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Home > India > News > Columnists > B Raman

Why the Lahore attack should worry us

March 30, 2009

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The commando-style suicidal raid by a group of unidentified terrorists into the heavily guarded Police Academy at Manawan in Lahore [Images] should be of concern to India and the rest of the international community for two reasons.

Twenty police personnel are reported to have been killed in the raid. The occupation lasted seven hours before the para-military forces intervened and terminated it. According to the Pakistani authorities, four terrorists died and six have been captured.

The first reason is the renewed use by the Pakistan-based terrorists of the old modus operandi of commando-style swarm attacks with hand-held weapons. The first of these attacks was seen in Mumbai [Images] from November 26 to 29,2008, the second in Kabul on  February 11,2009,and  the third on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore on March 3,2009.

The fourth has now been seen in the Lahore area at Manawan, about 12 km from the Wagah border. While the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) of Pakistan was found to have been responsible for the Mumbai attack, the Afghan and Pakistani authorities have not been able to establish the identity of the organisation or organisations behind the Kabul and the March 3 Lahore attacks. Rehman Malik, the Pakistani Internal Security Adviser, has voiced the suspicion that the Pakistani Taliban [Images] must have been responsible for the Manawan attack. Although the Pakistani authorities claim to have arrested six of those involved in the Manawan attack, they have not yet been able to establish their identity.

The second reason for concern arises from the possibility that if it was so easy for a group of 10 to 12 terrorists wearing police uniforms and wielding assault rifles to raid and occupy for seven hours a heavily guarded establishment like the Police Academy in the Lahore area, it should be equally easy for a similar group to raid and occupy a Pakistani nuclear establishment.

The terrorists have repeatedly seen in Kabul and Lahore how easy it is to surprise and overwhelm at least temporarily the security personnel guarding the buildings targeted by them. More such incidents involving a similar MO are to be apprehended. We in India cannot remain complacent thinking wishfully that what happened in Lahore cannot happen in India. It can--- and it did in Mumbai.

 However, it must be said to the credit of the Indian security forces that commando-style attacks with hand-held weapons on hard, heavily guarded targets have invariably been beaten back by the security forces guarding them. One could cite as examples the unsuccessful terrorist attacks on the Indian Parliament House in New Delhi [Images] in December, 2001, on the Akshardham Temple in Ahmedabad [Images] in September,2002, and on the training centre of the Central Reserve Police Force in Rampur in Uttar Pradesh [Images] in January,2008. The terrorists succeeded temporarily in Mumbai because the buildings targeted by them were private establishments, which were soft targets with no protection of trained security forces.

The only similarity between the Mumbai attack and the Manawan attack is the resort by the terrorists to commando-style suicidal attacks. There are some differences. The first difference is that in Mumbai --- as subsequently in Kabul--- the terrorists attacked multiple targets, whereas in Lahore on March 3 and in Manawan on March 30, the terrorists attacked a single target.

The second difference is that at Mumbai the terrorists attacked innocent civilians, including foreigners, in unprotected soft areas, but in Kabul and Manawan, the terrorists attacked heavily protected public servants -- the personnel of the jail department at Kabul and policemen and police cadets at Manawan.

The Sri Lankan cricketers, though civilians, were heavily protected. Despite this, the terrorists managed to attack them and get away.

It should be of great concern to the international community that none of the major terrorist strikes of the last two years in Pakistan have been successfully detected by the Pakistani intelligence and police though they claimed to have identified the suspects and arrested some of them.

Among the major undetected cases are the unsuccessful attempt to kill Benazir Bhutto [Images] at Karachi on October 18,2007, her assassination at Rawalpindi on December 27,2007,  the explosion in the Marriott Hotel of Islamabad [Images] in September,2008, and the March 3 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team at Lahore.

Is this string of undetected major cases merely an indicator of police incompetence or, more ominously, is this also due to the complicity of elements from the police and the military-intelligence establishment with the perpetrators of the attacks?

B Raman

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