Raid on bin Laden
Compound Exposes Pakistan's 'Unnerving Vulnerability'
are baffled by the ISI's ignorance about the presence
of such a high-value resident in a compound so mystifyingly close to our military
installations. And they're horrified that although U.S. commandoes took over 40
minutes to conduct a raid on the compound, neither the Army nor Air Force acted
to intercept them."
There can be no quibbling
with the detailed account provided by the Foreign Office on Pakistan's spectacular
role in the so-called war on terror. Neither can one question how, thanks to the
foibles, pranks and shenanigans of its main protagonists, Islamabad became its
worst victim. Pakistan's contributions are indisputably tremendous - and its
immense sacrifices matchless. It has suffered huge human and material losses on
account of this war. At least 34,000 of its people, including children and
women, have been killed. About 3,000 Pakistani soldiers have laid down their
lives fighting this war; many more have lost limbs and lead disabled lives. And
it has borne no less than staggering $68 billion in economic losses. Yet none
of this is taken into account by the warís protagonists; they are out all the
time out demonizing or denigrating Pakistan on one obscene pretext or the
other, while their own acts are unarguably blemished, unclean and culpable.
But there is no point beating
around the bush. No matter how unpalatable, the hard realities must now be
accepted, if for no other reason than to fortify our own defenses. To their
great benefit, Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] may
have been sharing information with the CIA and other friendly foreign
intelligence agencies. Even in regard to the Abbottabad
compound it may have done so. Still, it must be admitted that the Osama episode
was a colossal failure on the part of the ISI, since it evidently didnít know
he was holed up there. And even as the American raiders may have jammed all of our
radar and their helicopters may have been fitted with stealth technology, their
intrusion so deep into our territory after passing though a network of about
850 border posts without being noticed is hard to accept. This, too, must be
admitted as a colossal failure of our defense security system.
Indeed, the entire episode exposed
a worrisome vulnerability our defenses - and one that paradoxically, is playing
out differently at home and abroad. Domestically, people are baffled by the ISI's ignorance about the presence of such a high-value
resident in a compound so mystifyingly close to our military installations. And
they're horrified that although U.S. commandoes took over 40 minutes to conduct
a raid on the compound, neither the Army nor Air Force acted to intercept them.
This has sharply exacerbated their security concerns, particularly about the
nationís nuclear security-guarantee - even if unnecessarily. The reports that the Pakistan
Air Force planes scrambled is no consolation. The planes did so only after the
raiders had completed their mission and crossed our territory to return to
their base. Rather, the long Air Force response time has worsened their fears.
Externally, this now-exposed vulnerability
has given compulsive Pakistan-bashers a skin-ripping cudgel to beat it with. They
are painting the ISIís ignorance of Osamaís presence as
a mere cloak, while insinuating that it knew he has nested there. And to demonize
our army, they are claiming that it knew about the compoundís location, which
was so close to our military installations. In fact, they have latched on to
the episode to castigate the Pakistani defense establishment as a double-dealer
in the war against terrorism, in line with their familiar tirade against our
army - the ISI in particular.†
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But now that a perilous
vulnerability has been exposed, the military establishment must take an in-depth
look into its security measures, identify holes that allowed the raiders to crawl
through undetected, pinpoint flaws that permitted them carry out their raid without
interruption, uncover the failings that led to such a delayed response by the Air
Force, and reframe the entire defense-security mechanism.
The foreign secretary says that
the Osama episode should now be put down to history. But such history isn't so easily
forgettable. Although the Foreign Office has sounded a strong warning against a
repetition of the raid - even by the Americans - this will certainly not restrain
them - and they are already admitting as much. And one can never be sure of the
Indians; their hawks have long sought surgical strikes on alleged terrorist
training camps on our territory.
At the very least, a serious
effort must now be undertaken to revive our sagging economy -our Achillesí heel
in becoming a truly sovereign state, master of its own will and protector of
its territorial sanctity. A nation with a beggarís bowl can't even imagine controlling
its territorial sovereignty, let alone preserve it. Impenetrable defenses and
economic self-reliance go hand in hand.
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