January 18, 2008


Filed under: MILITARY RULE — civilsocietypakistan @ 5:56 am
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DAWN - the Internet Edition

January 18, 2008 Friday Muharram 08, 1429


THE devastating nature of the Taliban assault on the Sararogha checkpost on Wednesday night must make us all sit up. Attacks on convoys and bunkers of the security forces, check posts and ‘forts’ have been taking place for over half a decade. But this attack stands out for several reasons: first, unlike most previous attacks that took the form of rocket fire or sneak assaults by small contingents, this was a frontal assault, and according to the government sources 200 militants were involved. Unofficial reports put their strength at 700. Second, the attack shows the complete failure of the army’s intelligence. The preparations for an attack of such strength should have taken a considerably long time, and a lot of spade work by the Taliban must have gone into it, including intelligence activity, before they could have launched their assault with such ferocity. Third, the Sararogha humiliation serves to underline the security forces’ operational inadequacies. The strength of the South Waziristan Scouts manning the fort was said to be inadequate — merely 38, including cooks, barbers and orderlies. They were caught by surprise because they had no inkling of what was coming. The battle lasted six hours, the enemy kept advancing and, despite desperate calls from the besieged garrison to the Ludda fort, calling for air support, it is reported that no helicopters came to their rescue.

The Taliban did a thorough job: they blew up the fort, killed 22 soldiers — the ISPR claims only seven FC militiamen lost their lives — took many prisoners and, according to the official version, lost 40 men. The Taliban’s own claim was that they suffered only two casualties. In keeping with the barbarity typical of them, the Taliban slaughtered some of the captured security personnel. The attack was led by Baitullah Mehsud, the man the government holds responsible for Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. However, the government has so far been unsuccessful in locating him, arresting him and putting an end to the atrocities he has been perpetuating.

The various Taliban factions have united into a new Tehrik-i-Taliban and are operating with renewed vigour. The situation on the government side seems to be characterised by stagnation. Unless Islamabad adopts a new political approach to the Fata insurgency, there is little possibility that peace will return to Waziristan. Incidentally, given the intelligence disaster that Sararogha was, one wishes the intelligence agencies paid more attention to their professional duties than to spying on politicians and judges.


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