On Pakistan Army’s Account Of The Dera Ismail Khan Terrorist Attack – OpEd


The Attack

Barely one month after the brazen suicide terrorist attack on the Pakistan Air Force [PAF] air base at Mianwali in which three ‘non-operational’ were damaged, the barely 10 month old Tehreek-e-Jihad [TJP] has  targeted an army ‘base camp’ in the Darban area of Dera Ismail Khan district in Khyber-Paktunkhwa’s [KP] killing 23 Pakistan army soldiers.

In this horrific incident, TJP reportedly used an explosive laden vehicle alongwith a group of six terrorists, all of whom were [in the words of Pakistan army’s media wing Inter Services Public Relations [ISPR] were “effectively engaged and sent to Hell.”

ISPR’s Narrative

As per ISPR, a group of six terrorists tried to storm the base camp but “The attempt to enter the post was effectively thwarted, which forced the terrorists to ram an explosive-laden vehicle into the post, followed by a suicide bombing attack.” ISPR’s account goes on to state that “The resulting blasts led to the collapse of the building, causing multiple casualties; 23 brave soldiers embraced ‘Shahadat’ [martyrdom].”

From ISPR’s account one gathers that on not being able to gain entry into the Pakistan army post, instead of abandoning their attempt, the terrorists’ called their planners for assistance and a vehicle packed with enough explosives to demolish a building reached the spot pronto. 

Questions Arise

While there should have been no reasons to doubt ISPR’s account, its narrative raises several questions. Firstly, if the terrorists had an explosive laden vehicle so handy, then why didn’t they use it for this attack in the first place? Secondly, since terrorists engage in ‘hit and run’ attacks, keeping an explosive laden vehicle as ‘backup’ doesn’t make sense.

Lastly, unlike the armed forces and law enforcement agencies which follow a policy of ‘graduated response’, terrorists the world over believe in ensuring ‘overkill’ by applying maximum force ab initio. Hence, ISPR’s claim that terrorists used an explosive-laden vehicle to facilitate entry of the suicide squad into the post when their attempt to do so was “effectively thwarted” isn’t compelling enough.

Damage Assessment

The Express Tribune has posted a 1 min 45 sec long post-attack video of the building purportedly targeted by the explosive laden vehicle [https://tribune.com.pk/story/2449762/at-least-23-soldiers-martyred-in-di-khan-attack-ispr]. In this video a large cavity in the wall and blown out windows is visible which supports the claim of an explosive laden vehicle being used. However, after seeing the video it’s apparent that ISPR’s contention of the building having collapsed due to the blast killing 23 soldiers is completely untrue.

Firstly, in the video it can be clearly seen that expect for the damaged windows and a large hole in wall, the building is intact. Secondly, an overhead tank on top of the building that supposedly collapsed is clearly visible and intact- which would not have been the case had the roof collapsed. Lastly, had the roof of the building really collapsed, its interiors would be flush with sunlight jst like its surroundings. However, what one sees through five windows and one large opening are dark interiors which clearly indicate that the roof of this building is intact.

Damage Control?

ISPR has only given information regarding fatal casualties. However, The Express Tribune has quoted a state-run rescue service official named Aizaz Mehmood saying that several people were wounded and in critical condition and this puts a big question mark on ISPR’s pompous “all six terrorists were effectively engaged and sent to hell” claim.  So, it’s obvious that ISPR is trying to play down the inordinately high fatalities due to terrorist action by peddling the building collapse story to cover up the reality.

This is not the first time the Pakistan army’s media wing has been economical with the truth. Just last month it claimed that only “non-operational” aircraft were damaged by TJP terrorists during the Mianwali airbase suicide attack and the security forces suffered no casualties. If true, then this rare occurrence should certainly make it to Ripley’s ‘Believe it or Not’!

Similarly, in February 2022, while ISPR claimed that all Baloch Liberation Army fighters who had forced their way into the Frontier Corps camp in Panjgur had been eliminated, Pakistan’s then Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid admitted on TV that 4-5 attackers were still alive and engaging Pakistani security forces.

And who can ever forget the then ISPR chief Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor claim after the February 27, 2019 air combat that Pakistan had taken two Indian Air Force [IAF] pilots into custody. While Wg Cdr Abhinandan was produced before the media, DG ISPR maintained that the other IAF pilot was undergoing treatment in a Combined Military Hospital, but backtracked within just a few hours.  

Respecting Fallen Soldiers

In combat situations it’s the wish of every soldier that if death comes, it should be from the enemy’s bullet and not due to an accident like his vehicle falling into a gorge or a building or roof falling on him. So, soldiers killed by TJP terrorists being shown as having died as the result of a roof collapse just to downplay the incident and save the Pakistan army’s top brass from embarrassment, is to say the least, an unpardonable and downright disgusting act.

But for an army that refused to accept the mortal remains of its own soldiers killed in combat during the 1999 Kargil War, disregarding sentiments of the near and dear ones of deceased soldiers is no big deal. Nevertheless, Rawalpindi must not forget that while a soldier’s death in fighting terrorists can conveniently be attributed to roof collapse, truth cannot be buried indefinitely.

Dead soldiers do deserve respect.

Nilesh Kunwar

Nilesh Kunwar is a retired Indian Army Officer who has served in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. He is a ‘Kashmir-Watcher,’ and now after retirement is pursuing his favorite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals and think tanks.

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