On September 6, 2014, several Navy personals indoctrinated in Al Qaeda’s global jihad belief stormed a frigate PNS ZULFIQAR of Pakistan Navy intending to hijack it and use it to target the US Navy anti terrorism vessels patrolling in the Indian ocean, the attack was well planned and organized. Since the attackers were serving the personals of Pakistan Navy and were in uniform, they were able to board the ship without any hindrance, even a guard at the bottom of the gangway saluted them. But the vigilant eyes of a gunner at the ship was quick to comprehend their real motive, since they were carrying AK-47 which is not the standard battle rifle of Pakistan Navy, they were also not following the standard operating procedure, the guard was sure that they are up to something very dangerous. He was first to open fire on them from an anti-aircraft machine gun on board the ship, he was able to take down three terrorists immediately including Owais Jakhrani, the mastermind of the attack who was sacked from Pakistan navy for having radical beliefs. Meanwhile, marine commandos were quick to reach the venue of the attack and were able to subdue the terrorists hence reverting a huge catastrophe which may have inflicted a heavy toll on both Pakistani and US Navies. USA and countries all around the world appreciated the professionalism of the Pakistan Navy and acknowledged the bravery of Pakistan Navy soldiers to avert such a mishap.
But soon after the attack Propaganda Machines of Indian state launched a campaign against Pakistan, aligned with the agenda of presenting Pakistan an irresponsible rogue state which cannot look after its nuclear weapons. A misleading report by Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) citing an agent from Karachi claimed that the frigate was housing a nuclear warhead and the attackers were aware of its presence. The primary target was the nuclear warheads rather than capturing the Ship. This disturbing detailed story was also described by Steve Coll in his book, Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Ankit Panda an editor-at-large at The Diplomat and director of research for Diplomat Risk Intelligence writes in one of his articles-The implications are serious, and Coll’s cataloging of the Indian intelligence report is the first known public mention of a possible nuclear angle to the PNS Zulfiquar attack.
1) He also writes; Coll does acknowledge that the Indian intelligence report may have been misinformation: “It was possible that India put a false story out to stir up a global alarm about terrorism and nuclear security in Pakistan.
2) The intelligence report is a proof of utter non-professionalism of RAW, the report was not based on any concrete solid evidence. Moreover, even a person with little knowledge about arms and weapons can explain that placing a nuclear warhead on a ship with no delivery vehicle is beyond any comprehension. According to the official website of Pakistan Navy PNS ZULFIQUAR is capable to undertake anti-air, anti-surface, and anti-submarine warfare mission simultaneously. The ship has a 76 mm gun, torpedo tubes, and surface to air missile. Interestingly there is no mention of the presence of any nuclear-tipped cruise or ballistic missile. If the Nuclear warhead was not the primary target, then what was the reason behind choosing PNS ZULFIQUAR for attack? Khwaja Asif the then defense minister made a statement in parliament that the attack was an inside job, the attackers may never have breached the security without the help of insiders. A report by Reuters citing “a navy official speaking on condition of anonymity said at least eight navy personnel had been arrested based on the attackers’ phone records, including four aboard the Zulfiqar. Three serving mid-level lieutenant commanders from Karachi were also arrested in the western city of Quetta, allegedly trying to flee to Afghanistan two days after the botched raid, officials said. Further arrests were made in Karachi, Peshawar, and northwestern Pakistan, they added.”
3) The attackers and their abettors being insiders were aware of the fact that PNS Zulfiqar was slated to set sail for the Indian Ocean to join an international flotilla on the same day on which the attack happened, if the hijack may have been successful and the ship was steered toward American vessels it would have aroused least suspicion of US Navy and the ship may have moved in such a position that it could easily target the American ships with its anti-ship missiles. So, there is no credible evidence that can support the RAW intelligence report which means it was very unlikely that Al-Qaeda would have got their hands on a non-existent nuclear warhead. Having said that this brings us to two conclusions.
First that RAW is running a serious campaign to Denuclearize Pakistan and is often supported by many Inside the Pentagon. Second is that though the Indian intelligence report was far from truth, the attack, no matter for which purpose it was, had exposed very serious flaws in the security system of Pakistan Navy which were later resolved.