WHY PAK TALIBAN NOW TARGETS SCIENTISTS & ENGINEERS? By B.Raman 1. Why the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is now targeting scientists and engineers working in Pakistan's strategic weaponry establishments such as the Army-run Heavy Mechanical Complex (HMC) at Taxila and the Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL), which is responsible for the development of Pakistan's military nuclear and missile capabilities. Both these establishments have come up with substantial Chinese assistance---the HMC since 1979 and the KRL since the 1980s. 2. This question should be of great concern to the Pakistani authorities following a reported attack by a single suicide bomber riding on a motor-bike on a bus in which scientists, engineers and others working in a Pakistani strategic establishment were traveling on the evening of July 2 on the Rawalpindi-Peshawar road. Initial reports had said that at least six persons were killed and 36 others injured when the suicide bomber rammed his motor-cycle fitted with an explosive device against the bus. The Pakistani authorities subsequently claimed that the suicide bomber was the only fatality. 3. The are conflicting versions of the establishment in which the persons traveling in the bus were working. While the "Dawn" of Karachi and the "Daily Times" of Lahore described them as the staff of the KRL, the "News" has described them as the staff of the HMC. Amir Mir, the well-known Pakistani correspondent, has described them as the staff of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). One thing seems to be certain--- those traveling in the bus were working either in the HMC or in the KRC or both. If they really belonged to the ISI as reported by Amir Mir and were not scientists and engineers as reported by other sources, the possibility is that they were part of the physical security set-up at these establishments. 4.Even though no claim of responsibility has so far been made by the TTP or any of the organisations associated with it, the needle of suspicion points to the TTP which had in the past similarly targeted buses carrying the staff of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the Islamabad/Rawalpindi area and Air Force officers in the Sargodha area. The HMC manufactures, inter alia, tanks and armoured personnel carriers with Chinese assistance. 5. Since the commando raid of the Pakistan Army into the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July,2007, there has been a wave of suicide attacks in the non-tribal areas on the Pakistan Army, the Special Services Group, which led the commando raid, the Air Force, the Navy, the ISI, the Federal Investigation Agency and the Police, but there has not been any attack on scientists and engineers working in the military-industrial-nuclear-missile complex. They are amongst the most popular of Pakistan's security bureaucracy. Pakistani society venerates them for giving Pakistan a nuclear and missile capability and for strengthening its capability for the production of arms and ammunition. Attacking them runs the risk of antagonising the Pakistani society----- including the mainstream fundamentalist parties which lionise these scientists and engineers. 6.If it turns out that those traveling by the bus were scientists and engineers and not ISI personnel as claimed by Amir Mir and if it further turns out that it was the Pakistani Taliban which carried out the attack, why did it take the risk? The only possible answer is that the Taliban had calculated that the only way of exercising pressure on the military to slow down, if not halt, its military operations against the Taliban is by threatening to target strategic establishments such as the HMC and the KRC. The Armed Forces and the Police have so far taken in their stride the increasing suicide attacks on their personnel and establishments. Will they treat with equal equanimity attacks on scientists and engineers and strategic weaponry establishments if such attacks are repeated or will they once again make peace with the Taliban to halt such attacks? An answer to this question will depend on the Taliban's capacity to keep such attacks sustained. 7. The attack on the scientists and engineers, if true, coming in the wake of the suicide attack on some Army personnel in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir can be interpreted as indicating the Taliban's determination to fight with no holds barred----- even to the extent of damaging the strategic capabilities of Pakistan either in respect of Kashmir or in respect of its nuclear, missile and other military arsenal --- in order to force the army to stop its operations in the Pashtun tribal belt. (The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. (E-mail: [email protected] ) ANNEXURE Text of Amir Mir’s Analysis As carried by sections of the Pakistani media " The unending spate of lethal suicide bombings across Pakistan has killed 465 people and injured 1121 in 36 attacks carried out by human bombs in the first six months of 2009 - between January 2 and July 2 - literally turning the country into the suicide bombing capital of the world. “The July 2 attack in Rawalpindi on a bus carrying the staffers of the Inter Services Intelligence was the 36th incident of suicide bombing since the beginning of 2009. Data compiled by the Pakistani authorities show that the human bombs struck 36 times in the first six months of 2009 in various parts of Pakistan and killed at least 90 people a month on average. While the per week average killing for the first 180 days of 2009 comes to 18, the daily average casualty rate due to suicide attacks stood at three persons. “ Available figures show that the human bombs struck four times in January 2009, killing 21 people and injuring 52. The month of February saw seven suicide hits, killing 118 people and injuring 158. March proved worst for Pakistanis as six human bombs exploded themselves killing 130 people and injuring 147. The deadliest suicide attack of 2009 came on March 27, targeting a mosque on the Peshawar-Torkham Highway in the Jamrud sub-division of the Khyber Agency in FATA during Friday congregation, which killed 85 persons, including over a dozen security forces personnel. “In five incidents of suicide bombings carried out in April 2009, 103 people were killed and 137 injured. The human bombs killed 63 people in five more attacks conducted in May 2009 and injured 286 others. The worst hit of the month was carried out on May 27, 2009 when 35 people were killed and over 200 injured in Lahore, after a massive bomb attack targeted the provincial headquarters of the ISI. The blast was so powerful that it bulldozed a part of the ISI building killing a serving Colonel of the Pakistan Army besides demolished the nearby Rescue 15 building, which was adjacent to the head office of the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Lahore. “However, the month of June 2009 saw the highest number of suicide attacks as eight deadly hits killed 101 people and injured 231 others. The worst hit of the month was carried out on June 9, 2009 when at least 23 persons, including many foreigners working for the United Nations, were killed and many others iinjured as a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden truck into Peshawar’s lone five-star Pearl Continental Hotel, adjoining the residence of the Corps Commander Peshawar. “In yet another incident of suicide bombing on June 12, 2009, a known religious scholar Dr Sarfraz Naeemi was martyred, along with five others, as a 17-year-old boy blew himself inside the Jamia Naeemia premises in Garhi Shahu area of Lahore, soon after the Friday prayers. On June 26, 2009, in the first ever incident of suicide bombing in Azad Kashmir, three army soldiers were killed and three wounded as the bomber blew himself up after approaching a military vehicle. On June 30, 2009, five people were killed and 11 seriously injured in the first ever incident of suicide bombing in the Kalat area of Balochistan, targeting a hotel. “In the first suicide attack of July, a human bomb riding a motorbike struck an ISI staff members’ bus in Rawalpindi, killings six people.... “According to the figures compiled by the Ministry of Interior, a total of 2267 people have so far been killed in 158 incidents of suicide attacks between July 2, 2007 and July 2, 2009, in the aftermath of the bloody Operation Silence carried out against the fanatic Lal Masjid clerics in the heart of Islamabad by the security forces exactly two years ago which killed Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi and many others. “The year 2007 was considered to be the bloodiest year since Pakistan joined the war against the al-Qaeda, Taliban and other militant groups. During the year, a series of deadly suicide attacks and roadside bombings rocked the four provinces of the country as well as the federal capital, Islamabad, claiming the lives of more than 1,100 people. The dangerous trend of suicide strikes, targeting the Pakistani security forces touched alarming heights in 2007, averaging more than one hit a week. “While Benazir Bhutto’s 27 December 2007 assassination in Rawalpindi was the most high-profile suicide attack of the year 2007, there were total 56 incidents of suicide bombings across Pakistan. Figures compiled by the Ministry of Interior show that Pakistan witnessed a ten-fold increase in the incidents of suicide bombings in 2007 as compared to 2006. The year 2007 witnessed 56 suicide hits, killing 837 people and injuring 1227 others, mostly belonging to the law enforcement agencies. In fact, there had been only 12 such attacks all over Pakistan between 1 January and 3 July 2007, killing 75 people. “Yet the turning point came with the Operation Silence against the Lal Masjid clerics, killing hundreds. The rest of 44 suicide attacks took place between 4 July and 27 December 2007 after the Lal Masjid action was launched, spreading to Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Islamabad etc, killing 567 people, mostly belonging to the Pakistan Army, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the police. The number of suicide attacks rose from 56 in 2007 to 66 in 2008, killing 965 people during that year compared with the 837 people killed by human bombs in 2007. The bombers killed 78 people a month on average in 2008 across Pakistan, compared with the average of 70 killings a month in 2007. But if the brutal trend of suicide strikes recorded across Pakistan in the first six months of the year 2009 is anything to go by (465 people killed in 36 attacks), it may turn out to be the worst year ever for the people of Pakistan."