Tuesday, May 17, 2011



A dangerous mix of humiliation and desperation is the prevailing mood in the Pakistani Armed Forces and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden in a clandestine chopper-borne raid conducted by US naval commandos on a huge house next to the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) at Abbottabad in the Khyber Pakhtoonkwa province.

2. The humiliation of the ISI arises from the fact that OBL was living undetected at Abbottabad for over five years. The international community and large sections of public opinion in Pakistan itself believe that without the complicity or the silent connivance of the ISI he could not have lived that long in that area.

3. In his secret testimony before an in-camera session of the Pakistan Parliament on May 13, Lt.Gen.Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the Director-General of the ISI, tried to shift part of the blame for this huge intelligence failure on to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Police, both of which come under the control of the Ministry of the Interior. His efforts have failed following allegations by leaders and officials of the Khyber Pakhtoonkwa province that the responsibility for intelligence collection and security in garrison towns vested exclusively in the ISI and that the IB and the Police had no role in the matter.

4. The humiliation of the Armed Forces has arisen from the fact that neither the Pakistan Air Force ( PAF) nor the Army was able to detect and prevent the intrusion of the US choppers into the Abbottabad area to kill OBL and escape with his body and a large quantity of documents, computer material and other evidence which could ultimately help the US intelligence , inter alia, to trace the links of OBL with influential people in the Pakistani civil society and the Government.

5. Even though the Armed Forces and the ISI have managed to force the political leadership into expressing its solidarity with them despite their shocking sins of commission and omission, their credibility has been badly damaged in the eyes of the people of the country as well as of the international community.

6.The Army and the ISI have thus far managed to avoid any out-of-house enquiry into the huge intelligence failure that could have arisen from suspected complicity of serving and retired officers of the ISI. The only comprehensive enquiry by an independent commission to which they have agreed is into the security failure which enabled the US to conduct its spectacular commando raid right under the nose of the Army and the Air Force.

7. The vaunted professional reputation of the Army, the Air Force and the ISI is in ruins. The desperation seen is in salvaging the severely damaged reputation in the eyes of the Pakistani people and junior and medium level officers of the Armed Forces. There is a danger of the military and the ISI leadership concluding that without an external adventure against India they may not be able to salvage their reputation and restore the morale of the Armed Forces and the ISI at junior and senior levels.

8. The Government of India should be alert to the danger of such an adventure directed against India through the usual surrogates of the ISI such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba ( LET), or the so-called 303 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri or other anti-India jihadi organizations. The Pakistan Army and the ISI might calculate that re-kindling acts of terrorism against India in J&K and outside might benefit them in two ways. Firstly, to salvage their reputation and restore the morale of their personnel. Secondly, to direct the anger of the LET and other jihadi organizations towards India instead of towards the Pakistani Armed Forces.

9. The jihadi organizations seem to suspect that the spectacular raid at Abbottabad by the US commandos might not have been possible without the knowledge, if not the complicity, of the Armed Forces. This anger against the Armed Forces among the jihadi organizations has already led to two simultaneous acts of suicide terrorism by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) against a group of young recruits to the Frontier Constabulary, a para-military unit, on the day they completed their training in a training centre in the Charsaddha District of the Khyber Pakhtoonkwa province.

10. To avoid more such attacks on the Pakistani security forces, the anger of the jihadi organizations may be diverted towards India. There is considerable anger against the US in the Pakistani Armed Forces as well as the civil society. This anger could dilute the ability of the US Government to exercise any restraining influence over such adventurous actions directed against India.

11. The prevailing mindset among senior officers was evident from a reported claim of Pasha before the in-camera session of the Parliament that any Abbottabad-like attack by India would invite a befitting response from Pakistan as targets inside India "had already been identified" and "rehearsal" carried out. It was likely he was indulging in bravado, but one should not minimize the danger of the Pakistani Armed Forces and the ISI provoking border incidents in order to give themselves an opportunity for a retaliatory strike against India. There is a need to mobilize and step up our intelligence collection efforts so that we are not taken by surprise.

12. The spectacular chopper-borne commando raid would be studied not only by the special forces groups of other countries, but also by terrorist organizations in order to see whether similar chopper borne raids could be organized on our territory. Indian targets which could be vulnerable to chopper-borne commando style raids have to be identified and action taken to reduce their vulnerability. (17-5.11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com)


Vijainder K Thakur said...

A chopper borne raid by Pak army into India sounds far fetched!

Whom will they kill and take back as a corpse?

What will be their justification for doing so?

This is the time for India and the US to reach out to the civil authority and people of Pakistan and encourage them to put their military and ISI in place. The military is already discredited. Pakistani leaders need to expose the military's corruption and subversion of the Pak constitution.

While Pasha and Kayani are hallucinating about a raid on India, US Seals should be practicing to take the two out in raids and had the Pak govt back its authority so that it can order the Pak army back to the barracks and take charge of the country's nuclear assets.

There is no threat to Pakistan from India, and most Pakistanis know it.

The threat to Pakistan is from its own military which is breeding terrorism and plundering the meager resources of the country.

Hummingbird said...

I agree with the observations made. The situation is more dangerous mainly because ISI and Army (both broadly discredited agencies internally) would like to establish themselves as saviours of Pakistan. To do this, they might instigate an unnecessary conflict with India, hoping that this might polarise/unify the domestic opinion in their favour and against a common enemy.

It is important that India stays vigilant and intensifies / strengthens its intelligence.

Sri Vijainder K Thakur has commented - "A chopper borne raid by Pak army into India sounds far fetched! Whom will they kill and take back as a corpse?.."

I feel one cannot (and shouldn't) rule out this kind of operation by Pakistan. It is not necessary that they have to carry someone's corpse. If they can effect large scale destruction and create chaos, even that is sufficient. While such operation by Pakistan can be doubted now, it could be carried out in the event of a full scale operation by Pak against India. I am more worried about such operation by rogue elements / terrorists against India, which Pakistan can later-on conveniently claim that they haven't officially done and they are as much a victim of terror as any one else. Remember all the stories that are now floated about Pakistan losing 30,000 people in anti-terror operations (or) terrorist acts inside Pak.

Causing damage to high economic value targets, death and destruction of large segments of population, creating communal violence etc. could be possibly be motives for such operations by Pakistan's ISI (or) army (or) rogue elements (or) terrorists operating from Pakistan (actually not much difference is there between them except that the defence forces have a formal uniform!).

In short, more vigilance and strong defence is required. Complacence can lead to humiliation and large scale suffering. One-sided peace initiatives (with eye on Nobel Prize) by our Prime Minister can only lead to long term damage to Indian population.


Krishna Kacker said...

Newpaper reports say that our PM had held a review of our security arrangements yesterday.Perhaps this was done as a result of Gen Pasha's statement and threat perception from India's point of view.
This meeting seems to be line with your analysis.
A desperate Pakistan can certainly undertake an offensive action against India, either covertly or overtly, as suggested in your article.
We have to be prepared for the same.As the proverb goes, the price for freedom is eternal vigilance.We cannot let our guard down,particularly at this time.

Esoteric said...

The proof of the pudding is in its eating.If US & Pakistan are back in the saddle together (with a chastened PA/ISI and more aggressive and confident Pentagon) it suits not just the USG but also PA/ISI.

This is so because,PA/ISI have an easy way out of the mess.They could allow civilians a stake in the game and continue to balance their interests with those of the US.

It goes without saying that riches that Military General are unwilling to give up will be found attractive by politicians who get ambitious.In other words, the spoils will now be shared by PA/ISI with the pakistani politicians instead of keeping them at a arms length.This new dynamic will play out as the next logical step in the power play post Abottabad.

Once,one or two key politicians are bought into the game the political dyanmic with India will be re-caliberated to allow a little give on the terror side for a little take on the Kashmir side.In other words,PA/ISI mgith rein in East facing terror groups if Politicans can deliver Kashmir as a key topic on the composite dialogue.

In public,the sparring will continue and politicians might take a seemingly Pro-India line to enable MMS like Indian officials to show it to Indian public as a thaw.

Its difficult to see how politicans or PA/ISI can play it any other way if they have to venture out of their current positions.

In a related development that probably played a part in the Abbotabad timing is also the Indian relations turning 'sour' with the US.Its difficult to fathom specifics but Afghanistan and Geo-politics seems key factors.India recently requested SCO for full membership and also have denied the MMRCA deal to the Americans and have unilaterally deceided to be regional players(per the US) in Kabul.If you throw in some more facts the game becomes apparent.The facts are

- The Mohali thaw
- Chinese presence up in POK
- China backtracks on stapled visa regime
- Emerging economies are readying to dump the dollar as the currency of international trade
- Mid East civil uprising driven Oil prices spike.
- US debt spiralling out of control but the US seems bent on printing more money to get out of trouble

The shift is clear,US has been left in the lurch and India-China are getting closer.Pakistan and the US dollar and through that the Oil prices are the only other variabkes US controls and is using to bring growth to a halt in India and China....and suceeding.

This is why Pakistan-India peace is unlikely and so is between India-China.US wont allow it.

Paresh said...

Yesterday, Nawaz Sharif said that Pakistan should stop treating India as its biggest enemy and should start mending fences. This also shows the desperation that Pakistan finds itself in today. It is searching for breathing space. India has always been like a mother to them...having a large heart. In times of peace and internal confidence Pakistan attacks us with terrorists and in times of desperation wants to walk into our eternally open arms for comfort. What a stupid country and how unfortunate is India's neighborhood!

Anyway, things can go either ways just now. PM MMS and the cabinet has done a good thing by reviewing security situation with the three service chiefs and defense secretaries. Even our nuclear weapons were checked yesterday!

As an Indian, I feel safe just now...but we have to keep our eyes and ears open. I had mentioned in my last comment that the best way for Pakistan to come out of this hole is to make India start a war with it. This will get China, Europe, US, NATO, internal jihadis, Islamic countries etc to support them and loosen pressure over them.

The French revolution was also born out of humiliation and desperation. It gave birth to Napoleon, who started a pan-European war to regain the French pride! It can happen again in today's Pakistan...

Esoteric said...

To add to my earliar response...

Nawaz Sharif by stating that ABV was ready to discuss Kashmir and thereafter Kargil derailed the process is saying...

- PA/ISI need not use East facing terror as the strategy because dialogue can deliver the K result that they promise through militancy.
- He is hinting that he can deliver K if given a chance because Indian politicians are willing to do so.
- That India shouldnt be the central threat and peace with India is possible is a lever by which Nawaz is trying to exert some control on PA/ISI.

K factor remains central to PA/ISI strategy for Pakistan but it cannot and will not be changed unless there is movement on this front.If India gives in and commences dialogue it will send a message that it can be seen as a victory of terror strategy.

In many ways,the situation isnt any different from 26/11.We are back to square one.Obama strategy has not worked.A deal on K can change all that.

kuldeep singh chauhan said...

China is a long term threat to India and has been trying to encircle by cultivating opportunistic alliances and footholds in the region. The move in POK and northern areas is alarming and in long term would have implications for the whole regional security architechture in Asia. China is not supposed to dump pakistan in near future and would leaverage and coordinate with it to put pressure on india and bind it to low level equillibrium. This is the right time actually now is the time for india to premptly attack pakistan quickly neutralise it’s nuclear infrastructure with israeli help and dismember it. This will pave a long future of prosperity not only for india and south asia but for whole world. All well meaning people globally should think about it and through internet and various media create a movement to dismember pakistan in to independent countries of baluchistan, sindh, punjab and FATA should go to afganistan and save world peace.