Put Lahore in the same category as Mumbai, if on a smaller scale. A group of “militants” seized a large police station in the Pakistani city, killing at least 11. Police expect that toll to rise as they clear the regained station of bodies in the interior:
Pakistani security forces overpowered a group of gunmen who staged a deadly assault on a police academy Monday, capturing six of the militants while eight others died during an hours-long battle in the country’s east.
The well-organized, highly coordinated assault left at least 11 officers dead, though the death toll was expected to rise because some of the bodies were inside the compound.
The attack came less than a month after an ambush on Sri Lanka’s visiting cricket team in the heart of Lahore and underscored the threat that militancy poses to the U.S.-allied, nuclear-armed country. It prompted the country’s top civilian security official to say that militant groups were “destabilizing the country.”
Soldiers and other security forces surrounded the compound on the outskirts of the city, exchanging fire in televised scenes reminiscent of last November’s militant siege of the Indian city of Mumbai. Armored vehicles entered the compound while helicopters hovered overhead. Some police tried to escape by crawling on their hands and knees around the bodies of fallen officers.
This was a more brazen — and dangerous — attack than Mumbai in a couple of key aspects. First, the terrorists took on what is presumably a heavily armed and easily defended post. Police stations, probably more so in Pakistan than most places, have plenty of guns and security safeguards. The fact that the terrorists succeeded in gaining control of the facility speaks volumes about the ability of Pakistan to protect itself in Lahore.
That brings us to the second aspect, which is the attack on Pakistan itself. The Mumbai attack selected soft targets, but also private industry targets. This attack was on the government of Lahore and Pakistan. Not only did the police fail to detect it despite the involvement of at least 14 terrorists coordinating the attack, they couldn’t repulse it quickly enough to save their own comrades. It makes Pakistan look weak; the statement of the security official merely confirms what is obvious to everyone.
The series of attacks in Lahore will press the civilian government into taking some kind of action. If they can’t get their act together soon and make the nation safe for cricket in Lahore and elsewhere, the people will demand a change in Islamabad — and the military may have its own ideas of change.