I was woken up around 3:30am for Sehri and I was looking forward to this one. ‘Chicken Karachi’ was on the menu. I sat down on the table around 4:00am and turned on the tv for the Sehri transmission just as I jumped into my plate full of deliciousness.
“Kamra Airbase pay hamla hoa hai aur hum sab Pakistan ki salamti kay liye dua kar rahay hain.” (Kamra Airbase has been attacked and we are all praying for the safety of Pakistan.)
These were the first words I heard as an anchor person was updating the viewers. I quickly flipped to a news channel to learn that an airbase was attacked by militants at 2:00 am.
“God bless Pakistan,” I sighed and got back to enjoying my Sehri. Yes, at that time even I didn’t realize my superficial concern. I had handed the responsibility to God after making my little prayer. I could see all my friends doing the same – making little prayers on their Facebook. After all an attack on a secured military site is just another day in Pakistan. Pakistan Military Academy, Mehran Naval Airbase, Mardan Base and even the Almighty Army GHQ have been breached by militants in the past. They come, they attack, they all die and a few of ours are martyred. At times they destroy planes worth millions but they all die. We all share the pictures of the young and brave army officers who selflessly sacrifice their lives and we all tweet and write updates about how we kicked some terrorist butt so Mr. Taliban, don’t mess with Pakistan.
It was 4:35am and Sehri was over. My mother walked in and asked me to go to sleep now and that is when it hit me. This 27th night of Ramadan, believed to be Shab-e-Qadr, the night of peace, how did the mothers of all those soldiers in Kamra have their Sehri? As we were all returning to our warm cozy beds after making our little prayers what sort of horrors were those mothers going through since the news hit the tv screens?
8 to 10 militants using hand grenades with gunfire continuously being heard ushered a call for reinforcements from Tarbela base. A darker and sadder picture was being painted by news channels every minute. No military spokesman was briefing the viewers directly was a cause of even more anxiety. At this moment in time I could not fathom what those mothers are praying for. It is easy for us. We just pray that whatever happens at the end, Pakistan makes it. We would not mind another Lt. Syed Yasser Abbas help save the day at Kamra this time. But for those mothers it is not just country, it is also the well being of their respective sons. Who are they keeping first in their prayers? It does not really matter. They have gifted their sons to the nation anyways. But I cannot use enough adjectives to try and adequately narrate the brutality of that moment of them having to go through that conflict.
Militants defeated again! One soldier martyred, 6 injured and one in critical condition (It may be noted that these stats released by Army and they will sadly remain our lone source of information as to the damaged caused by this attack). The injured and the dead, both will be decorated with medals. Those who have survived will sing cadence and get their spirits up and will march on because they know this is their job. This doesn’t mean that their lives are taken for granted. They won’t question the how the breach happened. Soldiers are not trained to review their seniors they are trained to report to them and every army needs that discipline to survive. So I am looking towards our elected representatives. They have the mandate to review every office even that of the COAS. They allocated 20% (Rs. 545 billion) of the Federal Budget to army this year i.e. after the controversial declassification of certain accounts. I was expecting bigger walls, stronger surveillance, more frequent patrolling and more stringent security checks.
It was apparently a 4 tier security system that was breached at Kamra. Kamra houses the state of the art aeronautical complex which assembles JF-17 thunders and Mirages. Kamra currently had 30 fighter jets plus 4 Saab-2000 (worth US$ 866 million), parked around its runway. This was the third attack on Kamra since 2007 and this was the most successful one of the three. All the more appalling in the background of the military having already received a threat alert 5 days ago.
It is high time we review our security and intelligence sharing policies to safeguard our military assets, our soldiers being the most important ones. Simply because they deserve better than this.