July 1999 News

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Pakistan re-equipping larger groups

29 July 1999
Daily Excelsior

Indian security forces have been alerted across Punjab, with fresh orders for "special" measures to foil a likely Pakistani action in Pathankot. These orders are from the Union Defence and Home Ministries.

Classified intelligence inputs, as well as the disclosures made by three captured ISI operatives, have suggested involvement of groups of hard core terrorists in Pakistanís "new" plan favoring bomb explosions in Pathankot to isolate Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir. How many of these terrorists have so far sneaked into Punjab, particularly in Pathankot sector, which is located in the neighbourhood of Jammu region ?

"Exact details in this regard cannot be given. We do believe that quite a few of them have managed to enter parts of Punjab", a senior police official said. Considering the fact that Pathankot has already emerged as a highly strategic location for the Indian Army and the Air Force, the Government of India will not appreciate any laxity by police and other security and intelligence agencies in the region at a time when Pakistani ISI, according to intelligence inputs, has earmarked some places on the Indian side of the border to be bombarded.

Pathankot is one of these places. Serving as the gateway to the border State of Jammu and Kashmir, Pathankot, it is felt by official circles, may become the next target for Pakistan-aided ultras. In fact, by the time the announcement came about the Indian forcesí success in ejecting the intruders out of Kargil region, these circles got clearer signals about the preparations on the other side of the Punjab border to reorganise and re-equip larger groups of infiltrators and terrorists.

A senior officer of the Indian Army, while answering a question by EXCELSIOR at Pathankot, seemed of the firm view that while the disruption of Indian society through sabotage, espionage and disinformation would continue, Pakistani subversives and their hired elements would not hesitate to choke the supply line to J&K via Pathankot and, in the process, isolate Indian forces in Kashmir.

The Army officer did not rule out the possibility of bomb and grenade attacks by the "enemy" on the Pathankot-Jammu highway, to begin with, in the coming days and weeks. He also confirmed that Indian field intelligence units (FIUs) had come across evidence with regard to the "enemy" having been assigned the task of sabotaging roads, creating communal tensions, planting improvised explosive devices, targeting Army convoys and striking at political leaders in the run-up to the elections.

Despite being on full alert, there is little the security forces can do if the desperadoes are determined to attack. Resolute militants in Punjab and in Jammu and Kashmir, it is officially admitted, have struck fear in the hearts of the people in several areas because of two important factors ó first, they have no demarcated battle-lines or rules of conduct, and second, quite a few of them have already proved that they have the capability of carrying out unexpected and deadly strikes.

Intelligence sleuths have also informed the Government of India that two significant developments have been allowed to take place by the powers-that-be on the other side of the border, namely, talk of the talks between Pakistan and India and, secondly, "feverish" exercises by the Pakistani political, official and military agencies in favour of anti-India militants and mercenaries. There is a strong urgency for Islamabad in the post-Kargil scenario to gear up for the next round of diplomatic effort and use all available opportunities to bring New Delhi back to the negotiating table.

With the West saying that Kashmir was as yet not ripe for mediation, and US President maintaining that he will not mediate, and the rest of the G-8 still viewing Islamabad suspiciously, there appears to be very little room for Pakistan to manoeuvre diplomatically in the conceivable future. Combined with this is Indiaís reluctance to have UN observers on the Line of Control (LoC).

This notwithstanding, Pakistan-aided militants(Sikh and Muslim) have the capacity to create agonizing problems for Indian authorities in Punjab and adjoining Jammu and Kashmir State. An office-bearer of the RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) divulged in the course of an informal chat with EXCELSIOR that the Pakistani ISI, known for its strong links with the dreaded Lashkar-e-Toiba, had already kept ready dozens of Sikh terrorists to be pushed into the Indian territory "any time in the coming days".

This apart, Pakistan Government, particularly the beleaguered Premier, Mr Nawaz Sharief, it was also revealed on the strength of what was termed as the "reliable source of information", had also taken due cognizance of the "restlessness" among the bearded cadres, in their 20s, of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen. They have vowed to carry on their "martyrdom mission".

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