WITH the rise of militancy in the country over the last decade, no branch of the armed forces has been spared from militant attacks. The navy’s Mehran base in Karachi was stormed last year, while militants attacked GHQ in Rawalpindi in 2009. Most recently, Pakistan Air Force’s complex at Kamra was targeted last month. In the latest incident on Wednesday, at least 10 people were killed when a car bomb went off on Peshawar’s Kohat Road; police believe the target was a PAF vehicle en route to a nearby base. According to some reports, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan have claimed responsibility. Apart from Kamra, which has come under attack four times since 2007, the PAF has also been targeted on other occasions. Some of the more prominent incidents include a suicide attack on an air force bus in Sargodha in 2007 while another attack was on a bus in Peshawar in 2008. Many of these attacks were claimed by militant groups, and in several cases ex-servicemen were implicated.
These repeated incidents point to the apparent vulnerability of the forces, particularly the air force. They indicate that inside information is being passed on to militants, especially regarding the movement of personnel and base security details. The assertion that the forces in general and PAF specifically have extremists within the ranks must not be disregarded. Several PAF personnel were involved in an assassination attempt on former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf in 2003. A number of these individuals were dismissed or arrested due to links with militant groups. It is also true that in several incidents the assailants have been dressed in military uniforms. Thus in the wake of the Kamra affair a thorough internal investigation is in order.
Meanwhile, the PAF must ascertain how much influence militants wield within the ranks. Clearly, preventive security in its current form has not deterred the militants. What is needed — in all the armed services — is not only greater scrutiny but a purge of all those sympathising with the militants and who are likely to pass on inside information to militants. Otherwise, such attacks will continue.