INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR---PAPER NO 565
The crdibility of the Pakistani Army and its Chief of Staff, Gen.Pervez Ashfaq Kayani ,has taken a beating following the daring raid launched by a group of nine terrorists into the Army's General Headquarters at Rawalpindi and their success in holding the Army and its commando group called the Special Services Group (SSG) at bay for nearly 20 hours before the terrorists could be neutralised and 39 of the 42 hostages---civilians and military personnel---taken by them got released. Eight military personnel, including a Brigadier and a Lt.Col, and eight terrorists were killed during the raid and the subsequent action to free the hostages.
2.The Urdu daily Jang and its English sister publication The News International had published a report on October 5, 2009, stating that according to the Interior Department of the provincial Government of Punjab a source had revealed that terrorists of the Tehrik-e-Taliban,Pakistan (TTP) were planning a commando-style attack on the GHQ in collaboration with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), the anti-Shia organisation, and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). According to the report carried by these papers, the Punjab Interior Department had warned that the the terrorists had planned to enter the GHQ using fake army uniforms and vehicles.
3. Embarrassing questions are being asked as to what action the Army and the federal Ministry of the Interior headed by Rehman Mallik had taken on this report of the Punjab Interior Department and what precautions were taken to thwart a commando-style attack by the terrorists.
4.The Army's credibility has also been damaged not only by the success of the terrorists in forcing their way into the GHQ premises, but also by the confusion, which prevailed in the GHQ as was evident from the conflicting reports given by an army spokesman about the raid.After the four terrorists, who tried to force their way into the GHQ premises, had been foiled and killed by the security guards at Gate No.1after an exchange of fire lasting about 45 minutes, an army spokesman claimed that the operation was over and that the terrorists' attempt to enter the GHQ premises had been thwarted at the gate itself.
5. Subsequently, it turned out that five other terrorists had made their way in through Gate No.2 by taking advantage of the fact that the security picket at this gate had left it unattended and rushed to Gate No.1 when the exchange of fire started there and that they had taken some hostages. Only some time after the four terriorists had been killed at Gate No.1 that the Army realised that some other terrorists had made their way in and had taken hostages. For over 14 hours after the terrorist attack had started, the Army had no clue as to how many hostages had been taken.
6. Initially, the Army spokesman gave the number of hostages taken by the five terrorists as between 10 and 15. Then, he raised it to between 20 and 25. Finally, it turned out that the terrorists had actually taken 42 hostages, of whom 39 were rescued by the Army early on the morning of October 11 and the remaining three died during the exchange of firing. The Army has not so far given the names of the hostages, who died, and of those, who were rescued.
7. After the action was over, the Army spokesman announced that while eight of the raiding party were killed, the leader of the terrorist group by name Aquil alias Dr.Usman, who was injured when he unsuccessfully tried to kill himself with an explosive device, had been taken into custody and was being interrogated. Initially, it was stated that he was the same person who had led the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan Cricket team in Lahore in March last as the team was being taken by bus from the hotel in which it was staying to the stadium.Subsequently, the Army modified its contention by stating that the terrorist leader arrested in the GHQ premises had a name sounding similar to that of the leader of the group which had attacked the SL cricket team and that it was being verfied whether the two are one and the same.
8.The Lahore City Police Chief Pervez Rathore had told the media at Lahore on June 17,2009, that one of the terrorists involved in the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team had been arrested and six other terrorists involved in the attack, including the mastermind, had been identified. He said that the arrested terrorist had been identified as Zubair alias Naek Muhammad and that he belonged to a till then unknown organisation called the Tehrik-e- Taliban Punjab .He described Zubair as a retired low-ranking army officer. He identified the mastermind as Aquil alias Dr. Usman alias Rana Hanif and said that he was also involved in the firing of a rocket on a plane carrying Musharraf from an air base near Islamabad to Balochistan in July,2007. He also said that all the militants involved in the attack on the SL team belonged to Southern Punjab. He said that Zubair identified the leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab as one "Emir Farooq" . The Lahore City Police chief said that the attack on the SL cricket team was jointly mounted by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab and the anti-Shia Lashkar e-Jhangvi. He identified four others involved in the attack as Muhammad Adnan, alias "Sajad"; Sami Ullah, alias "Ejaz"; Abdul Wahab, alias "Umar"; and Qari Ehsan Ul Haq, alias "Qari Ajmal." The Lahore police offered a cash reward of Rs. 2.5 million ($52,000) each for the arrest of any of these men or "any other suspects."
9. If it turns out that Aquil alias Usman arrested for allegedly leading the attack on the GHQ on October 10 is identical with the person by the same name wanted for leading the attack on the SL cricket team, this would indicate that the attack on the GHQ was carried out by a group of jihadis from Punjab and not from the Pashtun tribal belt. It is possible that the Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab is also known as the Amjad Farooqi detachment of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in whose name the responsibility for the GHQ attack was claimed shortly after the attack. (11-10-09)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )