Saturday, September 15, 2007

Lal Masjid: The Tarbela Ghazi Incident.

As you have heard from Sri. Raman , the Zarrar Company officers were murdered in their own mess at Tarbela Ghazi by a fellow SSG officer.

The Zarrar company and the SOTF are Musharraf's problem solving force.

The Tarbela Ghazi complex is one of the SSG's largest training facilities. It has traditionally been home to a number of conflict resolution and political stabilisation forces. In the late 90s when sectarian violence in Karachi boiled over, snipers trained at the Tarbela complex were seeded into Karachi and they killed a number of sectarian terrorists and brought the situation under control. Their actions created the incentives needed to bring ISI engineered armed groups back to the negotiating table.

The murder of 19 SSG officers will ensure that the Zarrar company is largely leaderless. Also the fact that they were killed in a suicide attack by one of their own officers means that the fallen officer simply cannot be replaced and the Zarrar company can no longer be effective in conflict resolution.

In a phone conversation with friends, I had mentioned that a revolt was brewing within the SSG.
In the incident at Tarbela Ghazi we are seeing the first deadly spark of this revolt.

Yes, this is only the beginning.


At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Some Pakistani news items have mentioned that there were over 250 SSG personnel in the mess when the attack happened. That number is way too large for an officer's mess. However, it would make sense if the mess was common to both officers and enlisted personnel. Thus those dead might not be all officers.

Also, the same news items talk about the severity of injuries to the 40 or so who were wounded from the blast. It seems the blast was so powerful that the entire roof of the mess hall might have collapsed and crushed the survivors beneath it.

This might have been an attempt to not just wipe out Zarrar Company's officers but the entire Company itself along with a large part of the SOTF (the 250 number is again way too large for an independent company sized unit).

One last thing: What SSG unit did Lt Col Haroon ul Islam command?

At 8:52 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Anonymous,

Yes, I am seeing those reports from ANI. I am not sure what to make of these as these reports have emerged after ISPR appears to have got its act together.

There is also ambiguity in the reports, some are suggesting that a vehicle loaded with explosives was driven into the mess hall, while others are saying a lone bomber carried out the attack.

It seems like punitive attack on the Zarrar company.

I think Haroon ul Islam commanded the Zarrar unit at some point before Lal Masjid. I do not know which unit he was commanding at the time of the assault.

I imagine that the unit that was actually involved in the Lal Masjid operation was a composite of as many people that SSG HQ felt were necessary so it is possible that Haroon was not in the "Zarrar" itself at the time of the attack.

Interestingly I found a link in Daily Times which says that the same group was responsible for the Tarbela Ghazi and Rawalpindi blasts. Apparently the explosive used in all three blasts was the same.

What is also interesting is that the names of the persons killed have not been released by ISPR. If these were ORs then I can't imagine why the names of the dead would be withheld.

At 9:07 PM, Blogger maverick said...

I suspect that Haroon ul Islam commanded 2nd Bn SSG and was replaced by lt. Col. Tahir Ali Shah.

At 11:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi maverick.
1)someone was saying somewhere that it is better to be America's enemy than be her friend! Look what treatment America has meted out to her 'friends' -> Iraq,Iran,Pakistan..

2)One must stay clear from the deathly clasp of America's hug.

3) God only knows how MKN and there team will manage US. This political drama is hurting our economy!

At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi m,
there is another 'anon' that suggests a nuclear link between the three blasts that have taken place.
1)Is someone trying to weaken Musharaff by delibrately weakeing his hold over nuclear weapons?
2)There is an old saying from Indian mythological stories(recounted by swami vivekananand) that demons in the olden days would place there life/heart in a secured place away from there body. Have you head of the story that a demon placed his heart in a pigeon locked away securely in some remote part of a mountain. How much ever the forces of the good tried to kill the demon but to no avail until someone discovered the hiding place of demon's heart/life. Similarily is the strategy of Musharaff's opponents. Instead of taking Mush the rat directly, kill him by loosening his hold over nuclear weapons. Then in that case Mush is good as a dead rat
3)Other theory is that Mush the rat is scripting the drama of controlled chaos!! Then how will Mush benefit by getting his own army killed, from where he derives his strength from.
4)Mush may ultimately win, but his radis of control will be limited to his office in Pindi like what has happened to Karzai in Afghanistan. The net loser will be pakistan.
5) What surprises me is that Mush is doing nothing to prevent the targetted killing of his army men, until his boys live to see the next day for a fight with India over kashmir. Why is Mush so silent?

At 7:16 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Anonymous,

Yes, that is exactly the logic that the Islamists are proposing: America treats its enemies better than it treats its friends. By induction, if Pakistan wants to be treated better by America, it must become America's enemy.

Hi Anonymous,

I think to actually damage Musharraf's control over nuclear weapons would be very dangerous. Firstly it would invite a free-for-all among the general staff which would be visible to outside eyes. Secondly this free for all, would incentivize some action on America's part. That is an unfavourable situation from the Islamist perspective. American interference in a Pakistani struggle for control over the weapons is not something the Islamists would really like to have happen. If anything the Islamists have been keen from day one to minimise America's ability to interfere in Pakistan's (and by induction Islam's) nuclear deterrent.

At the same time, the Islamists want to let Musharraf know that his grip over the nuclear weapons, ultimately derives from his personal moral standing with the troops. Damaging that moral standing, essentially weakens his grip without actually doing anything specific to machinery of control itself.

Indirectly telling Musharraf that his grip over the Pakistani Bomb is far from solid, keeps him sober and less willing to go along with everything that the Americans want him to do. A weakened and submissive Musharraf is more likely to be sliced and diced by his so-called American allies. Every time around that Musharraf has to be forced to do something specific, American disillusionment with him grows. Ultimately, the Americans are victims of their own publicity, they actually believed all that tripe about Musharraf being the messiah who fixes everything they don't like about Pakistan.

This is what in my opinion the Islamists want. They want America to turn against Musharraf. They know America's weakness, its desire for visible competence in Pakistan's leadership and they know Musharraf's overuse of the American backed media to portray an image of superior competence. The Islamists also know that such illusions are not sustainable.

An American action that betrays Musharraf will be the icing on the Islamist cake. The Islamist's have long argued that the Americans are not reliable allies. The Pakistan Army's American trained generals have argued otherwise. The debate has been written on to the pages of opeds with the blood of people like Maulana Abdul Rasheed Ghazi. When the Americans pull out the rug from under Musharraf, they will in one bold stroke make the Islamist's case for them. The Americans will prove that they are not worthy of being trusted.

This will amplify the shift away from a US-centric national policy in Pakistan.

I sometimes feel the Americans in the state of perpetual over confidence and self praise tend to overlook the ability of the Islamists to fight a war on a civilizational timescale. The Americans tend to become convinced that only they think about long term strategic issues and their adversaries are incapable of such "high" thought. It is a sad but obvious downside to becoming addicted to the idea that one is "on top" of the world order.

At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Some Pakistani news reports state that all three bombs used the same detonators. If true then that is a more concrete indicator of a link between the three blasts than merely the same explosive being used.

I have several more question somewhat related to these bomb attacks. I will ask them in the next post so as to keep things straight.

At 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Continuing from my previous post ...

You have stated that there is a revolt brewing in the SSG. I presume you mean an Islamist revolt. I am trying to figure out the contours of what such a revolt might look like but I must confess that my knowledge of the SSG is somewhat limited and so I asking all these seemingly basic questions.

Thanks for the info on Haroon ul Islam. It is interesting that he was the CO of 2 SSG. Musharaff himself was from 2 SSG. Is there a connection there?

Coming to the Zarrar Coy and the SOTF. Who inside the SSG and outside the SSG would know where these two units are located at any given time? I presume that this sort of info is restricted. Those who carried out the Tarbela attack had a lot of inside help: They knew where they were, they knew where the mess was, they knew the time when everyone gathered in the mess, and they had access to the base.

Moving on to the Lal Masjid next. I presume that Musharaff had the final veto on the composition of the SSG unit that took the Lal Masjid and that he was sure of their loyalties. Is is possible that the Islamists wanted to draw out Musharaff's SSG loyalists into doing something that would provide a justification for eventually eliminating them all?

Also what do you make of the latest news reports coming out of Miranshah about an entire SSG team being wiped out in combat? A few weeks ago ISPR had released pictures of Hayat visiting SSG personnel stationed in Miranshah. A mere coincidence or is there something connecting the two?

Thats all for now.

P.S. - Info on the SSG is very hard to come by. Do you have any reading material that you would recomment?

At 10:25 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Anonymous,

Yes, you are correct, using the same detonators suggests a far deeper connection between events, possibly even the same bombmaker/s.

At 10:37 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Anonymous,

I am referring to revolt within the SSG coming most likely from Pashtun officers and other concerned folk who fear that the SSG as an institution will be delegitimised by the Mullahs. These people do not want the SSG to be percieved as anything less than the eldest brother in the family of Islam.

Any erosion of the SSGs standing in the eyes of the Mullahs may impair its claim to leadership of the faithful. You do realise the SSG *is* the topmost conflict resolution force in the entire Ummah.

I suspect Lt. Col. Haroon ul Islam was the CO of the 2 SSG, but I may be wrong. Ultimately there is a reserve maintained at SSG HQ. It could be he commanded that reserve at the time of the Lal Masjid operations.

I do not know of any connection between Musharraf and Haroon in terms of their service records. Haroon had seen action in Siachen, but again I have no definete connection yet. The presence of Musharraf at the funeral and his behavior with the brothers and the mother suggested that there was deeper connection but again this
all pure conjecture.

The exact movement of Zarrar company would have a restricted audience. However the SSG uses only three bases, Cherat, Attock and Tarbela Ghazi as its permanent bases, so it is not as hard as one might think. In India for example, the movement of units is tracked by keeping track of what the wives of servicemen are doing. A dhobi or milkman in the mohalla or the chaiwallah outside the base can tell you whether the unit is in or out.

I think I accept Sri. Raman's report about a Pashtun SSG officer killing his fellow men.

I think this issue of Musharraf loyalists being targetted during the Lal Masjid situation was discussed earlier on this blog. I believe there is a distinct possibility that this approach was used by the Islamists.

Yes I am aware of the Miranshah situation and of the Hayat visits. I have been watching both very carefully. There may be a connection but I caution against reading too much into this, because one does not have direct evidence.

Most of my information comes from bits and pieces collected over a decade. I have never completely audited the information I have and it may be that some of my stuff is poor quality.

At 10:47 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Anonymous,

I think collecting thing bit by bit and carefully chewing over them is best way to keep track of things.

At 11:14 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Anonymous,

I was wrong.

Zarar is bigger than a company and Haroon was commanding it at the time of the attack.

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