Skip to main content

VIEW: An Inconvenient Truth — According To A Little Bird —by Afrah Jamal

I've already acknowledged the bravery of our men in 'You Can't Handle The Truth'....

First Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 04, 2011

Some new information surfaced immediately after I hit the send button on my first piece ‘You Can’t Handle The Truth?’ (Daily Times, May 30, 2011) — information that casts new light on the events of May 22, 2011 when an indeterminate number of men stormed a naval airbase and targeted its prized assets. I say indeterminate because none of the officials seem to agree on a number.

This new information holds answers to some key questions — motive (why target the Navy?), the mystery surrounding the downgraded number of attackers (not 12) and determining who was really responsible for security on that fateful day when a surgical strike paralysed an entire base. Incidentally, it could be a brief extension of the same light the slain journalist, Saleem Shahzad, was trying to shine on the PNS Mehran tragedy.

A recent headline, ‘Navy blames PAF for security lapse,’ may have deflected some criticism from the Navy but the death of Saleem Shahzad has pushed them right back into the unforgiving glare of the media spotlight. There is more to the Mehran disaster than meets the eye.

It began when a Navy man was court-martialled when his ties to an extremist faction were ‘discovered’. His ‘friends’ warned the Navy against taking further action against the traitor, adding that they would rue the day. It was a very specific threat and aircraft were mentioned.

Now this version of events matches, to a degree, a report published by Saleem Shahzad who recently broke a story in Asia Times Online, exposing “sizeable al Qaeda infiltration within the Navy’s ranks” — only his analysis of the PNS Mehran saga goes deeper. It also provides a motive for these attacks, which he claims were “a reaction to massive internal crackdowns on al Qaeda affiliates within the Navy.

Pursuing this line of inquiry can be hazardous for the health. Yet, the presence of potential al Qaeda loyalists within the Navy necessitates a re-examination of the ‘breach’ story. Two days after this report, Mr Shahzad disappeared and his subsequent death has given his final words added weight. The Pakistan Navy, which is currently in the process of exorcising its demons, took a bold stand against extremism and, as a consequence, has suffered from a serious blowback. Both these versions lean heavily towards an al Qaeda hit, and bolster the inside job theory. One of them holds the Navy accountable for its actions or lack thereof in this matter.

The brave men who died that day were facing multiple challenges. The first perimeter was breached not by four, six or 12 but by more than a dozen attackers. The first breach, as the Navy keeps insisting, was in the portion that fell under the PAF jurisdiction and hence was their responsibility.

In the Navy’s own words: “They were prepared but not specifically for Mehran.” People may well ask, why ever not? According to a report, there were more than 30 aircraft in the naval compound that day. Airbases generally have three layers of ground defences — the outer ring (walls/barbed wires/lights/cameras covering the entire outer perimeter), the inner ring (armed patrols, dogs, fortified bunkers) and, finally, point defence (each armed guard defending an individual aircraft). After the first line was ostensibly breached, was the second line in place? There is no mention of guards amongst the deceased. At what stage did the point defence guards spring into action?

The Navy had been forewarned, yet it was not forearmed. The bird has pointed to a strong likelihood of this being an ambush led by 20 or so men, some of whom might have been renegades from within the naval ranks. It is a damning number that squares with the odd behaviour of the prime minister who, when pressed on disclosing the true figure, mysteriously declared that some things cannot be shared with the media. That and the fact that a Navy man initially registered an FIR against 12 people — a Freudian slip perhaps?

One can see why the Navy has been hesitant in owning up to this as it would mean that a large number escaped or melted back into the ranks. Either way, this has been a major setback. The presence of a rift within begs the question of whether any amount of defensive measures can withstand an attack that comes from inside? This new knowledge gives rise to a new set of fears — fears that military men might want to address quickly.

They might also want to take a look at official naval accounts, which have done nothing for their image: “The terrorists were so well-trained in guerrilla tactics at night that they remained unharmed despite thousands of bullets being fired at them by naval and allied forces.” There is more: “For the sake of your imagination, I would say it was such an intense, swift, well-trained, and precise attack worthy of famous Hollywood movies such as Rambo.” One is tempted to quote another Hollywood flick (Thor): “You made my men look like minimum wage mall cops.”

Granted, May 22nd was not our finest hour. Yet the people do not seek to pull down their defenders for sport nor do they doubt their resolve. Saleem Shahzad may have been viewed as someone who dared to encroach upon sacred turf (national security) but his quest to identify major faultlines within institutions once thought to be invincible could only lead to ‘better security and introspection’ as someone wisely pointed out.

Images courtesy of: http://img2.allvoices.com/thumbs/image/609/480/80706221-fire-and.jpg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…

VIEW: Of Clarion Calls and Golden Statuettes / By Afrah Jamal

First Published in Daily Times /Saturday, March 17, 2012

Elegiac laments for a fading film industry are interrupted midway with news that could give the documentary film medium at least a new lease of life. It owes its resurrection to a young filmmaker, who mined troubling sound-bytes overheard in theatres where war, injustice or social disparity reigns supreme. Clips aired at the third Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) held earlier this year provided glimpses of her work, including the internationally acclaimed ‘Saving Face’. At the time, she had an Emmy stacked away for one documentary and was just weeks away from winning an Academy Award for another. At the time, she had been relentlessly crusading to rid societies of those anachronistic practices (among other ills) that weigh them down in the modern world. And — despite these glittering credentials — her work was largely unknown amongst Pakistanis.

The young Oscar nominee who took the stage that day would soon be the face of a bur…

BOOK REVIEW: DIARIES OF FIELD MARSHAL MOHAMMAD AYUB KHAN 1966-1972

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
PUBLISHED IN THE POST AUG 29, 2007

Books allow people to have their say. Diaries express what they actually meant. Therefore, every prominent personality must stray from the path of political correctness and leave behind a diary. One way to regain an insight into the defining moments of our history post ‘65 War would be through the diaries of Pakistan’s first military ruler and first C-in-C, Field Marshal M. Ayub Khan, who also authored the book, ‘Friends. Not Masters’. The personal lives of public figures are always intriguing; while their contemporaries indict/acquit them on consequences of their actions, diaries give individuals a rare shot at swaying the upcoming generation of juries. Recorded during the uneasy calm before an inevitable storm brewing on the Eastern horizon and Indian front, the entries, spanning 7 years from September 1966 - October 1972, are replete with shrewdness and candor of a narrator who observed the events initially as a key player…

BOOK REVIEW: Hira Mandi / Author: Claudine Le Tourneur Dlson

Published in Daily Times Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reproduced on Claudine Le Tourneur Dlson's Website

Translated from French by Priyanka Jhijaria

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

A programme about Hira Mandi did the internet rounds a couple of years ago. It claimed, among other things, that the sons of the ‘dancers’ reportedly end up as lawyers, doctors, artists — a few join politics and some even reach the military. These outrageous statistics may be one of the reasons the documentary was banned from the mainstream media. That and its primary premise — the plight of the fallen women — would prompt the conservatives to howl with dismay before scurrying off to bury any evidence in the backyard along with other bodies.


Claudine Le Tourneur d’Ison embeds such wrenching moments in a bold narrative where its doomed protagonist can hail the brave new world and its genteel patrons from an extraordinary vantage point. The expedition to the underworld with the unfortunate progeny and the hapless…

SERIES REVIEW: THE HEROES OF OLYMPUS / Rick Riordan (2013)

First Published inDaily Times / 5 Jan 2013

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

Demigod fans who bade farewell to Percy – (son of Poseidon) & the Olympian franchise a few years ago must have wondered what the writer was up to as they came across a ‘final’ Prophesy conveniently left unresolved at the end of the saga.

The Last Olympian’ concluded the five part series wrapping up Percy Jackson & his merry band of demi-gods' extended arc with a high-octane finale and an emotional send-off. Though Rick Riordan had moved on to explore Egypt in ‘The Kane Chronicles’, he wasn’t done with Olympus, its ever shifting centre of power or its hoity-toity god population for that matter.

The cryptic warning heard in the final pages is used to establish the credentials of this spin-off. The gods return in the ‘Heroes of Olympus’ series - distant as ever and in Roman form heralding a brand new dawn with the promise of new crusades, a shiny new quest, fresh faces and an ancient threat. And Percy is b…

BOOK REVIEW: How It Happened

Published in Daily Times / Sat 9 Feb 2013

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
Author: Shazaf Fatima Haider

Thanks to Liberty Books for the (temp) review copy

Gwendolen: I am engaged to Mr. Worthing, mamma.

Lady Bracknell: Pardon me, you are not engaged to anyone. When you do become engaged to someone, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself . . .”
-
The Importance of being Earnest (Oscar Wilde)


Characters chasing ‘happily ever after’s’ are often pulled aside by enterprising elders who try to flag all but the most traditional road to the altar. A fiendishly funny narrative pounces on the retreating figure of Cupid and explores his cultural relevance in the sport they call match-making.

The saga of the Bandian clan comes with a perpetually scandalized, formidable old lady fiercely protective…

BOOK REVIEW: Kasab, The Face of 26/11

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Thanks to the Writer for the lovely emails despite the 'scathing review'

Published inDaily Times / Saturday, February 12, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Author: Rommel Rodrigues

November 26, 2008 was India’s 9/11 — or so they say. It was the day 10 gunmen held one city hostage for over 60 hours. A day that sent accusations flying across the border, and the fear of something deadlier being traded saw the international community scrambling for cover. India was breaking news for days. Pakistan also made headlines around that time but not for the same reasons.

They caught the perpetrator. Ajmal Kasab is exhibit A in the case against the country of his birth. What little is known about Kasab (the name literally means butcher), beyond his nationality (Pakistani) and vocation (deadly pawn) comes from a hastily complied sketch leaked to the media in the early days of the attack. The rest came from following the trail of breadcrumbs, obligingly l…