The Rawalpindi raid

An unsatisfactory assessment

The attackers scored the moment they penetrated the outermost cordon of the Pakistani army’s General Head Quarters (GHQ) complex. They broke a psychological barrier by striking at the heart of the Pakistani military-jihadi complex. That they probably didn’t get anywhere near the innermost sanctums does not matter: they hit the beast in its own lair, engaged the defenders for almost 18 hours and captured the attention of a nation and the world.

That’s about the only assessment that can be made with any confidence at this stage. This is indeed a very unsatisfactory assessment, for it leaves almost all the important questions unanswered. But it is hard to believe any of the ‘answers’ that have been offered by authorities and analysts over the last 24 hours.

Take, for instance, the narrative that these were the Taliban who attacked the Pakistan army pre-emptively to prevent it from carrying out a counter-insurgency campaign in Waziristan. The problem with this line is that carrying out anything short of a complete decapitation strike is more likely to provoke the Pakistan army to move against the militias of Waziristan than to deter it.

The other narrative—which we might see a lot more of in the coming weeks—is the comparison to the 26/11 attack on Mumbai last year. Other than the fact that both are examples of urban guerilla warfare, there is little in common. It is too hasty to conclude that the Lashkar-e-Taiba, an outfit based out of Pakistan’s Punjab province, attacked the GHQ based on the similarity of the two operations. That is because the Lashkar-e-Taiba is the GHQ’s paw, and a entrenched component of the military-jihadi complex. Unless some enraged Lashkar hands did this to demand back pay, this could not have been an LeT job.

What this means is that the star-bearing gentlemen in khaki will have to be even more careful as they go about their daily lives. In Washington, Vice President Joe Biden will tell his boss and his colleagues why he had been right all along, and why Pakistan should be the centre of the US AfPak strategy. And as usual, many people will publicly worry about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into terrorists’ hands.

Related Links: B Raman has a tentative assessment