WEBDESK: In terms of losses of life and property caused and suffered by both sides the attack on the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base in Badaber on Friday morning was not very different from what terrorist outfits have been up to all these months and years.
But where it differed, and differed quite distinctly, was the quick and effective response offered by the defenders of the air base – all 14 attackers were killed on the spot. The quick response force arrived at the scene in no time; it chased and engaged the attackers wherever they were in the sprawling former air base complex.
It was a deadly encounter, in which four defence personnel – including an army captain and three airmen – lost their lives. That the attackers also took lives of 16 other people who were in mosque for Fajr prayer at that time is a reality that puts paid to those who tend to paint this brutal breed as the torch-bearers of Islam.
It was an attack on the state of Pakistan by the hired guns, and was effectively repulsed by the security forces – anything beyond this is just hogwash. As the operation Zarb-e-Azb to cleanse the sacred national soil of these worms enters its last lap the worried foreign masters of terrorists have called in one more shot like the one their foot soldiers fired at the Badaber air base.
On the face of it, the Khurasani faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for the attack. But the kind of meticulous care with which the entire operation seems to have been planned is clearly beyond the capacity of run-of-the-mill terrorists now left in the field.
Badaber is no more an operational air base; it is being used mainly as a residential complex with a few technical facilities still left in place. But Badaber has a name and fame.
It was from here that in the early years of the Cold War, US Air Force pilot, Gary Powers, flew his U-2 on an intelligence mission over the then Soviet Union only to be brought down, thanks to the aircraft’s misleading altitude meter tampered hours before by a Russian spy.
No wonder then the Badaber attack story was instantly a world media top story, broadcasting the desired message that the TTP brand terrorist outfits now active in Pakistan may be down but they are not out. Then there is this meticulous plan that all 14 attackers were to wear grey shalwar-qameez suits and white joggers – is the standard uniform of Frontier Constabulary – arrive at the scene at two points and after effecting entry into the complex spread out in groups to go after dedicated targets.
Such a precise plan couldn’t be the work of an ordinary mind. In the plan to attack a key high-security installation of strategic value located in close proximity of the provincial capital, the intended message was that TTP is still in business. Rightly then, the apprehension should be that more such attacks can come, but in reality as the last hurrah of a dying monster.
To the extent that the terrorist attack on the Badaber base was effectively checked by brave men on duty, it was indeed a job very well done. But the question remains how come it could not be checked in its early stages when volunteers were being recruited, motivated and appropriately equipped.
They must have conducted reconnaissance of the intended target also, and no one detected these strangers. It is not that Peshawar was not targeted before; it has been attacked many a time, at least four or five times most grievously.
It was expected that by now the concerned agencies, particularly the intelligence agencies, would have smelled such an attack was coming. In that case, a pre-emptive action could have nipped the evil in the bud.
It is said that in the art of fighting terrorism, pre-emptive action is more important and effective than its handling on the spot. But that said, it must be conceded that the TTP did earn the kind of media coverage its masters wanted, though it discovered also that attacking the state is no more a fair game.
It would cost heavily, as it did to the TTP in the compound of Badaber on Friday.