Islamabad: The Pakistan Army appears to have a militancy problem that is "hidden from the public because investigations and court martials are often carried out in secret", a leading Pakistani paper said Friday, a day after the audacious attack on the key Kamra airbase.
Heavily armed gunmen had stormed the Kamra airbase in Punjab province Thursday morning. An intense gunfight broke out between the militants and security personnel in Attock, a district that is considered to be one of the areas where Pakistan stores its nuclear arsenal. Nine militants and one soldier were killed.
An editorial in the Dawn Friday said the attack had raised disturbing questions.
"That only one security personnel was killed as opposed to nine dead militants is only a small consolation: the first and foremost question is, how were militants able to yet again infiltrate a high-security armed services` base and engage security forces inside for many hours?" it asked.
The editorial warned that the possibility of insider help to the militants in the assault on Kamra was also very high.
"From sympathisers of radical Islamist thought to direct supporters of militant groups, the army appears to have a militancy problem, the severity of which is hidden from the public because investigations and court martials are often carried out in secret," it said.
It added that with some kind of military operation in North Waziristan against at least the Pakistan-centric militants is in the offing, the possibility of pre-emptive strikes by the militants is high.
"Had the warning of a blowback only been made at the policy level without it filtering down to the security forces likely to be in the cross-hairs of the militants?"
"...the security apparatus should be able to repulse attacks on at least critical sites with more efficiency, particularly with both the circumstantial and direct forewarning appearing to have been available," it added.
On the army`s screening procedures, the daily asked: "How robust and effective is the surveillance and vetting of the armed forces` personnel to prevent an incident before it happens? Clearly, as recent history suggests, not robust or effective enough - but what will it take for a more serious and sustained effort?"
The editorial ended its slew of questions, by asking: "When will the state, both the army and the political government, drive home the message to the Pakistani public that the war is real, it is against a radicalised fringe of Pakistan and that unless the war is fought with total commitment and purpose, the state and society itself will spiral towards irreversible disaster?"
It stressed that the ones shouting `this isn`t our war` - "many on the political right - need to be countered, firmly and unequivocally. Delay that battle any longer and the already manifold complications will grow yet more complicated".