May 23rd 2011 came and went, but its scars will remain on the minds and hearts of Pakistanis for decades to come.
I remember turning on the TV and flipping through channels wondering if anything worthwhile was being shown. We’d just had dinner and everyone was lolling about worrying how tomorrow was the dreaded Monday. Little did we know that the night of 23rd of May would forever be etched in our minds.
Around 9 20 pm PST, terrorists had infiltrated PAF Faisal Base which houses Pakistan Navy’s PNS Mehran Base. They had, according to the tense looking reporter on the screen, set alight 2 PC3 Orions. But that’s not where it stopped, the terrorists huddled inside a building and an exchange of firing between the armed forces and terrorists was taking place. At that time we didn’t know that the siege would carry on for 16 hours; or that it would claim 11 lives. Or that even a day-and-a-half later, we’d have more unanswered questions, than answers and facts.
6 terrorists in all, if the Interior Minister of Pakistan Senator Rehman Malik, is to be believed, held a nation’s Naval force hostage for over 16 hours – in a battle that claimed 11 of the nation’s sons – including the 24 year old Lt. Yasir, who was set to marry in the next 3-4 months. Senator Malik went on to emphasize that this was ‘not a security lapse’ and blamed a political party’s gathering for ‘diverting’ the attention of the security. Senator Malik went on to describe the attire of the terrorists, who had breached a ‘blind spot’ between two cameras, as people ‘dressed like characters from the Star Wars movies’ – laughable from a man who has made making-a-joke-out-of-himself-and-the-situation a new job description. After showing the picture of the dead terrorist on his blackberry to the world media, he added, ‘and two of them ran away’. How convenient for the terrorists to run away when three elite security forces of Pakistan are after them – the navy, the rangers and the army.
How will the armed forces protect us and our nuclear assets when they can’t even protect themselves? And the idea of 6 (or as some later reports suggest, 4) terrorists holding more than 1,500 of the armed-best at bay, is ludicrous. Coupled with the fact that those terrorists carried hand grenades, ammo, guns and more importantly – rocket launchers inside the highly secure compound with them without alerting a three-tiered security is also ludicrous. What’s not ridiculous? The fact that without ‘inside’ help, the Karachi attack would not have been possible.
The fact that our army has been hypocritical enough to make accords with terrorists on one end and agree with drone attacks to fight those terrorists on the other makes it all the more plausible. There have been elements inside our armed forces and military that have aided and continue to aid terrorists.
As soon as the attack happened, the abundance of conspiracy theories flew in – raging in from Jewish terrorists harassing Pakistan and Pakistanis to Indian aided rouge-elements. Comments like ‘We all know who has a problem with those PC3 Orions’ flew around the television. With mounting theories coming in from people of all walks of life, retired generals, commanders, analysts – you name it and you’d have a conspiracy theory present. Even when TTP claimed responsibility, things like ‘but it is India who has to gain the most’ reigned supreme. Followed closely by Jewish/Zionist agenda and United States plans for Pakistan – even at the peak of crisis, created by our own, we refuse to look at the real problem – us, not them.
Has anyone of those conspiracy theorists sat down and thought about why Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts were allowed on Pakistan soil? Why are Saudi Arabia and the UAE considered our saviors, when they fund trillions of dollars worth of terrorism in Punjab on the Sunni-card? Why are people like Hafiz Saeed of the banned Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and people from the banned Jamat-ud-Dawah are allowed to lead funeral prayers for the most wanted man in the world, Osama Bin Laden, on the streets of bustling metropolis of Karachi? How could an armed base, carrying trillions of dollars of equipment, be that easy to infiltrate?
I think it’s time we woke up and smelt the crap that’s happening in our own yards. We’re quick to point fingers to the other side of the border, with the media playing a vital role. We point fingers at the US and question their morality. We point fingers at those who point fingers by saying, ‘We don’t have a problem, the world dislikes us because we’re Muslim and Pakistani’. That is not the case.
The world doesn’t dislike us because we’re Muslims and Pakistanis. The world dislikes us because we refuse to introspect. We refuse to look at our own faults that there are elements inside our armed forces that aid extremism and that our political leaders have agendas of their own and most of them treat religion as a business they can cash votes upon. That the denial has so seeped into our minds and hearts that we cannot and will not even look at the truth that’s being pushed in our faces. This may have started as the US-led War on Terror, but now, this is more than OUR war. We pay in lives and livelihoods and we pay in blood. And we’ll continue on paying for this unless we clean up our act.