For the second time in less than a month, the “beyond-scrutiny-and-all-powerful” armed forces of Pakistan have been put in a spot following the “audacious” terrorist attack on the Navy's airbase, PNS Mehran.
The manner in which six terrorists entered the airbase, destroyed two aircraft and held out against elite forces of the armed services for over 12 hours has thrown up several embarrassing questions for which no answers were forthcoming on Tuesday.
As always, conspiracy theories have been flying thick and fast. One of them — again — talks about the Indian hand as the P-3C Orions destroyed in the attack were used primarily for surveillance of the waters. Making a cost-benefit analysis of the terror attack, some security analysts said the Orions were specifically targeted and India stood to gain most from their destruction.
The conspiracy theorists suggesting not just an Indian hand but international powers out to malign Pakistan and take out its nuclear weapons had no answer for intelligence failure and evident help the terrorists got from inside PNS Mehran. According to Interior Minister Rehman Malik, they got deep inside the base by moving through areas not covered by security cameras, suggesting the terrorists knew these points, which would not have been possible without back-up from within the base.
Just like in the case of the U.S. unilateral action in Abbottabad to get al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, this terrorist attack has thrown up questions of incompetence and complicity on the part of some of those who were responsible for the security of PNS Mehran, which housed key naval assets. How else could the terrorists have got in with light machine guns and rocket launchers is the question doing the rounds.
The attack has now cast a doubt on the security of Pakistan's nuclear assets amid fears that the easy breach of the naval facility would be used as a premise by the U.S. to take them away. And, at the micro-level, the attack has left the average Pakistani wondering how security forces can be expected to protect them when they were unable to defend themselves.