Karachi attack revives fears of infiltration in Pak army

Islamabad: The 18-hour standoff between Pakistani security forces and handful of militants at the Karachi naval air base has revived fears about militant infiltration in the country`s military and the safety of its nuclear warheads.

The precision with which the small band of terrorists targeted the key base and destroyed two surveillance aircraft worth millions of dollars has also raised questions about whether insiders were involved in the attack.

The prolonged standoff at the air base has caused tremendous embarrassment for the powerful military establishment, coming as it did less than a month after the May 2 US raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden. The banned Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out to avenge the al-Qaida leader`s killing.

"The navy was vulnerable because there is penetration in both the navy and air force. The penetration in the navy is an old story that people don`t want to talk about," Ayesha Siddiqa, a defence expert who once served as a civilian analyst with the Pakistan Navy, told the `Dawn` newspaper.

Her comments come as experts pointed to the involvement of over 50 low-ranking air force personnel in botched attempts on the life of former President Pervez Musharraf and said there was a possibility that someone within the naval airbase helped the attackers.

Another noted defence analyst Lt Gen (retired) Talat Masood said, the possibility that the terrorists were helped by insiders is something that could not be ruled out.