Ikram Sehgal

The terrorists attack on the Chinese Consulate General (CG) in Karachi left seven dead, including the three attackers. The targeted attempt by forces opposed to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a no-brainer, not the first time an attack has been China-specific. Food, clothing, medicine and a cache of weapons and explosive material made the aim of the attackers evident, to make diplomats in the Chinese CG hostage. Remember the same logistics in the outsourced attack by RAW on the Sri Lankan cricketers? The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attack, its close links with India is no secret.

Timely action by our law enforcement agencies (LEAs) averted a huge tragedy in the making. The mastermind behind the attack Aslam Achchu, injured in an earlier operation in Sibbi, is coincidentally under treatment in a hospital in New Delhi, confirming the Indian connection to this affair. Some Baloch militants have executed terror acts in Pakistan on behalf of National Directorate of Security (NDS) of Afghanistan, fully operational as an arm of RAW.

Everyone involved in the clearing-up operation deserves high praise. Clifton ASP Suhai Aziz was among the first security team responding to the attack. She led her team from the front, symbolizing the professionalism and courage that Sindh Police has regained over the years. However, questions were raised by an eyewitness, a retired soldier, Lt-Col Chaudhry Muhammad Sabahuddin (68th PMA Long Course, Artillery and Aviation). Upon hearing gunfire and explosions from his office in Dolmen Mall overlooking the Chinese Consulate General, he phoned his contacts, pinpointing the area; he sent real-live images about the attack to his contacts in LEAs.

Col Sabah says that the first man to return fire on the attackers was an FC soldier. He believes that before the reinforcements of police, Rangers, etc., arrived about 15 minutes later the terrorists had already been killed by security personnel deployed to protect the Consulate General. The lady ASP was certainly first on the scene, he does not think that she fired a single shot from her service pistol during the entire encounter. TV images show her walking at a leisurely pace holding the pistol; he enquires why not a single policeman, even her own guards, is seen taking up a position aiming/firing at the attackers? He believes all this was managed for a photo/ops session for good media coverage, activating a flurry in the social media.

While the LEAs have been rightly commended by all concerned for doing an excellent job, others also acted heroically under extremely stressful conditions. Playing a significant role in management of the emergency they were not named by the LEAs or other government officials. Trying to enter the Consulate compound, the attackers having killed the two policemen and father/son visa seekers at the compound, made a beeline for the Visa Section which is adjacent to the main gate. Here 12 civilians (2 Chinese Visa staff members and 10 Pakistani visa applicants) were present while three security guards were deployed. After warning the main building to close their Main door, the private security guards acted swiftly. Herding all those outside into the Visa Section, they blocked the door by putting heavy furniture items, etc against it and put their mobiles on silent mode. All those present were locked in a bathroom. Believing they would certainly be killed the civilians started panicking, the female guard gave them cups of water and managed to calm them down by assuring them of help being on the way. Even if one person had panicked things could really have gotten out of control. The two Chinese Visa officials wanted to run towards the main building, they were prevented doing so by the three security personnel. In the meantime they contacted the main control room on mobile and kept in regular touch with them. The Control Room also constantly kept on talking to the Chinese diplomats in the Main Building.

This display of raw courage saved the lives of those trapped in the Visa Section and delayed the militants from getting to the Chancery Building but surprisingly no one has even deemed fit, except some in the TV Channels and print media, to mention this singular act of bravado or to recognize the same. These three real heroes sadly remain “unsung”, not unknown in Pakistan exemplifying excellence but receiving no recognition. The two Chinese Visa officials did hug them in gratitude that is all the thanks they got. However, the “Veterans of Pakistan” (VOP), formerly the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association (PESA) decided on their own to recognize their bravery by giving them plaques as recognition of their preference over and above the call of duty.

The embellishing of facts does not bring forward the real “lessons learnt,” it compromises security for the future.

(The writer is a defence and security analyst)