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Pakistan: Karachi Airport Attack and its Impact:

Paper No. 5724                        Dated 12-Jun- 2014
By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan
The attack on the Karachi international airport on 8th June was one of the most spectacular and audacious ones by the TTP in the last few months.
The details of the attack have been given in great detail in the media and are not being repeated here.  But significant points that need to be noted on the attack are
* If the attack was intended to create panic, terror and diversion of State machinery towards security threats, then it had succeeded to that extent.
* Though the press had mentioned about intention of the attackers to  hijack  a civilian aircraft, there were no indications that the militants tried to attack any passenger plane that was full of passengers.  In the attacks, one militant managed get onto a plane.  One plane of PIA, one of Air Blue and a Cargo plane were reported to have been damaged.  The militants in the guise of   Airport security personnel entered the airport through the scarcely used gateway to the cargo section and were soon engaged by the Airport security and the Pak Rangers who joined them.
* In all ten militants were involved and all of them were killed.  A total of 36 persons were killed that included airport staff and Pak security forces.  Three of the militants who blew themselves up were Uzbeks and it is suspected that most of  the attackers were all of foreign origin.
* While the initial message from the TTP said that it was a revenge for the killing of TTP leader Mehsud a year ago, the real reason appears to be the killing of innocent people in the bomb attacks that have been intensified since 21st June.  The bombing of Machis camp near Mirenshah where Uzbeks were suspected to be hiding on 23rd June is said to have killed over 25 Uzbeks besides their commander code named Abu Ahmad.  The Uzbeks probably belonging to the IMU  have since claimed responsibility for the attack along with the TTP.
* It is surprising that though the security forces on the morning of 8 June declared that the airport was cleared of militants,  explosions and huge fires were seen in the airport much later.  Within 36 hours, two or three gun men again attacked the training and hostel facility of the airport security and escaped before they could be apprehended.  The TTP spokesman said that the attacks were a message that they were still alive to react over the killing of innocent people.
* An attempt was made to divert attention and blame India for the attack and there was even mention of Indian arms being found with the dead militants.  But fortunately this was not pursued.   LET’s chief’s statement blaming the Modi Government for the incident should be ignored.
Some conclusions can be drawn from the attacks:
1.  There was a view that the TTP of the Fazlullah group had considerably weakened after the split and ensuing clashes that took place two weeks ago.  Regular Army operations that began with aerial bombing and later ground attacks took into consideration of the split in launching the operations.  The current attack has proved that the Fazlullah group is still strong and could attack in other areas too.  Recall Fazlullah’s statement (paper 5710) that he is getting ready his suicide bombers to take on the evil forces.
2.  The day after the attack Nawaz Sharif met the Army Chief and the main agenda was whether to give up on the peace talks and launch a regular operation.  Operations had already begun and what is being intended is a “Swat like” operation which could involve serious civilian casualties and exodus of refugees to other regions.  It looks that Nawaz Sharif had given the final clearance for such an operation.  The Army Chief who had been insisting on such an operation ever since he took over in November last year and he has finally had his way.  Sure enough, the next day after the meeting, jets bombed nine of the suspected hideouts in North Waziristan killing over 25 suspected militants.
3. The repercussions on such  large scale operations will be difficult to comprehend right now.  Punjab is relatively free now but it may not remain so.  Secondly forays from across the border by militants camping on the other side of the border cannot be ruled out.  For the third time in a week, militants fired from across the border in Bajaur agency and two Pakistani posts Manozangel and Monkla were attacked.  Two soldiers were killed and many more injured. It is said that the TTP is well entrenched in Nuristan on the other side of the border in Afghanistan.  Any foray into Afghanistan would bring in reaction from the Afghan forces too.  To this extent the border in that area would remain unstable.
4. This attack is the fourth high security target that was penetrated.  The first was the Pak Naval Airbase PNS Mehran in Karachi that was attacked in May 2011.  Then followed the attack on the international airport at Peshawar on Dec 15, 2012 and then the Air force base at Kamra near Karachi in Aug. 2012.  The question that should be of concern not only to India but also to others whether the nuclear establishments and areas where nuclear devices are stored are safe from the militant attacks.  The TTP has demonstrated that it can attack at will any high value security target easily!
5.The operations in the North Waziristan cannot be conducted by the Pak Army without active cooperation from the Haqqani Group.  The latter perhaps are providing information on the hideouts and about the location of the leaders. Closely associated with the Haqqani Group is the LET and this may embolden the latter to attack the Indian interests.  The attack on the Herat Consulate is just the beginning and one cannot rule out another 26/11 in India too.
6.  In all this process, the position of Nawaz Sharif has considerably weakened.  He with his Interior minister had set their heart right from the election to have a dialogue with the militants and find a solution.  The army on the one hand and the militants on the other are now bent upon quashing any hope he had.  One analyst remarked that the Pak Army will as before unsettle and destabilise Nawaz Sharif! But one thing is sure- the military offensive against the TTP is unlikely to succeed in the near term.