An unimpregnable defence!
Posted on June 17, 2011
By Ata Rabbani
It was past midnight on May 2, 2011, that two US helicopters loaded with Navy SEALs commandos, violated Pakistan’s airspace to attack a specific target inside the territory. Two additional helicopters were hovering on the Afghanistan side, as standby and waiting for a call to join if required. Sure enough, one of these backup helicopters was called for when one of the original attack helicopters crashed at the target sight. It means that three US Blackhawks violated the Pakistani airspace, and were 40 minutes at target sight to successfully complete their mission before returning to their base in Afghanistan. Indeed, the Abbottabad episode raises many questions about Pakistan’s “unimpregnable defence”, particularly with regard to its nuclear arsenal. This particular intrusion of the hostile forces against a particular target, perhaps, could have been directed against nuclear sites; so the nation demands an answer.
According to media reports, PAF Chief, while accepting responsibility for the failure of air surveillance to detect the incoming unidentified aircraft, assured the government that no foreign helicopter or fighter plane will be allowed to violate the Pakistan’s airspace in future, and if ordered it can shoot down the US drones. The Air Chief’s courageous declaration is very assuring and timely. However, reportedly, when the relevant authority instructed the PAF night fighters to scramble and shoot down the intruders, they were in the air within 15 minutes, but the helicopters had returned to base in Afghanistan. Lord be praised! Fifteen minutes is much long a time for “pilots on alert” to be in a position to challenge the enemy.
It was also alleged that entry of the helicopters into our airspace was not detected because the radars deployed on the Western borders were not active on May 2 and were “on rest”. The PAF never perceived any threat from its Western borders and hence the radars on that side were “on rest”. This phenomenon of “radars on rest” could spell disaster. The question is: How can one be so sure that no hostile intruder will ever enter Pakistan from its Western border.” Thus, the May 2 incident has proved this supposition wrong. It is preposterous to regard any border as safe, particularly when Pakistan’s nuclear installations are at stake. It is known that a number of countries, including the US, would do anything to destroy it. Pakistani radars and its surveillance system may be most efficient to detect any violation of its airspace and its borders around the country, but if there is any loophole anywhere on any front, then the whole exercise of the impregnable defence will end into futility.
n the aftermath of May 2, the US operations posed many questions and the most daunting of them all was about Pakistan’s inability to detect American helicopter movements in and out of Pakistan. According to BBC, an enquiry has been ordered to investigate the failure of the movements of the US helicopters. The initial findings of the enquiry committee contradicted the “on rest” theory, when the committee revealed that the radars installed at Peshawar and Risalpur to monitor the Western borders were not “on rest”, and were functioning properly on that night. The radars even noticed movements of six planes that took off from Jalalabad and kept hovering across the Pakistan/Afghan border. The Deputy Chief of the Air Staff (operations) also disclosed: “The US Special Forces used stealth technology during the operations.” This technology allows the helicopters to fly low and evade detection by the radars. Thus, the question about the “impregnable defence” of Pakistan is becoming more dangerous and confusing with every passing day.
As if the Raymond Davis fiasco and Abbottabad episode were not enough to defame and ridicule Pakistan the world over, the PNS Mehran attack by six commandos took place. It was astonishing to see the way the militants kept the nation’s defenders at bay and targeted two P-3C Orion aircrafts from amongst a number of other aircraft parked on the tarmac, causing a loss of about Rs 6.47 billion to the government and reducing the surveillance capability of the navy.
The Navel Chief appeared on the media, perhaps, to defend the navy’s position and satisfy the public anxiety, but he made a mess of it. He emphasised: “It was not a security lapse.” If it was not a security lapse, then what would you call this 17-hour siege of the base by six men? Anyway, the whole show was simply disgraceful and disgusting, which gave an opportunity to the world to make fun of Pakistan and call it a fragile state and banana republic.
The writer is a former ADC to Quaid-i-Azam.