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Karma attack and Pakistan army's operations in volatile tribal areas

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On Wednesday, nine militants dressed in uniforms and armed with guns and rocket launchers stormed Kamra air force base that assembles Mirage and JF-17 fighter Thunder fighter jets in collaboration with China. All the attackers were killed while one air force official also lost his life. It took five hours to eliminate the attackers. Among those who were injured included the base commander Air Commodore Mohammad Azam who oversaw and took part in the operation.

Officials said that only one of aircraft at the base was damaged in the attack. Several squadrons of fighters and surveillance planes are believed to be housed at Kamra's Minhas base. Officials also confirmed that over 30 planes were parked at the base, including state-of-the-art JF-17 Thunder fighter jets.

According to reports, at least 11 Chinese engineers were working at the Kamra Aeronautical Complex.   Chinese and others foreign engineers and technicians involved in co-production of Chinese and Pakistan JF-17 Thunder aircraft project were shifted to a high profile secure location, official sources told Dawn.com, adding that the engineers were not present near the attack area.

In May 2011, Naval Base PNS Mehran located in Karachi was attacked in a similar manner. At least 10 military personnel were killed and 20 wounded in the 16-hour assault. Two P-3C Orion aircrafts were destroyed during the attack.

This is not the first time that Kamra has been the target of a militant attack.   On Oct 23, 2009, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in Kamra. Two security officers and six other people were killed in the attack.

The Daily Dawn quoted Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan as saying that nine heavily armed TTP militants stormed the airbase, located about 70 kms from the capital Islamabad. "The attack was launched from two different sides. A team of four members entered from one side and five from the other and than they launched a collective attack inside the camp," Ehsan told Dawn.com, speaking from an undisclosed location, confirming that all nine attackers were killed in the assault. The militant spokesman further claimed that they had achieved their targets and killed "more than a dozen security personnel" inside the base.

Pakistan military operations opposed

Wednesday's terrorist attack on heavily guarded Kamra aeronautical complex came days after   US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's statement that Pakistan military plans to launch combat operation in Northern Waziristan. Kamra attack and Panetta's statement have sparked heated debate on Pakistan military's operations in the volatile tribal territories along the Pak-Afghanistan boarder.

Tellingly, all major political parties, except the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, are opposed to any new military operation.

Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan while commenting on the Kamra attack suggested that it may be a reaction the reports that the army was planning to launch another operation in Northen Waziristan. Khan said the PTI opposed the idea of a military operation in North Waziristan from the very first day. Last month Imran Khan announced that he will take a peace caravan to Waziristan by late September. "We will take representatives of human rights organizations and the media with us. We will march for peace," Khan told a rally in the border town of Peshawar. He said that the party wants to show the government that "innocent people' are being killed in the area. According to Khan, the party is holding protests to force the government to come out of the US war. "This is not our war, this is not Pakistan's war," Khan said.

The main opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Wednesday warned the army against launching any operation against militants in North Waziristan, saying it might prove counter-productive and result in further increase in terrorism. Opposition leader in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali cautioned military not to push the country into a war at the behest of foreign powers.   He lamented over the ongoing war, saying the country had been suffering due to the US-led war and that a new operation in North Waziristan would augment the situation, increasing terrorism in the country.

Leader of another major political party, Jamaat-e-Islami, Syed Munawar Hasan has also expressed his deep concern over the reports that military leadership has decided to launch a military operation in North Waziristan. In a statement, he said the decision had been taken under US pressure. "At last, the military leadership has yielded to the US pressure and decided to launch a military operation in North Waziristan," he said adding that the decision had been taken soon after the DG ISI visit to the US which indicated that the operation in North Waziristan was being launched under US pressure. He warned that military operation in North Waziristan would result in further destruction of the country. "It will prove a fatal decision and inflict harm to the security and integrity of the country," he added.

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani was alive to the mounting opposition to its operation when he said on August 14:   "The fight against extremism and terrorism is our own war and we are right in fighting it. Let there be no doubt about it, otherwise we'll be divided and taken towards civil war. Our minds should be clear on this."

Pakistan army remains under US pressure to launch operation

Pakistan's mercenary army, which is paid by Washington for its operations in Pak-Afghan volatile border areas, remains under intense US pressure to launch an operation in Northern Waziristan. In a move to increase pressure on Pakistan, last week President Barack Obama signed into law a congressional bill requiring the administration to declare the Haqqani network a foreign terrorist organization. Once a group is placed on the State Department's FTO list, all US allies are also required to join the fight against the designated group. A failure to do so allows the US administration to declare that country a "state sponsor of terrorism." The Haqqani network, accused of carrying out a number of attacks against American interests in Afghanistan, is understood to be based in Northern Waziristan.

The army launched an operation in Northern Waziristan in 2004 that ended in a peace deal with the tribal militants after two years of fierce fighting. In October 2009, the army launched Rah-i-Nijat military operation in Mehsud area of South Waziristan. But three years later officials said this month that out of six sub-divisions declared as conflict zone only one subdivision was cleared and the internally displaced persons from the area are allowed to go back to their homes.  

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
 
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