A day after Pakistan’s defence minister said some navy personnel may have been involved in last week’s attack by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on a warship stationed in Karachi, the body of one such officer was handed over to his family on Wednesday.
While government officials remain tight-lipped citing strategic reasons, sources say at least six militants tried to storm the PNS dockyard on September 6, which the country marks as Defence Day. About 20 more ships and submarines were anchored there at the time, but the terrorists invaded PNS Zulfiqar – a medium-sized warship jointly built by Pakistan and China – perhaps because it came in their way first.
“A sentry saw a suspicious movement on the ship. He raised an alarm before being shot and injured by the attackers. A petty officer rushed to the spot but was immediately gunned down,” a navy officer said.
The officer added that the terrorists came from the sea, raising questions about the vigilance of the Pakistan Navy and Pakistan Coast Guards who are responsible for security in the country’s territorial waters.
The attack led to the death of the petty officer and two terrorists, while four of the attackers were apprehended.
The navy instituted an inquiry over allegations that some of its mid-level officers were involved while the body of one such suspect, Owais Jakhrani, was delivered to relatives. Observers say that a number of officers and their families are now associated with the Al-Quran Academy, the Al-Huda religious group and the Tablighi-Jamaat, all organisations that promote extremist Sunni thought.
The TTP said that it carried out the attack with help from within the navy. “The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan claims responsibility for the attack on the Karachi dockyard,” the group’s spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid told media persons over the phone from an undisclosed location on Tuesday.
The warship was about to sail to Bahrain as part of the coalition forces which protect the waters off Somalia and other areas where piracy is rampant.
In most major attacks on Pakistan's military installations, including the one at PNS Mehran base, GHQ and Kamra airbase, investigators pointed towards insider involvement.