What did Rawalpindi Militants Want?

A hostage standoff at Pakistani military HQ in Rawalpindi ended violently on Sunday morning when Pakistani troops stormed the compound where the militants had holed up with 25 hostages. Three of the hostages were killed in the course of the assault, along with two army troops and four militants.

Earlier the militants, some dressed in Pakistani military uniforms, had driven up to the entrance. When they were nevertheless challenged, they opened fire, killing several Pakistani troops and two officers, one a brigadier, and some of them were killed. Others escaped, and managed to take hostages for a time.

AP has video on the end of the hostage crisis at the military HQ. One of the hostage-takers is said to have been wearing a suicide bomb belt, but Pakistani Special Ops agents took him out before he could detonate it.

Since there is a general American hysteria over Pakistan, it is important to note that the militants just carried out a garden-variety terrorist operation. They did not take or hold anything except on a very temporary basis, and there were not that many of them. The incident is a sign that small terrorists bands can be resourceful and can deploy terrorist operations for civil political gain. The incident does not prove that military HQ is open to being routinely attacked. Any mention of Pakistan’s nuclear enrichment program in this connection should be viewed with suspicion.

Geo satellite television broadcasting in Urdu reported that the “Amjad Faruqi Brigade” of the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (Taliban Movement of Pakistan) called the television station and said it was responsible for the attack on Pakistan army HQ in Rawalpindi. The group made several demands:

1. Former President Gen. Pervez Musharraf must be brought to justice

2. The US military must cease being afforded the use of military bases in Pakistan

3. Xe (the mercenary outfit they still call Blackwater) must be expelled from Pakistan (the Pakistani public believes that their country is crawling with Xe mercenaries)

On Friday, some 49 persons were killed and dozens wounded in a market bombing claimed by the Taliban, as Aljazeera English reports:

The Pakistani government underlined that these attacks have only stiffened its resolve to launch a major military operation in Waziristan to clean out the Taliban and allied movements.

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6 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    it is important to note that the militants just carried out a garden-variety terrorist operation.

    I beg to differ.

    That an insurgent band can enter a military headquarters virtually unopposed and hold it for 12 hours betrays a sloppiness and indiscipline that should be inconceivable in a war zone.

    Have a look at the guard on the Ministry of Defence and Miltary headquarters in Damascus sometime and figure out how you get past them.

    One of the parts of a coup d'etat is the seizure of key points, in order to disrupt any response.

    Yesterday's episode betrays the weakness of the Pakistani government's grip on power.

  2. Two of the 3 demands made by the Taliban, (Musharraf brought to trial and the US out of Pakistan) are shared by the vast majority of Pakistanis. And, their demands sound fair. This begs the question: if the Pakistani gov't concedes to these 2 reasonable demands, will this end the violence in Pakistsan ?? I would think it would. The US military presence in Pakistan is fueling horrible violence toward the Zardari gov't who is allowing this to happen.

  3. If current reports are correct, the resolution of attack on Pakistani GHQ is good news.

    By going after the heart of the Pakistani military, the rebels will likely stiffen the resolve of the army, and reduce army tolerance for those within their own ranks who see the militants as a "card" in their own hand.

    The threat is underlined to the public, but so is the ability of the army to handle it. The militants were properly challenged, even though they were disguised in army uniforms. The attackers had to retreat and take hostages near the headquarters, not within it. The governement did not negotiate, and the military did not launch an impulsive mass attack. Commandos carried out a successful raid under difficult circumstances.

    Last, but not least, the military is already poised for more action on the main locations of the militants.

    Every new incident and every new death is painful, but in cold political terms, this was a good outcome.

    Scott Corey

  4. The Pakistani military should be embarrassed and the people of Pakistan are demanding answers, but there wasn't any real takeover of GHQ. You have to take into account the different layers of security in the area:

    Now let me explain. Gate no.1 is at the intersection of mall road and murree road known as TM square. The so called check post no. 1 is 10-20m from mall road. On one side is the army hockey stadium and on the other side is the cricket ground. That's where the terrorist's van was stopped and where the majority of security personnel deaths happened. From here the terrorists went on foot.

    Four terrorists were killed at check post 2, which is 20-30 meters from check post 1. (this is the point where the wall of the hockey stadium ends and the grill of cricket ground ends on the other sidem before army auditorium).

    **This is almost 800-1000 Meter away from the actual gate of GHQ** And most important offices inside the complex are another 500-800 meters away from the gate.

    The terrorist's were nearly a mile away from any particularly sensitive area. Saying this proves the vulnerability of Pakistan's nuclear weapons is like saying America's nuclear weapons are vulnerable because the Pentagon was attacked on 9/11.

    The Pakistani media should be quite embarrassed as well for not providing clear facts and clearing this up.

  5. ref : “What did the Rawalpindi Militants Want?” imho They wanted this headline : “Militants Attack Pakistan Army General Headquarters” on the wire services; they wanted this Wiki entry = history writ; they wanted to die, at least "in infamy," ad sacrificium in a nihilist world in which most people eke out their lives in anonymity and purposeless endeavour; and as soldiers, Juan: They wanted to raise their flag, if only for a moment of Old Glory — something that no NATO-American soldier serving in IRAQ or AFGHANISTAN, regardless how brave or righteous be his or her sacrifice, has ever been allowed to do, Over There.

  6. I'm impressed by the comment with the details about the relationship of the locations of events to the center of control. I think this is an important point and validates Juan's point that this is not uniquely outrageous attack.

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