More than two hundred people have been killed by militants in Pakistan during the last thirty days, three-fourths of them being military recruits, naval commandos, rangers, soldiers, and cops. The most brazen terrorist attack ever since the infiltration of the military headquarters in 2009 also took place during this time, at an important naval base in Karachi. Mehran airbase, the central surveillance center of Pakistan navy, was infiltrated by around a dozen terrorists, who destroyed two American P-3C Orion aircrafts and damaged another, killing ten servicemen and commandos in the process.
The bald-faced attack on the oldest airbase in South Asia -- Lawrence of Arabia also worked there as an engine clerk in mid-1920s -- reinforces the global concerns about the security of Pakistani nuclear assets. If one believes the report of the slain journalist Saleem Shahzad, Al-Qaeda had a following among a small group of lower rank navy men. The group was rounded up and subjected to investigation and an al-Qaeda splinter cell attacked the base when it failed to ensure that no new arrests would be made.
It has been a month since Osama bin Laden's killing, which also happened in Pakistan, in the sleepy garrison town of Abbottabad. While Pakistanis were dying before that episode, the killing frenzy has trebled ever since. And there are no signs of it dying down. Far from it. There is actually a concern that militants will launch attacks on other security installations besides increasing their tally of suicide bombings.
This brings us to the conundrum faced by Pakistani security establishment. Is it ready to face the moment of truth or still looking for a fire exit? It appears they are trying to find a middle ground. While they are still intimidating journalists, with allegations of involvement in the recent killing, they are also gearing up for a military operation in North Waziristan. The hotbed of militancy where the good Taliban -- the Haqqani network -- is holding ground. There are speculations of a joint U.S.-Pakistan operation in that area though the Pakistani government has denied any such development, despite conflicting reports and increasing pressure from Washington.
Insiders tell an operation is still in the works, though the military is hesitant in pursuing it cautiously. Apart from a rough terrain, any military action will force thousands of people to migrate to other areas, triggering a refugee crisis in the punishing summer and impending monsoon.
The corrupt and inept political government is keeping a distance from the deliberations. It hardly enjoys any control over the military and it does not want to be a part of a tough decision that can cost it politically. It simply wants to pass the annual budget and ward off attempts by political opponents to make the task difficult.
The going is tough for the military. It is losing public support because of its inability of protecting national assets and reining in on suicide attacks. It is facing the heat from the U.S. for the Osama debacle. And it is afraid of the outcome if it goes ahead with the operation. Kayani surely is not sleeping well these days.