attacker.

In asymmetric warfare, surprise is even easier to achieve because attackers operate in familiar environments and amid identical multitudes of people.

The soft targets are in abundance with no high degree of sophistication/coordination required for engagement thus, minimizing the possibility of loss of surprise in the process.

Due to other peculiar dynamics, environments were far more slanted in favour of terrorists to surprise the security apparatus when they attacked APS.

The fight against terrorism ought to be led by government. Here, it was content to sit in apex committees under military high command.

District civil administration is the pivot in counterterrorism but found in state of stupor when APC tragedy was perpetrated upon in continuation of what could be called a tidal wave of terrorism, causing huge scores of killing and maiming people by the time.

Civil leadership at helm dithered, procrastinated rather, virtually slipped into state of resignation and readily outsourced its onerous responsibilities to Army when it decided to pick up the fallen standard and defang the monster of terrorism.

The PPP government was also guilty of permitting Raymond Davis type intelligence operatives to enter into the country and cobble together terrorist networks which wreaked havoc.

The judicial system proved unequal to the task of bringing bands of saboteurs to justice.

The Swat and FATA were virtually in hands of terrorists and no street and alley in the country was safe from their explosive reach.

Coupled with other afflicting threats to national security, it constituted an existential threat and none except Armed Forces of Pakistan were in compatible shape to stand in epoch of challenges to save the country.

On 16 December 2014 when terrorists attacked APS, the Army was not sitting in the barracks. It was out on the battlefield across the country with tooth and nail.

It was busy non-stop to secure the country however, understandably could not provide foolproof security to every soft target in the whole country and APS Peshawar was one out of them.

Given conditions, this cannot be rightly categorized as a security lapse when seen in the backdrop of obtaining conditions and established facts of warfare as highlighted above. At the cost of some repaetition, these are enumerated again for benefit of easy recall.

Every defence could be breached, even ironclad security arrangements cannot provide guaranteed security.

With inept and indifferent governments at helm and nearly all national institutions dysfunctional, the Army had to put on the mantle of a matador to all charging bulls, instigated and supported from outside too.

The Army had to establish military courts when the judiciary was seen as reluctant for performing the needful.

All this combined, was an enormously added responsibility and bound to over stretch the Army and obviously it had to have some inevitable downsides.

These were known but had to be accepted as necessary evils. Under these formidable and exacting conditions along with its extended role, it is less than fair if the Army is held responsible for the APS tragedy.

In cricket analogy, performance of a team playing against a fierce, arch and bigger opponent under overcast conditions at alien ground with turning pitch in front of hostile crowd, cannot be judged with the same metric kept for a team playing against an ordinary opponent on flat pitch at home ground in front of their own crowd.

This is the right lens which one has to see through before the Army is judged on APS’s tragedy. One may blame the other if he sits idle in face of impending threats.

Army was up against all odds and fighting valiantly.
By that time, the Army had mopped dens of terrorists in Swat and South Waziristan by its operations; Rah-e-Rast and Rah-e-Nijat.

It reacted swiftly to foil instant terrorists’ attempt and was ahead of others to provide solace to victims in their hour of grief.

The operation Zarb-e-Azb, was launched after APS attack and it uprooted terrorism from soil of Pakistan and rose in estimation of world with a badge of winning a war which no one in world, could win. Besides counterterrorism, the Army also took other vital tasks beyond its designation.

Notably, these include militancy in Baluchistan, restoration of normalcy in Karachi, gigantic rescue operations, rehabilitation of IDPs, facilitating return of civil government in FATA/Swat, frequent escalations at Line of Control/Working Boundary, handling undiminished mantra of Do More by US and galloping Indian intrigues in collusion with Afghan government/NDS and pressing diplomatic engagements. When going is tough, only tough get going and the Army did all splendidly.

Nation stands in thankfulness. For our nemeses, it was a shattering experience. They learnt that for Pakistan to collapse, it is the Army which has to collapse and there is no possibility of it until they create a wedge between them and the people of Pakistan. Precisely this the reason that they have now launched hybrid war against us and target is the people and method is subversion.

No one is infallible and so as our Armed Forces, however, no one in the country can lay claim, even a fraction of it, to what they have done for the cause of the country. It is a collective assessment of the nation including the majority of victim families of APS’s attack.

Probably few victim families need a little more shock therapy and psychological rehabilitation. It is hoped that Supreme Court would take holistic view when it hears petition on APS’s attack again. This is a sensitive matter, entailing grave implications.

— The writer, a retired Lt Col, is a senior columnist based in Islamabad.

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