Poonch a favourite target for terrorists
23 June 2002
The Times of India
Sant Kumar Sharma
Poonch: Despite 520 militants being killed in the district last year, the highest toll for any single district in the entire state in a year, Poonch continues to be targeted by more infiltrators and militants. This becomes clear once one takes into account the several encounters the security forces have taken part in in the recent past. Places as far apart from one another as Bhimber Gali and Mandi, Mendhar, Jhalas and Morha Bachhai have all witnessed encounters between the security forces and the militants over the last few days. Given this, the security forces are not willing to lower the guard here due to the treacherous terrain, proximity to the line of control (LoC) and a wide network of overground workers (OGWs in security parlance). Of course, they welcome Gen Pervez Musharraf’s recent statement that he is willing to stop infiltration but don’t take his assurances at face value. Lt-Gen J.B.S. Yadava, general officer commanding (GOC) of the 16 Corps, which looks after the entire Jammu province and parts of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, has already gone on record saying there is no tangible evidence to back Musharraf’s claims. In fact, there is a lot of confusion regarding the figures pertaining to infiltration. The perceptions (and hence official inputs) of various intelligence agencies working in the field like the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Military Intelligence (MI), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the state police personnel differ widely on the subject of infiltration. While some of them have started saying that the infiltration has come down significantly, others say no such thing has happened.Since the issue is deemed hypersensitive and central to the present India-Pakistan stand-off, most officials refuse to go on record regarding the inputs they have been getting. This is a precautionary step they take for they don’t want to be caught on the wrong foot lest their higher authorities take a different line. ‘‘Gen Musharraf made a similar promise in January, but five months later, we continue to kill militants in the hinterland every day. At any given time, at least five to six of my teams are actively pursuing leads on the movement of militants,’’ senior superintendent of police Kamal Saini says, adding it is not the easiest of things to verify whether infiltration is happening or not at any juncture.