Destruction of NATO trucks and trouble ahead
While Pakistan awaits evidence from India so it can prove that it has the capacity to move against non-state actors threatening its writ and allegedly attacking other states in the region, another incident questioning its capacity to control events has taken place. An army of some 300 gunmen — official account puts the number on 30 — blasted their way into two transport terminals on Peshawar’s Ring Road on Sunday and torched more than 160 vehicles destined for US-led NATO troops in Afghanistan.
A dominant view in Pakistan, expressed by former military officers in the media, is that Pakistan should block NATO supply convoys going through Pakistan. This volte face has come after a drone attack in Bannu. The “experts” on TV channels began demanding “action” after abandoning the earlier caution aroused by Pakistan’s economic downturn and the money the US pays for the passage of approximately 800 trucks a day.
The Taliban attack destroyed a convoy near Peshawar even as there were warnings from South Waziristan that the Taliban would undertake such an operation. The truck terminal was not given any reinforced security despite claims by the government to the contrary, and the attackers were given a free run. At the minimum this proves to the world that the Pakistan army is incapable of — if not unwilling to — putting down such elements and keeping its side of the commitment made to the US on NATO supplies. The supplies overland from Pakistan beget Islamabad the funds for mobilisation against the terrorists.
Pakistan is also haunted by the accusations made by India with regard to the origin of the one terrorist caught in Mumbai. The question is not whether the Indians are right or wrong. What is important, in real terms, is whether the world believes India or Pakistan. Pakistan denies that Ajmal Amir Kasab lived in a village named Faridkot in the Okara district of Punjab. Pakistani TV channels have gone to the village and shown people swearing that no Ajmal Amir Kasab or his named parents ever lived there, creating grounds for another media battle over who is telling the truth.
But a Pakistani journalist working for London’s Observer has collected evidence which claims to corroborate India’s allegation: the report is based on an electoral roll for Faridkot, which falls under union council number 5, tehsil (area) Dipalpur, district Okara with a list of 478 registered voters, showing a Muhammad Amir (father), Noor Elahi (mother) living in Faridkot. The parents’ identity card numbers too were discovered. This report is going to make Pakistan’s spirited defence irrelevant. The world is going to believe the Indian version. And that is where trouble is going to come from.
There is some “cleaning up” going on too but it might be too late and offset by the denials about Faridkot. The army has removed a Lashkar-e-Tayba training camp in Azad Kashmir, on the outskirts of Muzaffarabad. The question is: why now? Accusations were flying thick about this camp for a long time. Informed Pakistanis knew that the camp was there, although camouflaged somewhat by the stratagem of allowing the outfit to take the role of a rescuer of people after the 2005 earthquake in Azad Kashmir, despite some “problems” that the outfit had with “foreign” NGOs working there and their female members.
The removal of the camp or its takeover after pushing the Lashkar out of there is a “precaution” against the possibility of Indian “precision strikes” against them. Similarly, the old Lashkar headquarters in Muridke near Lahore has been opened and shown to journalists to establish that no terrorist activities could have been planned there. India has denied that it is planning to use the military option; rationally speaking the military option is unlikely to redound to anyone’s advantage. Yet, passions and internal political pressures can do much damage and the Indian government is under pressure right now.
We hope that the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) yesterday took a cool-headed view of the situation. Realism rather than rage should hold sway despite an environment of Armageddon created by the electronic media first in India and then, in retaliation, in Pakistan. The army must step back and let the civilian government handle the situation without vocal, domestically targeted, diplomacy. This is no time to create unity of the people in favour of rash action. Pakistan has to make a special effort to prove that it is in control of the situation. The two sides must regain the ground lost because of the Mumbai attack.
It is time to measure Pakistan’s capacity to withstand the prospect of a multi-pronged conflict raging both within and without. No country in the world can afford to succumb to passion when its economic and political moorings have been snapped. Wisdom recommends that Pakistan take a sober view of the situation and act with flexibility rather than Quixotic bravado. This is also the advice that the Pakistani media should take to heart, and begin to show caution in place of challenge.
NATO trucks burnt in Peshawar
* US military says loss of 160 vehicles will have ‘minimal’ impact
* Terminal owner complains of poor security
* Guards put number of assailants at 300, official says there were only 30 * Govt planning to launch operation
PESHAWAR: Gunmen blasted their way into two transport terminals on Peshawar’s Ring Road on Sunday and torched more than 160 vehicles destined for US-led troops in Afghanistan, in the biggest assault yet on a vital military supply line, officials said.
A US military spokeswoman Lt said the losses in the pre-dawn raid would have ‘minimal’ impact on anti-Taliban operations.
The owner of one of the terminals denied government claims that security was boosted.
“We don’t feel safe here at all,” Kifayatullah Khan told The Associated Press next to the still-smouldering vehicles, predicting that most of his night watchmen would now quit their jobs out of fear.
Khan said armed men flattened the gate before dawn with a rocket-propelled grenade, fatally shot a guard and set fire to a total of 106 vehicles, including about 70 Humvees.
Humvees are thought to cost about $100,000 each, meaning Sunday’s losses may exceed $10 million.
The nine other guards who were on duty but stood helplessly aside put the number of assailants at 300, Khan said, though police official Kashif Alam said there were only 30.
In the second attack on the nearby Faisal Depot, manager Shah Iran said 60 vehicles destined for Afghanistan as well as three Pakistani trucks were burned. Shahedullah Baig, a spokesman for the interior minister in Islamabad, insisted on Sunday that extra security covered the terminals. However, Khan, the depot manager, said that was untrue, and there were only a handful of lightly armed police.
Operation: Peshawar police chief Safwat Ghayyur told Reuters the government planned to launch an operation against “miscreants” soon. “A plan of operation is in place as we have crafted a strategy in which we will have to go after them,” he said. agencies (Daily Times, 8 Dec 2008)
Taliban torch another 53 US, NATO vehicles near Peshawar
* Police say no bullets fired, a few Taliban tricked guards to enter terminal
By Manzoor Ali Shah
PESHAWAR: Taliban torched at least 53 vehicles destined for NATO forces in Afghanistan in a brazen attack on the outskirts of Peshawar early on Monday – the second such raid in two days, police and locals said.
Armed gunmen shouting ‘God is great’ attacked Bilal Container Terminal near Jamil Chowk in Hazarkhani area on the Ring Road at around 3am, said Zahid Ali, a local resident.
He said he heard gunshots and explosions after which a large part of the terminal caught fire. The fire was so intense that the trucks continued to smoulder after several hours of rain.
City Superintendent of Police Chaudary Ashraf said it was a sabotage attack. The number of attackers could not be ascertained, he said, and it was not clear how they entered the terminal and set the vehicles on fire.
He denied any bullets had been fired and said the four guards deployed at the terminal had not seen anyone. He said four or five Taliban had probably managed to enter the compound, but added it was improbable many more than that were involved.
A senior police official, asking not to be named, told Daily Times two people entered the terminal and told a guard and the security in-charge of the compound they wanted to set the trucks on fire.
The police official said that more than 100 Taliban had taken part in the previous night’s raid on two terminals, but said the figure of 400 in some reports was ‘simply an exaggeration’.
He said it was premature to say if the attacks originated from Khyber Agency, and added that police and intelligence agencies are working on the cases.
A Pentagon official said on Monday the attacks would have a minimal impact on US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and no effect on combat operations.
“The overall impact on our logistical efforts to resupply US forces, NATO forces . . . as well as Afghan forces has been small and had an overall insignificant impact to date,” said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. “There’s been no direct bearing on our immediate combat capabilities.”
Early on Sunday, Taliban gunmen burned about 150 vehicles including several Humvees, when they attacked the Al-Faisal and Port World Logistic (PWL) terminals in the same area.
On December 1, Taliban torched 21 vehicles at the Al-Faisal terminal and killed two people during the attack.
The PWL terminal had come under attack on November 25 when a bomb went off in its premises, but there were no casualties. (Daily Times, 9 Dec 2008)
Read this report on BBC Urdu dot com