By Ankita Shree
The attack on the PNS Mehran in Karachi has raised many questions about Pakistan’s internal establishments. This article seeks to analyze the media response within Pakistan on the following questions: first, why was PNS Mehran chosen for attack by the terrorists in the first place? Second, what are implications of this attack on the future of Pakistan’s military and civil entreprises? And lastly, has Pakistan done a post-facto introspection of itself?
The Pakistani officials held the role of PNS Mehran and vital installations at the base as the main cause behind the attack. Pakistani journalists like Imran Ayub agree that the strategic location of Mehran in Pakistan’s heartland Karachi and the stationing of a number of modern aircrafts and helicopters was the cause of assault (Why did terrorists pick PNS Mehran, The Dawn, May 24,2011). But others hold different views regarding the cause and motive behind the attack. Ayesha Siddiqa claimed that Bin Laden’s death has been a shocker even for the ‘friendly’ militants and al Qaeda’s local franchises are behind the attack (Security Lapses, The Tribune Express, May 29, 2011). Though, a section of conservationists has withheld its allegations on India, backed by the US, as the real conspirator behind the attack given its strategic interest in damaging Pakistan’s PC3 Orion.
In terms of implications, the attack comes as a rude shock for both the Pakistani people and its establishment. While the Naval Chief has denied all charges of security breach on the base and an insider hand in the attack, it has become apparent, that it could not have been carried out without such help inside such a high security area. Further, inconclusive figures about the number of attackers have also added to the sorry saga of Pakistan. Pakistan also stands embarrassed in terms of its security provisions at the international stage with international concerns emerging on the safety of nuclear weapons in Pakistan. All this has led to an outrage in the people against the armed forces who have lost their faith in their much trusted security forces. Qasim A. Moini views that attacks like PNS Mehran have a psychological impact on people’s minds and attacks like these constantly cavalcade negativity and take a heavy toll on people’s mental health (Loss of Public Confidence in Armed Forces, The Dawn, May 24, 2011)
The most important development however is the self reflection and internal assessment. In the aftermath of the event, the print media has analyzed the flaws in both civil government and military establishment which fell short of fulfilling its responsibility. Mohshraff Zaidi holds that civil government of Pakistan has been diseased with corruption and thus is incapable of good governanace (Fixing Responsibilities for PNS Mehran, The News May 25, 2011). Imtiaz Gul suggests that there is compelling evidence that civilian and military institutions have worked in isolation of each other, with civilians usually reluctant to treat what is considered “army assists”. Such lack of coordination between civil and military institutions is responsible for Pakistan’s present condition (PNS Mehran attack; Vulnerable, embarrassed and targeted, The Tribune Express, May 29, 2011).
The newspapers have also called for reforms in both civilian government and military. The Daily Times in its editorial stressed on the need for a better professionalized army to counter terrorism in Pakistan (Going back to the barracks, May 25, 2011).The print media has also tried to draw attention towards WikiLeaks’ exposure of funding of radical Madrassas by Saudi Arabia and UAE and demanded attention to stop further radicalisation of fundamentalist forces in Pakistan (Going back to barracks, The Daily Times May 25, 2011).
Though some newspapers like The Nation are adamant on proving an external hand in the attack pointing towards India and USA, others have dismissed such claims. The Dawn in its editorial points out that Pakistan needs to come out of its denial mode and need to identify the enemies within itself (State of Denial, May 27,2011). Farukh Saleem in a similar vein holds that Pakistan suffers from an autoimmune disease which is difficult to treat when the host body is in complete denial, where large segments of population are ideologically aligned with the disease itself, and where opinion makers are confused. In such condition Scapegoating India or the US will just not help (Autoimmune Disease behind PNS Mehran, The News, May24, 2011).
The PNS Mehran attack serves as a wakeup call for the Pakistani establishment to come out of its deep slumber and introspect. The attack was a result of Pakistan’s own flawed security policy premised upon portraying India as arch enemy and devising policies such as creating religious extremist militants to fight proxies in India, a Frankenstein’s monster that has come back to it. It is time for Pakistan to take radical steps to curb such forms of violence which are based on religious extremism and which in future can have disastrous consequences for Pakistan and the whole world.
Research Intern, IPCS
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