Lessons from Kamra
Momin Iftikhar


The foiled terrorist attack on Kamra Aeronautical Complex, repulsed through a resolute and determined response by defenders of the Base, two of whom sacrificed their lives during the episode, has once again served to focus attention on the threat posed to the country by the cancer of indigenous terrorism. The fact that the attack materialized on the auspicious night of 27th Ramadan, was not without good reason. As the ten terrorists, rigged up as suicide bomber, converged on the sprawling Kamra Aeronautical Complex, which houses the aircraft and radar rebuild facilities in addition to serving as a flying base, they expected the base personnel to be on less than their optimal vigilance status.

As it turned out the terrorists were in for a rude shock and surprise; the many layered defence of the base was alert, as was the chain of command which responded with alacrity and remained upfront until the threat was eliminated. Attackers were detected by the outer perimeter and eliminated to the last man within a short time despite a fanatical resolve by terrorists to reach their objective. Despite the fact that the terrorists had chosen Kamra for its target rich environment, they could only inflict minimal damage on a surveillance aircraft, remains a measure of the operational preparedness of the Base, which through a prompt and vigilant response thwarted a major threat to an extremely sensitive and High Value assets of Pakistan. A major catastrophe has been averted yet it will be in fitness of things that the episode is thoroughly dissected and analyzed so that relevant lessons are driven home if any future recurrence is to be precluded.
When a threat span gets extended over years, as it has happened in case of Pakistan, there is a tendency to lower the guard and get complacent. On the contrary the terrorists can bide their time. They lie low and maintain patience while waiting for the opportune moment to deliver the attack. If the terrorists have to be defeated then a culture of unflagging attention span and vigilance needs to be cultivated. The assault on Kamra was contained and neutralized in a record short time due to the fact that the defenders had anticipated the inevitability of the threat, the defensive assets had been wisely deployed on ground, good drills and procedures had been worked out and the commanders led from the front. This is a good precedence to keep as a reference in preparing for and thwarting future terrorist attacks on installation of national importance.
Even as the warning of the attack on a PAF Base had been received on sufficient notice and warning yet the local police and the civilian population picked up no scent of the impending attack. Terrorist attacks are invariably complex, requiring a major exercise on part of the terrorists for conducting reconnaissance, selection of personnel, movement of weapons and ammunition, setting up a communication network and a safe-house that acts as a harbour and nerve center for the terrorists. Such an activity should not go unnoticed from those who are designated and assigned to be sniffing for the threat in their dedicated turf. While the public perception broadly assumes that military intelligence is solely responsible for taking counter terrorism task yet such grass root detection and intelligence all falls in the realm of the local police and the civilian intelligence set up which is well placed, geared up and garnished for such a job. While the military intelligence has its own tentacles and is actively involved in neutralizing the terrorist modules, without the civilian agencies and police pulling their weight, gaps in response are bound to remain, providing operational leeway and initiative to terrorists. In this regard there is an urgent and crucial need to raise public awareness to pick up tell tale signs of terrorists’ teams living in their midst and lay down a well publicized mechanism where all unusual activity can be reported. If something fishy is observed then the public must not hesitate in reporting this information to draw attention of the relevant quarters. A good SHO doesn’t miss much of what happens in his area of responsibility and should be an important cog in the machinery to nab terrorists before they can strike.
Kamra has also brought to the fore the contours of a media war that has been unleashed in the West and the US to harangue Pakistan over the safety and security of its strategic assets. The thwarted attack was used by certain major media engines in the US – and else where, to fallaciously claim that the airbase harbored stocks of nuclear weapons whose security was threatened by the thwarted attack. Such unwarranted ravings, calling into question Pakistan’s capability to guard its nuclear assets without proffering any supporting proof or quoting any source are vintage propaganda techniques to depict Pakistan as an unworthy nuclear weapon state incapable of guarding its nuclear arsenal. Such unsubstantiated allegations rear their head whenever there is unrest or terrorist incident in the country. Pakistan has made it abundantly clear, on all the platforms and forums, that nuclear capability is a guarantor of its national security and there are correspondingly elaborate and water tight arrangements in place to ensure that it remains secure in all scenarios conjured up by feverish critics. Pakistani print and electronic media and its intellectual community must size up the intent of those outlining such baseless vulnerabilities without any substance and educate and confront their counterparts in the foreign media who conduct vitriolic campaigns of disinformation from venerable podiums in service of vested quarters without, as the adage goes, blinking an eyelid.