If the public administration motto of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is ‘maximum governance, minimum government’, the exact opposite holds true for his Pakistani counterpart Mian Mohd Nawaz Sharif, i.e. maximum government, near-zero governance’. And that is because the Pakistan Army (PA), while not being in the driver’s seat, is very much so the sole provider of driving cues, i.e. it is 100% involved in Pakistan’s national governance. Only this can explain the volte face on April 14, 2017 by Sartaj Aziz, the Pakistani Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs and Pakistan’s de facto Foreign Minister. For, it was on December 7, 2016 that Aziz had told the Pakistani National Assembly’s Senate Committee of Foreign Affairs chamber that the dossier on alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav contained mere statements, and that additional evidence needed to be collected. “So far, we have just statements about the involvement of this Indian spy in terror activities in Pakistan…now it is up to the concerned authorities how long they take to give us more matter on the agent,” Aziz had said, adding that “more evidence was needed, and that the United Nations had been given a dossier about the Research & Analysis Wing’s (R & AW) involvement in Pakistan”.
And this was the very same Aziz who shared Pakistan’s charge-sheet against Kulbhushan Jadhav and a timeline of his trial in a media briefing on April 14, 2017. Aziz also asked why Jadhav, who was handed the death sentence on April by an in-camera Field General Court Martial (FGCM) for his involvement in espionage and sabotage activities inside Pakistan, had been carrying official documents under an alias at the time of his arrest. “I would like to ask India why he Jadhav was using a fake identity and masquerading as a Muslim. Why would an innocent man possess two Passports—one with a Hindu name, and one with a Muslim name? Since India has no credible explanation about why their serving naval commander was in Balochistan, it has unleashed a flimsy propaganda campaign,” he said. Aziz also condemned India’s “baseless allegations”, adding that India’s lack of cooperation and refusal to provide Pakistan legal assistance were the reasons Jadhav had not been granted consular access. “Inflammatory statements and rhetoric about pre-meditated murder and unrest in Balochistan will only result in escalation, serving no useful purpose,” he added. Aziz further said that steps had been taken to ensure transparency during the trial of Kulbhushan Jadhav under Pakistan's Official Secrets Act 1923’s Section 3 and the Pakistan Army Act 1952’s Section 59. Elaborating on these steps, Aziz revealed that Jadhav’s confessional statement had been recorded before a Judicial Magistrate under Section 164 of Pakistan’s Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), whereas the proceedings had been conducted under the Law of Evidence. Jadhav was also appointed a qualified legal officer to defend him in court proceedings. Witnesses recorded their statements under oath in front of the accused, who was allowed to question them. It should be clear from these details that Kulbhushan Jadhav was tried under the law of the land in a fully transparent manner,” Aziz said. “His sentence is based on credible, specific evidence proving his involvement in espionage and terrorist activities in Pakistan. A Letter of Assistance requesting specific information and access to certain key witnesses was shared with the Government of India on January 23, 2017. There has been no response from the Indian side so far. Kulbhushan Jadhav still has the right to appeal within 40 days to an appellate court. He may also lodge a mercy petition to the PA’s Chief of the Army Staff within 60 days of the decision by the appellate court and may file a mercy petition to the President of Pakistan within 90 days after the decision of the COAS on the mercy petition”, Aziz added.
Aziz revealed that Jadhav had been held responsible for the following terrorist activities in Pakistan:
· Sponsored and directed Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and grenade attacks in Gwadar and Turbat.
· Directed attacks on a radar station and civilian boats in the sea opposite Jiwani Port.
· Funded subversive secessionist and terrorist elements through hawala/hundi for subverting the Pakistani youth against the country, especially in Balochistan.
· Sponsored explosions of gas pipelines and electric pylons in Sibi and Sui areas in Balochistan.
· Sponsored IED explosions in Quetta in 2015, causing massive damage to life and property.
· Sponsored sectarian attacks on Hazaras in Quetta and Shias en route to and back from Iran.
· Abetted attacks through anti-state elements against law enforcement agencies, the Frontier Corps (FC) and Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) in areas of Turbat, Punjgur, Gwadar, Pasni and Jiwani during 2014-2015, killing and injuring many civilians and soldiers.
Aziz also provided a timeline of the trial and proceedings against Jadhav:
· Kulbhushan Jadhav was arrested on March 3, 2016, 21 days before his arrest was officially announced by Balochistan’s provincial Home Minister Sarfaraz Bugti on March 24, 2016
· Confessional video statement recording of Kulbushan Jhadav—March 25, 2016
· Initial FIR filed with the Counter-Terrorism Department in Quetta—April 8, 2016
· Conduct of initial interrogation—May 2, 2016
· Conduct of detailed interrogation—May 22, 2016
· Joint Investigation Team constituted—July 12, 2016
· Confessional statement under Section 164 of the CrPC—July 22, 2016
· Recording of summary of evidence—September 24, 2016
· 1st proceeding of FGCM—September 21, 2016
· 2nd proceeding of FGCM—October 19, 2016
· 3rd proceeding of FGCM —November 29, 2016
· 4th proceeding if FGCM—February 12, 2017
· Death sentence endorsed by FGCM—April 10, 2017
Aziz’s press-briefing 24 hours ago raises several questions about the veracity of his revelations due to the changing Pakistani narratives on L’Affair Kulbhushan Jadhav over the past 13 months. For instance, Pakistani says that when Jadhav was apprehended inside Balochistan, he was in possession of an Indian Passport, L-9630722, identifying him by the pseudonym of Hussein Mubarak Patel, born in Sangli, Maharashtra. This Passport had been issued on May 12, 2014 from the Thane Regional Passport Office (RPO) and was valid until May 11, 2024. Pakistan also alleges that Jadhav is concurrently serving with both the Indian Navy (IN) and the Indian Union Cabinet Secretariat’s R & AW, and that he will be retiring from the IN only in 2022. While Aziz also disclosed on April 14 that Jadhav was nabbed while trying to cross the border from Saravan city (the capital of Saravan County in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchestan province) into Mashkail in Balochistan, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director had on March 29, 2016 claimed that Jadhav was picked up by Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies in Balochistan’s Chaman Border Crossing Point near the shared border with Afghanistan, and that Jadhav had entered Balochistan from Afghanistan a total of 12 times, and that he had been in Balochistan for 15 days distributing millions in cash of different denominations among Baloch insurgents, and that he was carrying Pakistani and Afghani SIM cards and navigational maps. In a crowded hour-long military-civil press conference held in Islamabad on March 29, the ISPR released a ‘confession’ video of what it alleged was an Indian spy in Pakistan’s custody. In the 6-minute video, Kulbhushan Jadhav, 46, ‘confessed’ to launching covert operations against Balochistan province while operating from Chah Bahar port in southeastern Iran.
Earlier, on March 25, the then Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary summoned the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad, Gautam Bambawale, and handed over a Démarche over the arrest of Jadhav, describing Jadhav as someone who was indulging in “subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi”. On March 26, a day after the start of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s first official two-day visit to Islamabad, the then Director General of ISPR, Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, had tweeted that when the PA’s then COAS Gen Raheel Sharif met President Rouhani, he had raised the issue of R & AW’s involvement in Pakistan’s internal affairs, especially Balochistan. A subsequent statement issued by the ISPR said: “There is one concern that R & AW is involved in Pakistan, especially in Balochistan, and sometimes it also uses the soil of our brother country Iran.” On March 27, the very next day, the President Rouhani at a press-conference in Islamabad denied having discussed any matter with Gen Sharif, saying that “there was no discussion about Indian spy during my meeting with Gen Raheel”, and adding that “whenever Iran comes close to Pakistan, such rumours are spread”. Iran’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Mehdi Honardoost had then slammed the leaking of the details of Jadhav’s arrest instead of the issue being discussed between the security agencies of both countries.
When news of Jadhav’s arrest broke, the well-connected Afghan journalist Malik Achakzai tweeted to report that Jadhav had been abducted. On the same day, in Karachi, a former and very knowledgeable German ambassador to Pakistan Dr Gunter Mulack, said “that the Indian spy recently arrested in Balochistan was actually caught by Taliban and sold to Pakistani intelligence.”
Questions that arise from the above-mentioned Pakistani narratives are:
1) If Sartaj Aziz on April 14 stated that when Jadhav was apprehended inside Balochistan, he was in possession of an Indian Passport (L-9630722) identifying him by the pseudonym of Hussein Mubarak Patel, why did he contradict himself in that very same press-conference by asking: Why would an innocent man possess two Passports—one with a Hindu name, and one with a Muslim name? Where is the second Passport and why has it not yet been shown by Pakistan?
2) Why should anyone carry two Passports at all when it is a well-known rule that any person found in possession of two Passports—even showing identical identities but of different nationalities or differing identities with the same nationality—is a criminal offence?
3) Why is Pakistan not disclosing the material evidence which shows that Jadhav is still employed with the IN and R & AW? Does Pakistan possess Jadhav’s naval service records which say that Jadhav will retire in 2022?
4) If indeed Jadhav was apprehended while trying to cross the border from Iran’s Saravan city into Mashkail in Balochistan, why did the ISPR on March 29, 2016 claim that Jadhav was picked up by Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies in Balochistan’s Chaman Border Crossing Point near the shared border with Afghanistan?
5) If Jadhav had indeed been ‘entrapped’ by Pakistan inside Balochistan, then why is it that the ‘Kaminda’—3,500-tonne Dhow that he owned, had also disappeared at the same time as Jadhav and remains untraceable? Is it possible for this Dhow to be operated by a single person, or did it have an on-board crew complement? If the answer is yes, where is it now?
6) Is is really possible for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate and its proxies to pull off a successful ‘enforced abduction’ and smuggle the entrapped target over land from Iran’s restive Sistan-Baluchestan province into Balochistan when that entire Iranian province is crawling with covert operatives of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (Pasdaran), the Basij Mostazafan, and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (Vezarat-e-Ettela’at Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran)?
7) If Jadhav’s ‘confessions’ have enabled Pakistan to destroy the underground networks of several Pakistan-based separatist and terrorist networks, then why is there no news about any such Pakistani citizen or citizens being tried along with him as co-accused/co-conspirators via the FGCM route?
8) Was it possible for the ISI to monitor Jadhav’s cellphone conversations between Chah Bahar and any other place in India? If not, then what was the most probable area-location for the ISI to use its COMINT capabilities for listening to Jadhav’s cellphone-based communications?
The above-mentioned questions can only be answered AFTER one examines in detail 1) the business activities of Kulbhushan Jadhav; and 2) the operating environment in and around Chah Bahar FTIZ. Born on April 16, 1971, Jadhav is the son of Sudhir Jadhav, and a resident of B-502 Silver Oak Point, Hiranandani Garden, Powai, Mumbai, in Maharashtra. He secured admittance into the Khadakwasla-based National Defence Academy in 1987 (Charlie Squadron, 77th Course), following which he was commissioned into the engineering branch of the Indian Navy in 1991 (Commissioning Number 41558Z). According to the Govt of India’s statement made on March 27, 2016, Lt Cmdr Jadhav took premature retirement from the Navy in 2003 and thereafter went into business as a merchant marine entrepreneur. Jadhav sank his life’s savings into his company, named Kaminda Trading Pvt Ltd and struggled to make ends meet, stumping up only meagre business ferrying scrap-metal, gypsum, tractor parts, bitumen, rice and wheat between the ports of Kandla and Porbandar in India, and Bandar Abbas and the Chah Bahar FTIZ in Iran. These were all transported by the‘Kaminda’—a 3,500-tonne Dhow that Jadhav’s company owned. All this while, Jadhav was apparently using a Passport (E-6934766, issued in 2003) registered in his true name. Jadhav’s maritime freight business picked up steam from 2012 onwards after Iran was slapped with crippling UN-mandated trade sanctions by the US and EU member-states. In fact, Iran during this very period dramatically increased its exports of commodities and crude oil-related downstream byproducts to India, while at the same time proportionally increased its imports of finished agricultural and chemicals-related products from India, which led to an annual bilateral trade of US$4 billion by 2014. In 2014, following the expiry of validity of his Passport, Jadhav decided not to renew the validity and instead chose to obtain a new Passport (L-9630722), this time giving his name as Hussain Mubarak Patel (born on August 30, 1968 in Sangli, Maharashtra), whose certified address was that of a flat in Thane owned by his mother, Avanti Jadhav. This Passport was issued on May 12, 2014 and was valid till November 5, 2024. He also succeeded in obtaining an Iranian business residency permit (valid till June 2016) for entering and residing in Chah Bahar FTIZ, located just 75km west of the Pakistani deep-sea port of Gwadar in Balochistan province.
The reason why Jadhav had to give the Thane address of his residence was for the sake of identity verification by the Thane Police’s Special Branch and the District Intelligence Bureau (DIB), which is a mandatory process whenever any Indian citizen applies for a Passport for the very first time. In Jadhav’s case, since he was assuming a new identity then, the earlier security authentication carried out by the Mumbai Police’s Special Branch and the DIB when Jadhav had acquired his first Passport in his original identity was now no longer valid.
The reason why Jadhav had to give the Thane address of his residence was for the sake of identity verification by the Thane Police’s Special Branch and the District Intelligence Bureau (DIB), which is a mandatory process whenever any Indian citizen applies for a Passport for the very first time. In Jadhav’s case, since he was assuming a new identity then, the earlier security authentication carried out by the Mumbai Police’s Special Branch and the DIB when Jadhav had acquired his first Passport in his original identity was now no longer valid.
The question that arises here, and which has not yet been explained either by Jadhav’s next-of-kith-and-kin or by the Govt of India, is what made Jadhav assume a new identity and that too at a time when his marine freighter business was doing quite well? Was it because it was brought to his attention by some authorities of either India or Iran that there was a high possibility of him being kidnapped in the high seas in an act of piracy—this probability being based on certain SIGINT/COMINT chatter of Pakistani origin that had been picked up by either Iran or India? After all, the waters between Balochistan province and Oman are the favourite operating areas of Baluchi smugglers like the notorious Baloch drug smuggler Haji Wali Mehmood Baloch, who operate in these waters and have close links with the ISI as they are always used to ferry consignments of compressed heroin (that are produced in Pakistan from the raw opium originating from Afghanistan) to various Arabian ports in the Persian Gulf. In fact, it is this drug trafficking business that sustains the Afghan Taliban’s Pakistan-supported guerrilla warfare inside Afghanistan. It is perhaps this possibility that prompted India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to state on March 29, 2016 that Jadhav was most likely kidnapped. However, for obvious reasons, The MEA stopped short of identifying the most likely location where the kidnapping took place.
But this much is sure: Jadhav WAS NOT kidnapped from Chah Bahar or anywhere else inside Irannian territory. His last cellphone conversation was on February 29, 2016 in Chah Bahar, following which it was left unanswered. It is therefore highly probable that as he along with the Kaminda was heading back eastwards toward India, his vessel was stealthily boarded by some highly skilled Pakistanis (who had definitely rehearsed this act of piracy a few times in advance, probably between July 2015 and January 2016) at nighttime in international waters just outside Iran’s territorial waters in such a manner that neither Jadhav nor any of his crew-mates had absolutely no time to respond by transmitting an SOS distress signal from the vessel’s bridge. After forcibly commandeering the Kaminda and taking its crew complement hostage, the sea-assaulters then set sail for the nearest Pakistani coastal belt of Jiwani (34km east of the Iran-Pakistan maritime boundary) where Jadhav and his crew complement were offloaded. Thereafter, either the Kaminda was scuttled, or was repainted for assuming a new identity. This is the only plausible explanation for the continued disappearance of the Kaminda. So what became of the Kaminda’s crew complement? Have they too been tried by the Pakistan Army’s FGCM as co-conspirators or facilitators? If yes, then is Pakistan waiting for a suitable opportunity to reveal their fate?
There is some reason to infer that this could well happen since Balochistan’s Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri had subsequently claimed in 2016 that at least 15 more ‘operatives’ of R & AW had been arrested from his province, based on the leads provided by Jadhav.
In addition, the mere fact that despite specific provisions in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, India has been denied access to Jadhav 15 successive times only confirms beyond any doubt that Pakistan does not want the truth to be revealed about the place and manner of Jadhav’s forced abduction. Consequently, the prospect of Jadhav securing his release from captivity and returning back to India too has now become an impossibility.
There is some reason to infer that this could well happen since Balochistan’s Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri had subsequently claimed in 2016 that at least 15 more ‘operatives’ of R & AW had been arrested from his province, based on the leads provided by Jadhav.
In addition, the mere fact that despite specific provisions in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, India has been denied access to Jadhav 15 successive times only confirms beyond any doubt that Pakistan does not want the truth to be revealed about the place and manner of Jadhav’s forced abduction. Consequently, the prospect of Jadhav securing his release from captivity and returning back to India too has now become an impossibility.
Coming now to the operating environment in and around Chah Bahar FTIZ, it needs to be noted that the Iranian province of restive Sistan-Baluchestan province is Iran’s most securitised area. This is because it is the favourite hunting ground for Pakistan-based extremist Baloch Sunni tanzeems like the Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice), the Jundullah (Soldiers of God), the Sipah-e-Sahaba or Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (which was traditionally dominant in South Punjab but is now also ascendant in Parachinar, Kurram Agency) and of late the Jamaat-ud-Dawa headed by Hafiz Saeed. These rabidly anti-Shia tanzeems have since the late 1980s engaged in several barbaric sectarian massacres of Shias residing in both Pakistan and Sistan-Baluchestan, and are also known to be in cohorts with the Quetta Shura of the Afghan Taliban. Together, they all are active throughout the 936km-long Iran-Afghanistan border and the 909km-long Iran-Pakistan border. Consequently, these two today constitute of the world’s most heavily fortified land borders. The already-constructed Iran-Pakistan Barrier (built by Iran from 2007 till 2013) features a three-foot thick, ten-foot high concrete wall extending across 700km of forbidding desert terrain. The actual wall, however, is merely one part of an elaborate system of barriers that include several parallel structures running along much of the border, which evidently consist of deep canals, linked embankments and ditches. Fortress-like garrisoned observation towers too exist in several areas, as are extensive road and track networks. Since the barbed-wire fences, walls, berms, dry moats, and other fortifications are all built on the Iranian side of the border, Pakistan has voiced no objections to such projects.
The official purpose of the Iran-Pakistan Barrier is two-fold: to stop illegal border-crossings and to curtail the flow of narcotics into Iran. The latter issue is certainly serious, since Iran has the world’s highest rate of opiate addiction by a substantial margin, with an estimated 4 million regular users in a population of roughly 73 million. Afghanistan is the ultimate source of narcotics entering Iran, but Afghan opium is often processed in, and exported from, Pakistan as compressed heroin. As there is only one legal crossing-point between the two countries—at the small oasis town of Taftan—Teheran has banked on hopes to gain control over the flow of narcotics and other smuggled commodities by hardening the Iran-Pakistan border.
The issue of illegal border-crossings by Pakistanis is more complicated. Iran is a much more prosperous and less densely populated country than Pakistan—circumstances that often result in a large flow of surreptitious immigrants. And indeed, the westward movement of undocumented migrants is substantial. It is also apparently increasing, despite the Barrier stretching from Taftan to Mand. But most of the people illegally crossing the border evidently aim to pass through Iran on their way to either Europe—a region with substantially higher wages and benefits—or to Iraq, Syria or Turkey in order to join the ranks of ISIS. The illegal movement of drugs and people, however, is not the main reason for the construction of the extraordinarily expensive barriers by a cash-strapped Iran. More important is the desire to quell the Baloch rebellion. The boundary between Iran and Pakistan also divides the land of the Baloch people, a distinct ethno-linguistic group some 9 million-strong. The bulk of the Baloch, a Sunni Muslim people, live in Pakistan, but as many as 1.5 million reside in southeastern Iran, with another 500,000 or so in southwestern Afghanistan. The Baloch in Pakistan have been engaged in a low-intensity insurgency for decades, while those of Iran have become increasingly restive in recent years. In 2003, Iranian Baloch separatists along with their Pakistani counterparts formed a violent tanzeem called Jundullah (Soldiers of God), dedicated to fighting on behalf of Sunni Muslims against the Shi’ite regime of Iran. Pakistan, by the way, just does not bother about narcotics trafficking by the Afghan Taliban and their Baloch facilitators, but is highly concerned about smuggling from Iran, but of a different kind: alcohol.
To curtail such activities, Pakistan’s FC has built the highly securitised ‘Pakistan Gate’ at Taftan in Balochistan’s Chagai district and it went operational on August 14, 2016). Iran has already constructed a parallel securitised gate inside its border at Mir Java in Zahedan, capital of Sistan-Baluchestan province.
In light of the above, it is therefore impossible for anyone to abduct/entrap/kidnap a person inside Iranian territory and then have him smuggled into Pakistan. Any such action that promises 100% success and 100% plausible deniability can only be conducted in international waters along the Pakistani coastline.
Why Is Iran Paranoiac About Sindh & Balochistan?
In response to the alarming spread of Wahabism/Salafism throughout Pakistan during the civil war in Afghanistan between 1980 and 1988—when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) along with Pakistan’s then military dictator-cum-Army COAS Gen Mohd Zia-ul-Haq went on to create anti-Shia cults like the Sunni Deobandi and Ahl-e-Hadith inside Pakistan to counterbalance the threat of Shiism—the Islamic Republic of Iran, since the mid-1980s, has been engaged in waging proxy wars against the KSA-financed Pakistani Sunni adherents of Wahabism/Salafism throughout Pakistan.This in turn has, over the years, led to complex relationships of opposing extremist ideologies, cross-border smuggling networks, and alliances based on religio-ethnic faultlines and among several militant Pakistani tanzeems.
The Sunni-Shia sectarian divide is 1,400 years old worldwide, with adherents of Shi’a Islam in Pakistan making up 25% of the country’s population, while the remaining 75% practice Sunni Islam. This makes Pakistan the country with the second-largest Shia community after Iran by number of adherents (India hosts the world’s third-largest Shia community). Globally, Shia Islam constitutes 15% of the total Muslims, while the remaining 75% practice Sunni Islam. Sunni militant tanzeems inside Pakistan include the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba (now known as the Ahle-Sunnat Wal Jama’at or ASWJ), Jundullah and its the Jaish al-Adl/Jaish al-Nasr offshoots, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (affiliates of Al-Qaeda and supporters of the Afghan Taliban), Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and the Khorasan chapter of ISIS (Daesh). On the Shia side, Maulana Mureed Abbas Yazdani formed the Sipa-e-Muhammad Pakistan in the early 1990s. This is the armed wing of Tehreek-e-Jafria Pakistan and has been involved in the assassinations of Sunni Ulama and violence against Pakistan’s Sunni community in Shia-dominated areas of the country. It was banned in Pakistan by President Gen Pervez Musharraf in 2002. It is accused of killing the central leadership of the Sipa-e-Sahabah, starting from Haq Nawaz Jhangvi to the subsequent assassinations in Karachi and Rawalpindi. Its headquarters is in Thokar Niaz Baig, Lahore, and its leader is Syyed Ghulam Raza Naqv,i who was imprisoned in 1996 and released in 2014. It is also alleged to be behind the massacre of students of a Sunni madrassa and the burning down of Madrassa Taleem-ul-Quran in Rawalpindi in 2013.
According to Pakistan’s Federal Ministry of Interior, Punjab province alone has 122 Saudi-funded madrassas and 25 Iran-backed ones. In Balochistan and Peshawar, funding is mostly flowing from KSA, while in the Shia-dominated northern territory of Gilgit-Baltistan inside PoK, money comes almost exclusively from Iran. Pakistani cities like Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi and Multan are also home to large Shia communities. The majority of Pakistan’s Shia community adheres to the Twelver cult, while other sub-sects/cults are the Ismailis, Khojas and Bohras. Most of these are not easily distinguishable by either name or identity. Among Twelver Shias, however, the most vulnerable is the Hazara community in Quetta region as its members are easily recognisable due to their ethnicity and language. Quetta is home to nearly 6,00,000 Shi’ite Hazaras, who have been the victims whenever extremist Sunni tanzeems have gunned down buses packed with pilgrims heading to Iran via the Pakistan-Iran border at Taftan ever since Pakistani Sunni clerics since the mid-1980s began issuing fatwas that declared the Shias as heretics and apostates. In Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the Bangash, along with the Orakzai and the Turi, are the only Pashtun tribes with significant Shia population and they are concentrated around the Parrot’s Beak area of Parachinar in the Upper Kurram Agency, as well as in Hangu and Kohat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Opposing them is the Mehsud—a big Karlani Pashtun tribe based in South Waziristan Agency alongside the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe. The centre of Mehsud tribe’s population is the Makeen-Laddah-Tiarza-Sarwakai belt in South Waziristan. However, the Mehsuds also live in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank and it is they who have provided support for the Iranian Baloch cadres of the Jundullah, almost all of whom are from the Rigi tribe and are also graduates of madrasses located in Karachi and interior Sindh. Between 2003 and 2016, 2,558 Pakistani Shias were killed, while around 600 Shias were killed between 1999 and 2003 and approximately 500 Shia doctors fled the country as a result of the assassination of more than 50 of their colleagues in Karachi alone. In 2012, more than 400 Shias were killed in target killings and bombings, making it possibly the bloodiest year in living memory for the Shia population of Pakistan.
The Jundullah (the name in Arabic stands for ‘soldiers of God’) was created in 2003 by an Iranian Sunni Baloch named Abdol Malek Rigi in Sindh. This tanzeem was also known as the People’s Resistance Movement of Iran He had a Pakistani national identity card by the name of Saeed Ahmed, son of Ghulam Haider. He and his deputy Hamza were arrested by Pakistan (with US help) on February 23, 2010 while on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan, and were subsequently extradited to Iran where they both were executed on June 20, 2010. Abdol Malek Rigi had been educated at Karachi’s Binori Town madrassa and all his murderous activities were focussed on Sestan-Baluchistan, which is Iran’s only Sunni-majority province. Since the previous decade, Jundullah has carried out a number of high-profile terrorist attacks in Iran. These include a 2005 attack on then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s motorcade in Sestan-Baluchistan (one of Ahmadinejad’s bodyguards was killed); a 2006 attack on a bus in Sestan-Baluchistan that killed 18 members of the IRGC (Pasdaran); the abduction and execution of 16 Iranian policemen in 2007; a car-bomb attack on a security installation in Sestan-Baluchistan in 2008 that killed at least four people; a 2009 ambush in Sestan-Baluchistan that killed 12 Iranian policeman; a 2009 bomb-attack on a mosque in Sestan-Baluchistan that killed 25 people and injured 125; and a suicide-bomb attack on October 18, 2009 in Sestan-Baluchistan that killed 42 people, including several senior IRGC officers. All in all, Jundullah since 2003 was responsible for the killing of 154 members of Iranian security forces and other innocent people and wounding of 320 people, Abdol Malek Rigi’s younger brother, Abdol Hamid Rigi, was captured in Pakistan in June 2008 and after being extradited to Iran, he was executed in May 2010 in Zahedan. Abdol Sattar Rigi, another brother of Abdol Malek Rigi, along with Abdol Salam Rigi (who is the cousin of Abdol Malek Rigi)bwas arrested by Pakistani authorities in March 2015 following a tip-off about his movements and consequently the bus they were travelling in was intercepted some 50km south of Quetta. While Abdol Salam Rigi used to head the Jaish al-Adl, Abdol Sattar Rigi headed the Jaish al-Nasr. In February 2014, Jaish al-Adl had abducted five Iranian border-guards outside Sarbaz, a town in Sestan-Baluchistan. The guards were taken to Pakistan and one of them was reportedly killed in captivity while the remaining four were released two months later. Although Iran has since March 2015 been demanding the extradition of both Abdol Salam Rigi and Abdol Sattar Rigi, Pakistan has yet to respond positively and has privately insisted that Teheran curb the activities of India’s Consulate in Zahedan, which it suspects is extending moral, financial and political support to separatist Pakistani Baloch movements like the Baluchistan Liberation Front.
In light of the above, it is not surprising at all that Iran has a multitude of field operatives operating throughout Pakistan, and especially inside Sindh and Balochistan, on various information-gathering and counter-intelligence missions. One such example is a 39 year-old Pakistani Baloch national called Uzair Baloch. On December 28, 2014 Uzair was detained by INTERPOL in Dubai as he was travelling by road to the United Arab Emirates from Muscat, Oman. He was later deported back to Pakistan (prior to this Iran was demanding his return since Uzair was travelling on a genuine Iranian Passport but another an assumed identity) within 30 days where arrest-warrants had earlier been issued for his involvement with targetted killings and extortion. Uzair was formally arrested by Pakistan’s Sindh Rangers on January 30, 2016 on the outskirts of Karachi and was subsequently charged with spying and anti-state activities. On April 12, 2017 he was taken into military custody under the Pakistan Army [and] Official Secrets Act.
The gangster was born on October 10, 1977, to an Iranian Baloch family in a neighborhood of Lyari, outside Karachi. During judicial investigations in 2016, Uzair disclosed that one of his aunts was permanently settled in Iran and was a dual-nationality holder of Iran and Pakistan. In 1987, she had obtained photographs of her nephew (Uzair) in order to make his fake birth certificate under the name of her deceased son, Abdul Ghani, who had died seven years ago at the age of 14. This was a time when it was not mandatory for Iranian birth certificates to have a picture; therefore, forged documents could be easily made by a simple cut-and-paste. In 2006, during on-going operations by the Sindh Police against the criminal gangs of Lyari, Uzair along with his cousin Jalil fled from Pakistan to Iran via Oman. There he applied for and acquired an Iranian National Identity Card and Passport, which was again managed by his aunt. It was in 2011 when the validity of Uzair’s Iranian Passport expired, he along with his associate Abdul Samad, Baloch returned to Iran via road and was able to renew his Passport’s validity through the help of an Iranian friend, Sabir alias Sabri. By 2012 Uzair had been declared a proclaimed offender and a Pakistani court had ruled that proceedings against the offender would be conducted in absentia under Section 19 (10) of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997. In 2014, after the Sindh Rangers initiated full-fledged anti-crime operations in Karachi, Uzair was living with his friend Malik Baloch near Chah Bahar, Iran. There he reportedly came into contact with an individual named Haji Nasir. Uzair has allegedly revealed that Nasir was a resident of Tehsil Mand of Balochistan’s Kech district and was a dual-national of Pakistan and Iran. He was settled in Teheran and owned business and property there. Haji Nasir offered Uzair to relocate to Teheran where he would be provided with a bungalow to reside in. He also told Uzair about his close ties with Iranian intelligence officers and offered to make an introduction. With Uzair’s consent, Haji Nasir arranged a meeting with the Iranian intelligence officials, who asked him for information about Pakistan’s armed forces. He was also asked to brief them about the general security environment of Balochistan and Sindh. Haji Nasir’s name popped up again in a multi-agency joint investigation team (JIT) report of Ahmad Saeed alias Saeed Bharam, an MQM political activist arrested by the UAE’s in March 2016. During investigations after his arrest, Bharam confessed to his connections with Nasir and of interactions with Iranian intelligence officials.
The JIT report, signed by representatives of the Sindh Police, Sindh Rangers, ISI and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), was sent to the Federal Ministry of Interior’s Home Department on April 29, 2016 for “perusal and necessary action”. According to the JIT report, Uzair was involved in “espionage activities by providing secret information regarding army installations and officials to foreign agents (Iranian intelligence officers) which is a violation of the Official Secret Act of 1923”. It was only after nearly 15 months of his detention-without-trial with different Pakistani law enforcement agencies that he was formally arrested and chargesheeted on January 30, 2016.
So, is there a connection between Iran’s on-going proxy wars inside Pakistan and its still undisclosed policy standpoint regarding L’Affaire Kulbhushan Jadhav? Is it in Iran’s and Afghanistan’s interests to keep Pakistan’s Balochistan province on the boil? If yes, will either Afghanistan or Iran even consider allowing anyone from India to use their soil for engaging in subversive activities inside Balochistan and Sindh? If not, then what were Pakistan’s intentions/motivations behind/for kidnapping Kulbhushan Jadhav? And what did it hope to achieve through this incident?
How A Faustian Bargain Was Struck
To get answers to these questions, one first has to map out the mindsets of Pakistan’s military elite in the post-1971 era and the consequent actions of Pakistan’s armed forces against both India and Afghanistan. After December 1971, the vanquished PA developed a deep sense of low self-esteem (and the follow-on inferiority complex) due to the discrediting of the ‘Two-Nation Theory’ (this being the foundational ideology of Pakistan) that led it to conclude that Pakistan’s armed forces could never take on their Indian counterparts in head-on confrontations, i.e. all hopes of attaining and maintaining strategic military parity with India were dashed forever. Concurrently, there was a rise, especially after 1976, of deep-rooted anti-US sentiment that led on November 21, 1979 to the storming and burning of the US Embassy in Islamabad by Pakistani students who were enraged by a mischievous radio news-report claiming that the US had bombed the Masjid-al-Haram, Islam’s holy site in Mecca. This was followed by the creation of Pakistan’s first ‘jihadi tanzeem’, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami, in 1980. Such anti-US passions got further amplified from 1990 onwards after the US decided to go by the book when it came to implementing the provisions of the Pressler Amendment. At that time, the PA also decided to further fuel the fire raging inside the Kashmir Valley in J & K by raising, equipping, financing and mentoring various terrorist tanzeems (operating inside both Afghanistan and J & K) like the Afghan Harkat-e-Inquilab-e-Islami, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (which merged back with the Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami in 1993 to form the Harkat-ul-Ansar),Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). Yet, by 1997, India’s security forces had succeeded in marginalising the effectiveness of the terror campaigns of these tanzeems inside the Kashmir Valley. This, coupled with the steady growth of India’s economic prowess since 1991, forced the PA to conclude that in both politico-military and economic terms, the ever-growing differential between India and Pakistan was such that leave alone strategic parity, India would for all intents and purposes become the permanent ‘big brother’ in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the greater Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Thus, from 1997 onwards, Pakistan has always, without fail, referred to India as South Asia ‘hegemonistic regional bully’ in almost all multilateral fora. Such sentiments became further deep-rooted after mid-1999, following the conduct of OP Vijay/OP Safed Sagar/OP Trishul by India’s three armed services in response to the PA’s OP Badr. This then led a badly-bruised PA to initiate an information warfare (IW) campaign using anti-Islam religiosities that actively encouraged all three armed services and the various paramilitary forces of Pakistan to be extremely scornful about their ‘Kafir’ Indian counterparts—this being the only way of shoring up the morale of Pakistan’s demoralised armed forces.
In the post-9/11 era, during the reign of Pakistan’s President-cum-COAS Gen Pervez Musharraf, this IW campaign was coupled with double-dealing and perfidy at all levels. For instance, while Pakistan from January 2004 till mid-2008 began to discourage the HuM, JeM and LeT from staging ‘fidayeen’ attacks against Indian military targets inside J & K (which began in 1999 and lasted till late 2003), there was a proportional increase in targetted attacks against Indian citizens inside Afghanistan. On November 8, 2003 an Indian telecommunications engineer working for the Afghan Wireless Co was shot dead. On December 9, 2003 two Indian engineers—P Murali and G Vardharai—working on a road project in Zabul province were abducted but were released on December 24 after intense negotiations by Afghan tribal leaders with the Pakistan-supported Afghan Taliban militia, which was demanding the release of 50 imprisoned militants in return for the Indian engineers. On November 19, 2005 Maniappan Kutty, a driver working with India’s Border Roads Organisation’s (BRO) Zaranj-Delaram highway-building project, was abducted and his decapitated body was found on a road between Zaranj, capital of Nimroz, and an area called Ghor Ghori, four days later. On February 7, 2006 Bharat Kumar, an engineer working with a Turkish company, was killed in a bomb-attack by the Taliban in the western province of Farah. On April 28, 2006 an Indian telecommunications engineer working for a Bahrain-based firm in Zabul Province, K Suryanarayana, was abducted and subsequently beheaded after two days. On May 7, 2006 an explosion occurred near the Indian Consulate in the fourth police district of western Herat Province. On December 15, 2007 two bombs were lobbed into the Indian Consulate in Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province. On January 3, 2008 in the first-ever suicide attack on Indians in the country, two Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) soldiers were killed and five others injured in Razai village, Nimroz province. On April 12, 2008 two Indian nationals working for the BRO, M P Singh and C Govindaswamy, were killed and seven persons, including five BRO personnel, sustained injuries in a suicide-bomb attack in Nimroz province. On June 5, 2008 an ITBP trooper was killed and four others injured in an attack by the Afghan Taliban in Nimroz. On July 7, 2008 a suicide attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul killed 66 persons. The killed included two senior diplomats, Political Counsellor V Venkateswara Rao and Defence Adviser Brigadier Ravi Datt Mehta, and ITBP soldiers Ajai Pathaniya and Roop Singh. A day later, on July 8 a bomb was found on a bus transporting 12 BRO personnel in Zaranj.
The above-mentioned events prove beyond a shadow of doubt that between 2004 and mid-2008 while the PA on one hand was trying to give the impression of downscale its involvement in abetting/sponsoring/mentoring terrorism inside J & K due to the back-channel negotiations between the governments of India and Pakistan on a four-point formula that had been proposed by Musharraf in mid-2001 as the optimal way of resolving the issue of J & K, on the other this very same PA under Musharraf was hand-in-league with the Afghan Taliban, i.e. double-dealing, when it came to sabotaging in every possible manner India’s national reconstruction projects inside Afghanistan. This then leads us to ask: what was the justification provided by both Indian PM Dr Manmohan Singh & President/Gen Musharraf for signing the declaration of an ‘irreversible’ peace process on April 18, 2005? Or was the ‘peace process’ then visible/identifiable/definable to/by only Singh and Musharraf and their present-day proponents like Mani Shankar Aiyar, Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, Sudheendra Kulkarni etc etc?
By this time inside Pakistan 80% of its citizens were opposed to their government’s cooperation with the US-led multinational coalition’s ‘war on terror’ because most of the Afghan/Pakistani jihadi tanzeems were now financing and facilitating the terror activities of Al-Qaeda and its various franchises inside Pakistan. During Musharraf’s tenure as the PA’s COAS, two major military campaigns—al-Mizan and Zalzala—were conducted between 2002 and 2006, Operation Silence in July 2007, Operation Mountain Viper in October 2007, and Operation Rah-e-Haq in November 2007 in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) as well as in the Swat Valley of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province. Within the PA, Musharraf was facing increasing criticism from all officer ranks and especially his nine Corps Commanders because they all were finding it extremely hard to explain to their subordinates why a Muslim army was required to kill fellow Muslims when both believed in waging jihad in the name of Islam and that too only against non-Muslim ‘Kafirs’. In other words, the institutional contradictions facing the PA were both ideological (religiosity-based) and doctrinal (because the PA was never trained to conduct population-centric counter-insurgency operations, but rather to engage in low-intensity conflict (LIC) of the type it has been waging in Balochistan province). Consequently, since 2004, the PA got sunk into a quagmire in which it was forced by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to wage a three-front war against the TTP and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in South Waziristan (which also included Chechan and Uighur militants; against the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan in the sensitive Darra Adam Khel-Kohat area of KPK (formerly NWFP) and the Shia-dominated Kurram Agency of FATA; and, against the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), headed by Maulana Fazlullah, and the JeM in the Swat Valley of KPK. The TTP’s cadre base then was more than 20,000 tribesmen and the Abdullah Mehsud from the Alizai clan of the Mehsud tribe from South Waziristan commanded about 5,000 combatants. Other militant groups within the TTP included Maulvi Nazir from the Kaka Khel sub-tribe of the Ahmadzai Waziri tribe (South Waziristan), Hafiz Gul Bahadur from the Ibrahim Khel clan of the Utmanzai Wazir tribe (North Waziristan), the Haqqani network using manpower from the Mezi sub-tribe of the Zadran tribe (North Waziristan), Mangal Bagh (Khyber), TNSM (Swat, Dir, Malakand), and Faqir Mohammad (Bajaur). To top it all, the PA, in order to maintain the morale of its officer corps, began usurping an increasing quantum of fertile land-holdings in both semi-urban and rural areas throughout Pakistan so that these could be doled out at a later day to those officers who were destined for either superannuation or premature retirement due to injuries sustained in the LIC campaigns. This led to an acute sense of alienation and a spike in anti-PA sentiments among Pakistan’s rural masses.
It was this prevailing ground reality that called for a change in the top echelons of the PA in order to usher in a paradigm shift in the PA’s strategic orientation, purely for reasons of institutional self-survival. This resulted in President Musharraf resigning his post as the PA’s COAS on November 27, 2007 after 47 years of military service. He remained as President and was sworn in to a new five-year term, but as a civilian President his power was greatly diminished. The new COAS, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, 55, was previously the Vice-COAS and prior to that he was the DG of ISI. In order to ensure institutional coherence, Gen Kayani had then sought the coalition federal government led by the Pakistan Peopke’s Party (PPP) to take the political responsibility for going after the various jihadi tanzeems so that the PA’s then-prevailing unpopularity didn’t worsen. But though the PPP-led coalition came up with a joint strategy, the opposition PML-N party led by Mian Mohd Nawaz Sharif Sharif refused to oblige because much of its vote banks was among the jihadi tanzeem-supportive religious clergy in Punjab province. A beleaguered Gen Kayani, then faced with an insurgency that threatened to overwhelm the Pakistani state, consequently began to cultivate the anti-India jihadists as well as political Islamists as his valuable allies. Concurrently, this stratagem also served the purpose of eliciting the PML-N’s political ownership of the PA’s on-going and future LIC campaigns against the anti-Pakistan jihadi tanzeems. This ultimately led to the ultimate Faustian bargain: while both the PPP and PML-N wanted the PA to ensure that Musharraf permanently disappeared into political wilderness (albeit in a face-saving manner acceptable to the PA), the PA in turn secured a pledge of reciprocal support from these parties of: 1) the PA’s subversion and ultimately reversal of the Musharraf/Atal Behari Vajpayee-initiated India-Pakistan ‘peace process’, 2) Articulation of Pakistan’s securitised policies dealing with geo-politics and geo-economics by the Rawalpindi-based GHQ and not the Islamabad-based Foreign Office. 3) Ensuring military supremacy of the command-and-control protocols of Pakistan’s nuclear WMDs. This in turn led to an all-party declaration in Pakistan’s National Assembly in early August 2008, which stated that all legislations/agreements/processes (including the India-Pakistan ‘peace process’) enacted during Musharraf’s reign in power were illegal and invalid. In return, Gen Kayani in the second week of August 2008 tried to persuade Musharraf to step down as President and when the latter refused, the former used coercion by placing Musharraf under virtual house-arrest for a week until Musharraf resigned as President on August 18, 2008 and left Pakistan for London via Dubai. Hence, Gen Kayani’s subversion and consequent reversal of the ‘peace process’ wasn’t some kind of mindless perfidy by any stretch of imagination.
HussainOperation Sherdil in August 2008, Operation Sirat-e-Mustaqeem in June 2008, from June 2002 till February 2005 and was previously Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India from 1992 till 1997) to give a series of lectures in all cantonments throughout Pakistan to the mid-level /senior-level officer cadre of the PA that sought to totally demolish all aspects of the ‘peace process’ while amplifying Pakistan’s existential fears of a ‘duplicitous, anti-Muslim and hegemonistic India that was hell-bent upon helping Afghanistan stand on its own feet and thereby ensuring that Kabul would in the not-too-distant future label Pakistan as being the regional hegemonistic bully that actively sought to sabotage all efforts by Afghanistan to attain politico-economic stability. This new IW stratagem of the PA also found support from the People’s Republic of China, which saw this as yet another strand of the collusive threat that could be posed by a China-Pakistan combine in both Central Asia and the IOR against India. The stage was thus set for not only a spike in anti-India terror strikes inside J & K and Afghanistan, but also a surge in the PA’s LIC campaigns throughout FATA between 2009 and 2012. In case of the latter, the PA conducted Operation Rah-e-Rast in May 2009, Operation Brekhna, Operation Eagle Swoop , Operation Mountain Scanner and Operation Mountain Sweep between June and September 2009, Operation Rah-e-Nijaat in October 2009, Operation Khwakh Ba De Sham in March 2010, and Operation Koh-e-Sufaid in July 2011.
Inside Afghanistan, anti-India terror strikes began to spike. On October 8, 2009 the Indian Embassy in Kabul was attacked once again when a suicide-bomber blew up an explosives-laden car outside the Embassy, killing 17 persons and injuring 80+ persons, including three ITBP soldiers.. On October 13, 2008 Simon Paramanathan, a 38-year-old man from Kalakurichi Village in Tamil Nadu’s Villupuram District, working with a food store attached to Italian soldiers deployed in Afghanistan, was kidnapped by the Afghan Taliban in Herat province. Simon died while in the custody of his abductors after four months. On February 26, 2010 nine Indian doctors, including two Major-rank Army officers, who were residing in the Arya Guesthouse (also known as Hamid Guesthouse) in Kabul were killed. At least 10 others, including five Indian Army officers, were injured in the strike that killed eight others, including locals and nationals from other countries. The bombers, believed to be three in number, struck at the guest houses, particularly at Park Residence, rented out by the Indian Embassy for its staffers and those linked to India’s developmental work in Afghanistan. On October 11, 2010 two Indians were killed in a RPG-7 attack launched by the Afghan Taliban on an Indian NGO’s office in Kunar province. On May 10, 2011 the spokesperson of Afghanistan’s the Riyasat-e Amniyat-e Milli (National Directorate of Security, or NDS), Lutfullah Mashal, revealed that the ISI hired two persons, identified as Sher Zamin and Khan Zamin, to kill the Indian Consul General of Jalalabad province. In March 2013 the Afghan tried in vain to try to blow up the under-construction Salma Dam with 1,300kg of explosives On August 3, 2013 during a suicide attack intended to target the Indian Consulate at Jalalabad, nine Afghans, including at least eight children, were killed, and another 24 were wounded. On May 23, 2014 the Indian Consulate in Herat was attacked by heavily armed LeT gunmen. By that time, 219 armed personnel of the ITBP were catering not only to the main Embassy complex in Kabul, but also to the consulates in Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad, Kandhar and Herat. On January 3, 2016 India’s Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif was attacked.
The conduct of anti-India terror strikes inside Afghanistan from late 2003 till today has been directly proportional to India’s increasing economic and military assistance to Afghanistan. In 2003, India signed a tripartite agreement with Iran and Afghanistan for preferential trade practices that would eventually ply through Iran’s Chah Bahar FTIZ and in 2013, committed US$100 million for Chah Bahar port’s development. On January 22, 2009 India handed over to Afghanistan the strategic Delaram-Zaranj highway (Route 606 AH-71) on the main Herat-Kandahar highway. Built at a cost of Rs.600 crore ($135 million), the 215km-long highway was handed over by India’s then External Affairs Minister (now President) Pranab Mukherjee in the presence of the then Afghan President Hamid Karzai and then Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta. A total of six Indians, including a BRO driver and four ITBP soldiers, and 129 Afghans were killed in attacks during the highway’s construction. Besides the highway, India had by then also constructed 58km of inner city roads in Afghanistan. The project was initially estimated to cost Rs.740 crore but the BRO completed it for Rs.600 crore and six months ahead of schedule and in three years with the help of 339 engineers. Due to construction of this black-top road, the journey between Delaram and Zaranj was reduced substantially from 14 hours to 2 hours. This highway also established direct road access to four of the major cities of Afghanistan—Herat, Kandahar, Kabul, and Mazar-e-Sharif. On its part Iran has since built a new transit route to connect its city of Milak to Zaranj in Afghanistan, and has also completed an important bridge over the Helmand River. These road-building projects in Iran and Afghanistan have shortened the transit distance between Chah Bahar and Delaram by 600km, thereby giving Afghanistan-origin exportable commodities/goods duty-free access to Chah Bahar.
India’s state-owned Power Grid Corp also successfully completed a four-year effort in 2011 to build a 202km-long transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri near the Salang Pass on the Hindu Kush mountain range to bring electricity to power-starved Kabul after another 462km-long transmission line was built from the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan border to Kabul. Much of this fell in the ‘snow zone’ at heights reaching up to 3,800 metres ASL. As many as 613 towers have been erected, and these were designed in India to withstand inclement weather. Pakistan had refused the use of its territory for transporting these towers which then had to be sent via Iran. Also, heavy-turbine equipment was moved in what was among the largest Indian airlift operations to Kabul. Until this, the city was running on a single gas-turbine and some 25 heavy-duty diesel generators for which the US was providing $100 million of fuel per annum. Kabul had long power-cuts and matters became worse during winter. With the commissioning of the transmission line and the Chimtala sub-station near Kabul, there is now 120mWe available, which is enough for Kabul. There is now excess power and the Afghanistan government wants India to help start an industrial estate near Kabul. This may be the next big project for India because it has already funded a well-equipped tool-room for skills training.
Also in 2010, Indian water resources management experts were contracted by Afghanistan to draw up feasibility studies and detailed engineering project viability analysis of 12 hydro-power projects with capacity to generate 1,177mWe to be built on the Kabul River. Once the 12 projects get completed, they will store 4.7 million acre-feet (MAF) of water, thereby squeezing the river’s water-flow that reaches Pakistan. After completing the tendering processes, Kabul will initiate construction of the 12 dams with the help of the World Bank (WB), which will provide $7.079 billion as funds. Since Pakistan has failed to construct the Munda Dam on the Kabul River, its case against Afghanistan’s resolve to build the 12 dams has considerably weakened. Four hydro-power projects will be constructed in the Punjshir sub-basin. These include the $332 million Totumdara project that will generate 200mWe and have water storage capacity of 332,510 acre-feet; the $1.174 billion Barak project that will generate 100mWe and store 429,830 acre-feet of water; $1.078 billion Panjshir (100mWe) project with the capacity to store 105,4300 acre-feet of water; and the $607 million Baghdara (210mWe) project with the capacity to store 324,400 acre-feet of water. In the Logur Upper Kabul sub-basin on the Kabul River, four more dams are to be built that include the $72 million Haijana project (72mWe) with water storage capacity of 178,420 acre-feet; $207 million Kajab (15mWe) project with water storage capacity of 324,400 acre-feet; the $356 million Tangi Wadag (56mWe) project with capacity to store 283,850 acre-feet; and $51 million Gat (86mWe) project with water storage capacity of 405,500 acre-feet. Four more dams will be built in the Lower Kabul sub-basin, including the $442 million Sarobi project (210mWe) with the capacity to store 324,400 acre-feet of water; the $1.434 billion Laghman project (1,251mWe) with water storage capacity of 233,568 acre-feet; and the $1.094 billion Konar (A) (94.8mWe) and Kama projects (11.5mWe). After all these projects are completed, Pakistan will suffer a 17% drop in water supply from Afghanistan when the Indus River sleeps during wintertime every year. Pakistan and Afghanistan currently share nine rivers with annual flows of about 18.3 million MAF of which the Kabul River accounts for 16.5MAF, while the River Chitral, which originates from Pakistan, contributes about 8.5 MAF. After it enters Afghanistan this river is called River Kunar. It joins the Kabul River near Jalalabad and then re-enters Pakistan. However, 90% of Afghanistan’s land area is located in the five river basins namely: Panj-Amu Darya River Basin, Northern River Basin, Harirud-Murghab Basin, Helmand River Basin and Kabul River Basin. The total storage capacity of these dams is around 4.7 million acre-feet. It is further estimated that the planned dams will utilise 0.5 MAF water to irrigate an additional 14,000 acres of land. Afghanistan has the right to utilise waters from the Kabul River since the total flow of Kabul River is 21,000 million cubic metres. But the Kunar River, which contributes 15,000 million cubic metes to the Kabul River, originates from Pakistan. Afghanistan’s National Security Council in March 2014 instructed the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Finance to convey Afghanistan’s concerns to the WB regarding Pakistan’s planned construction of the Dasu Dam on the Kabul-Indus River in KPK province. Kabul has since urged all financial donor institutions, including the WB, to prevent the flow of funds for this project without the written and formal agreement of Kabul. The $7 billion Dasu hydro-power project is expected to be completed by 2037. It will be constructed in two stages and four phases and will generate 4,320mWe. The first phase will comprise the installation of the full dam and three of the planned 12 turbines, while phase two, three and four will involve the installation of three more turbines in each phase.
India has already helped build the Salma Dam under a 10-year effort on the upper reaches of Hari Rud River in Herat province. The Rs.1,775 crore project, implemented by India’s state-owned Water & Power Consultancy Servicxe India Ltd (WAPCOS), a company owned by India’s Ministry of Water Resources, involved the construction of a 107.5 metre-high earth-and-rock-fill dam and a 42mWe power house with three units of 14mWe each. It also has a provision for releasing water for the irrigation of 75,000 hectares of land. The reservoir water spreads about 20km in length and 3.7km in width. The gross capacity of the Dam is 633 million cubic metres. The height of the Dam is 104.3 metres, length is 540 metres and width at the bottom is 450 metres. The dam is located 165km east of Heart. All equipment and material were transported from India to Iran’s Bandar-e-Abbas port via sea and then along 1,200km by road from there to Islam Kila border-post at the Iran-Aghanistan border and then a further 300km by road to the site. Kabul o June 4, 2016 renamed the Salma Dam as the Afghan-India Friendship Dam. When the Salma dam began to fill in 2015, in a unique gesture of goodwill and appreciation, hundreds of Afghans braved security threats to build a human chain that held a 100 metre-long Indian Tricolour all the way to the Indian Consulate in Herat.
When it comes to Afghanistan-Pakistan economic ties, there has been a steady downward slide since 2013. For instance, according to IMF statistics, exports from Pakistan to Afghanistan grew from $142 million in 2001 to $2 billion in 2012. In August 2013 Afghanistan assessed that informal bilateral trade totalled an additional $2 bi8llion above what was officially reported. In 2012 32% of Afghanistan’s total exports went to Pakistan, while only 8% of Pakistan’s total exports went to Afghanistan. Of Afghanistan’s imports, 23.5% came from Pakistan, while less than 1% of the latter’s imports originated from Afghanistan. Though trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan has increased substantially from $0.83 billion to $2.38 billion between 2007 and 2013, yet owing to a number of tariff and non-tariff barriers (NTB) mutual trade between the two countries has been declining since 2012. Afghanistan is now the 6th biggest export destination for Pakistan, compared to being the 2nd biggest destination in 2011. Moreover, the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission (JEC), which was established in 2003 to improve bilateral economic cooperation, has proven to be a total failure. The JEC’s 9th session in Kabul in late February 2014 and the earlier 8th session held in January 2012 in Islamabad, tended to be for form’s sake rather than producing anything of substance. Earlier, though the two sides had also signed an updated version of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) in 2010, this allows Afghanistan to transit duty-free goods overland through Pakistan and via Pakistani ports for export and import to other countries, but does not permit India to transit goods through Pakistan for export to Afghanistan, The incentives given to by Kabul Indian and Iranian exporters over the past 10 years have also contributed to the rise of their exports that has shrunk the market for formal exports of Pakistani goods. Iran’s exports to Afghanistan reportedly stood at $1.18 billion in 2013. Afghan traders have also rejected the APTTA banking and procedural instruments for payment in US$ since March 17, 2013. Security problems on both sides of the border have greatly hindered Pakistan-Afghanistan trade. Traders moving goods through Pakistan and Afghanistan often have to pay protection money to the Afghan Taliban to ensure that their goods can move safely, which increases the cost of trade. Afghan traders moving goods from Karachi to the border crossings at Chaman in Balochistan and the Torkham Gate in FATA have to pay extortion fees ranging from $960 to $1,900 per container, often at checkpoints in FATA. The US government has acknowledged that the private contractors who transport military supplies pay off the Afghan Taliban in order to move them safely through Afghanistan. Merchants in Afghanistan also are frequently required to pay off the Afghan Taliban to ensure that their goods are not harmed. Although traders often provide bribes to Pakistani and Afghan Customs officers to evade official duties and levies on their goods when crossing the 2,450km-long (1,519 miles) Durand Line, guards on both sides demand bribes from people moving across and subject them to harassment if they refuse, which has further discouraged cross-border trade. In addition, over the last 15 years, Pakistan has closed its border-crossings multiple times, with the frequency tending to rise when relations between the two countries are at a low ebb. For this reason, most Afghans believe that Pakistan uses border-crossing closures as a bargaining chip to force concessions from Afghanistan. Time and time again, such closures by Pakistani authorities have tended to force prices in Afghanistan higher, as a big chunk of Afghanistan’s imports and exports came through Pakistan.
Due to the above-mentioned reasons, s Having become a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Afghanistan can now import from and export to 163 countries. Consequently, unlike in the past, despite the key Af-Pak border-crossings being closed by Pakistan for almost two weeks at least thrice every year since 2015, prices on Afghan markets have remained stable. And the longer the border-crossings remain closed, the less its impact on Afghan markets becomes, since Afghan businesspeople now have more time to substitute imports from Pakistan with those from Iran, India, China, and Central Asian countries. Consequently, trade volume between Pakistan and Afghanistan has declined from $3 billion a couple years ago to just $500 million in early 2017. This best showcases how Pakistan’s unwritten policy of closing border-crossings as a means of putting pressure on Afghanistan has failed to produce any tangible results. In the meantime, Afghan-Iran trade volume has increased 25%, from $1.5 billion to $2 billion, and now accounts for a quarter of Afghanistan’s total annual trade. As trade with and through Pakistan has become more troublesome, Afghan businesspeople have tilted toward Iran. A number of factors now point to growing commerce between Afghanistan and Iran: the continuing deterioration in relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan; the lifting of international sanctions against Iran; construction of a rail-road between Iran and Afghanistan; and India’s building of berthing facilities in Iran’s Chah Bahar FTIZ and the Zaranj-Delaram Highway in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Afghanistan and India are also working on ways to expand bilateral trade. In 2016, at the Heart of Asia Summit in Amritsar, Afghan and Indian officials looked at establishing a commercial air-corridor so that both countries would no longer have to rely on Pakistan for overland transit trade. As of October 2016, Afghanistan’s exports to India amounted to $79.81 million, with imports at $151.94 million. When Chah Bahar’s berthing facilities become operational in mid-2018, those figures (currently about half the Afghan-Pakistan trade volume) will rise. Unlike Pakistan, which continues to alienate Afghan businesspeople, India has liberalised its visa policy for Afghan businesspeople who can now obtain one-/five-year business visas, and can stay in India for up to 180 days continuously. This has also resulted in a significant drop in Afghan medical tourists visiting Pakistan. The Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce & Industries (ACCI) said recently that Iran has now replaced Pakistan as Afghanistan’s single biggest trading partner. According to the ACCI, 25% of Afghanistan’s total trade volume is with Iran. It added that Afghanistan’s annual trade volume tops $8 billion of which nearly $2 billion is exchanged between Afghanistan and Iran. Construction materials, raw materials and food are the primary goods Afghanistan imports from Iran. In addition to these goods, large quantities of salt, fuel and gas are imported into the country illegally and illicit trade between Afghanistan and Iran amounts to almost $1 billion annually.
The Collusive Conspiracy Explained
For China, Pakistan is low-cost secondary deterrent to India while for Pakistan, China is a high-value guarantor of security against India. This became evident as far back as 1997, when a date was fixed mutually for the meeting of the Division Commanders of the IA and the PLA Army in Leh. At the last moment, the PLA Army sent word that its Division Commander will not be able to go to Leh and that the meeting should instead be held in New Delhi. IA HQ, then headed by the IA’s COAS Gen Ved Prakash Malik, felt that such a meeting will not serve the intended purpose. He, therefore, called off the proposed meeting. The reason behind this change was not Chinese accessibility to Leh, but because Pakistan did not like a senior PLA Army officer visiting J & K. In the latter half of 1999, after OP Vijay/OP Safed Sagar, when all foreign Defence Advisers were invited to visit Drass and Kargil, only the PLA’s Defence Attaché did not avail this invitation. Later, when Gen Malik asked him the reason for his absence, he said informally that the PLA did not want to hurt feelings in Pakistan.
Now, fast-forward to February 25, 2009 when Asif Ali Zardari, the then President of cash-strapped Pakistan, returned home from Beijing for the second time in a few months virtually empty-handed, without any commitment from China for any form of financial aid. During his first visit as President in October 2008, Zardari had failed to secure financial support from Beijing to stave off a balance-of-payments crisis, with Beijing flatly rebuffing a request for concessional loans. It was after this rebuff that Pakistan reluctantly reached agreement with the International Monetary Fund on a $7.6 billion loan facility, which in turn paved the way for Beijing to grant $500 million in bridging loans at market-value interest rates. These loans, however, received only conditional approvals, meaning Pakistan had to offer something in return. And that something was the securing by China of an overland access route to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea via the port of Gwadar in Balochistan, plus a safe air-corridor for evacuating Chinese citizens from either Africa or the Middle East during emergencies. Thus, the seeds of what is now known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) were laid. But for all this to become a reality, both China and Pakistan needed to give a legal framework to the latter’s claim over PoK. And the related first shot across the bow was fired by Beijing in early August 2009 when, without any explanation, it began issuing stapled visas to all Indian citizens hailing from J & K who were scheduled nto travel to destinations inside China. As if on cue, Pakistan followed on August 29, 2009 with a formal plan to annex the Gilgit-Baltistan component of PoK. For providing a legal cover to this land-grabbing scheme, Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani disclosed that the ‘Northern Areas’ will henceforth be called Gilgit-Baltistan, which will have a 15-member Administrative Council that will choose the Chief Minister. There will be six Ministers along with three Technocrat seats and two women seats. This grouping will formulate and approve Gilgit-Baltistan’s annual budgets. In reality, it was just a case of old wine in a new bottle since it involved the mere change of designations of different office-bearers and giving them some additional but marginal rights. Previously Islamabad used to appoint the Chairman, and now that post has been upgraded with the title of Governor, which continues to be appointed by Islamabad. Similarly the Northern Areas Legislative Council (NALC) has been upgraded to the status of Assembly, and existing NALAs Advisers have become Ministers. The post of the Chief Executive has been upgraded to the post of Chief Minister. Furthermore, Gilgit-Baltistan now has an Auditor General and an Election Commissioner that are Pakistanis appointed from Islamabad, as is the case with Lent Officers in Pakistani Administered Kashmir. Lastly, Islamabad-appointed politicians from Gilgit-Baltistan can now sit in Pakistan’s National Assembly, but only as observers.
In December 2010, China’s state-owned Xinhua News Agency, desribed the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control (LAC) as being only 2,000km-long, thereby ignoring the entire 2,056km-long length of that portion of the LAC stretching from Ladakh all the way up to Afghanistan Wakhan Corridor. Xinhua’s reference to the LAC issue was based on an official briefing by the then Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue. When India retaliated by firstly refusing to officially reiterate her support for the ‘One China’ policy and following this up with the abrupt cancellation of the work-permits of 26,000 Chinese expatriates working in India in various business sectors, China blinked and consequently, in April 2011, Beijing quietly agreed to stop issuing stapled visas of J & K residents. Pakistan, however, continued to be China’s proxy and on May 30-31, 2011 during official talks held in New Delhi regarding the demilitarisation of areas around the Siachen Glacier, Pakistan unsuccessfully pushed for China to be represented during negotiations since it is China that, according to Pakistan, controls the Shaksgam Valley.
Another noteworthy partnership between China and Pakistan has been the conduct of The Shaheen series of bi-annual exercises between the PAF and PLAAF, which commenced in 2011 when, for the first time ever as part of Shaheen-I, a PLAAF contingent with four Su-27UBKs from the 8th Flight Academy (also known as ‘Blue Army Aggressors’) deployed to Rafiqui airbase in Shorkot, Pakistan. This exercise, lasting for over two weeks starting March 11, saw the PAF fielding its Mirage VEFs and F-7PGs executing various various air-to-air and air-to-ground combat scenarios. Since then, a total of six such bilateral air exercises have been conducted inside both China and Pakistan, with the scope and scale of such exercises increasing with each successive exercise.
Seeking Moral Equivalence
Soon after the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) returned to power in 2008, its Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari (who had by then replaced the deposed Pervez Musharraf as President) articulated the case for focussing first on economic and trade relations with all its immediate and other regional neighbours. Zardari did done what no other civilian Pakistani politician had ever mustered the courage to do. In an interview to the Wall Street Journal, he declared that India was no longer his country’s arch-enemy: indeed “India has never been a threat to Pakistan”. This was a truly extraordinary statement—if not of strategic reality or political assessment, then at least of intent to terminate Pakistan’s six-decades-long all-encompassing and compulsive hostility with India, rooted in an adversarial self-definition of the Pakistani state by much of its civil/military ruling elite, and expressed in a continuous hot-cold war for most of this period. Not only were Zardari and his “democratic government” not “scared of Indian influence abroad”, he also went a step ahead and called J & K’s and PoK’s militant separatists “terrorists” and had no objection to India’s 123 civil nuclear deal with the US: “Why should we begrudge the largest democracy in the world getting friendly with one of the oldest democracies in the world?” Apart from lavishing generous compliments upon India, which no other Pakistani leader had done till then, Zardari even made Pakistan’s “economic survival” conditional upon better ties and unrestricted trade with India: there’s no other strategy “for nations like us”. Within Zardari’s scheme, Pakistan’s cement factories would cater to India’s huge infrastructure needs, its textile mills would produce textiles to feed India’s growing demand, and Pakistani ports would help India relieve congestion at its own ports. However, for this bold departure from conventional wisdom in Pakistan, Zardari was quickly rebuked by the PA and shown the red-lines by being told in no uncertain terms that while the PA had no intention of being the government, it had every intention and the will to be involved 100% in national governance.
Despite this, the wily Zardari refused to be intimidated and accordingly, he instructed the executive branch of the Govt of Pakistan, then led by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, to authorise Pakistan’s then newly-appointed Ambassador to the US, Dr Husain Haqqani, to begin work on a plan to convince the US State and Defense Departments of the need to do everything possible to ensure civilian supremacy over Pakistan’s military establishment. In this, Dr Haqqani succeeded brilliantly and the consequent result was the five-year Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009—popularly known as Kerry-Lugar–Berman Bill—that was signed into law by then US President Barak Obama on October 15, 2009. The Bill required periodical, once every six months assessments by the US Secretary of State to provide certification that Pakistan’s military wass not subverting Pakistan’s political and judicial processes. These assessments had to include a “description of the extent to which civilian executive leaders and Parliament exercised oversight and approval of military budgets, the chain of command, process of promotion for senior military leaders, civilian involvement in strategic guidance and planning, and military involvement in civil administration“. The assessments also had to verify whether the US$7.5 billion in non-military aid wass being diverted “directly or indirectly” to expand Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme. The Bill also asked Pakistan to cease support for terrorist groups on its soil, dismantle terrorist camps in Quetta, Muridke and other areas that threaten its neighbours. In addition, the Bill asked Pakistan to provide information or direct access to the proliferation network operating in Pakistan without mentioning disgraced nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer ‘Bhopali’ Khan by name. Needless to say, such provisions were viewed by the PA as being “highly intrusive” and it officially raised its concerns and reservations at a meeting of Corps Commanders, chaired by Army COAS Gen Kayani in late October 2009. Unknown to everyone then, behind-the-scenes, the stage was being set by Gen Kayani and the then DG of the ISI Director, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuka Pasha, to bring the PPP-led civilian coalition government to its knees through a series of political subterfuges.
Meanwhile, by mid-2008, Commander Muhammad Ilyas Kashmiri of the JeM (formed after breaking up with the Harkat-ul Jihad-i-Islami, or HUJI) had appeared on the horizon. Born in Bimber (old Mirpur) in the Samhani Valley of PoK on February 10, 1964, Ilyas had passed the first year of a mass communications degree at Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad. He did not continue because of his involvement in jihadi activities. The J & K separatist movement of the early 1990s was his first exposure in the field of terrorism. Then there was the, and ultimately his legendary 313 Brigade. This grew into the most powerful terrorist group in South Asia, with a strongly knit network in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Little is documented of Ilyas’ life. However, he was invariably described as the most effective, dangerous, and successful guerrilla leader in the world. Kashmiri left PoK in 2005 after his second release from detention by the ISI, and headed for North Waziristan in FATA. He had previously been arrested by Indian security forces inside J & K, but had broken out of jail and escaped. He was next detained by the ISI as the suspected mastermind of an attack on then-President Gen Pervez Musharraf in November 2003, but was cleared and released. The ISI picked Ilyas up again in 2005 after he refused to close down operations inside J & K. His relocation to the troubled border areas sent a chill down the spines in Washington DC. The US realised that with his vast experience, he could turn the unsophisticated battle blueprints in Afghanistan into audacious modern guerrilla warfare. Ilyas’ track record speaks for itself. In 1994, he had launched the Al-Hadid operation in New Delhi to secure the release of some of his captured jihadi comrades. His group of 25 included Sheikh Omar Saeed (the abductor of US journalist Daniel Pearl in Karachi in 2002) as his deputy. The group abducted several foreigners, including British, US, and Israeli tourists, and took them to Ghaziabad near Delhi. They then demanded that the Indian authorities release their colleagues. Instead the Indian security forces attacked their hideout. Ilyas escaped unhurt. On February 25, 2000, the Indian Army, as part of a retaliatory cross-LoC raid, killed 14 civilians in the village of Lonjot in PoK after its SF (Para) forces had crossed the Line of Control (LoC). They returned to the Indian side with abducted Pakistani girls, and threw the severed heads of three of them at the Pakistan Army soldiers manning their side of the LoC. In retaliation. Ilyas along with 25 HuJI combatants in the early hours of February 27, 2000 attacked the Indian Army’s Ashok listening post in the Nakyal sector at Nowshera, Rajouri district, and ambushed and killed seven Indian soldiers, and beheaded 24 year-old Sepoy Bhausaheb Maruti Talekar of the 17 Maratha Light Infantry and left behind his decapitated body. Talekar’s severed head was then paraded in the bazaars of Kotli in PoK. Soonm thereafter, Ilyas was felicitated by Gen Pervez Musharraf and rewarded with Pakistani Rs.1 lakh for bringing back “the head of an Indian soldier” (Ilyas was reportedly killed on June 3, 2011 by a CIA-mounted drone strike against a compound in the Ghwakhwa area of South Waziristan).
Ilyas’ deadliest operation took place in the Akhnoor cantonment in J & K against the Indian Army in 2002. In this, he planned attacks involving 313 Brigade divided into two groups. Senior Indian Army officials were lured to the scene of the first attack of which two were injured (in contrast, the PA did not manage to injure a single Indian Army General in the previous four wars), and some were killed. This was one of the most telling setbacks for India in the long-running insurgency in J & K. With Kashmiri’s immense expertise in Indian operations, he stunned Al-Qaeda leaders with the suggestion that expanding the theatre of war was the only way to overcome the present impasse. He presented the suggestion of conducting such a massive operation inside India that it would bring India and Pakistan to war. With that, all proposed operations against Al-Qaeda would be brought to a grinding halt, he opined. Al-Qaeda excitedly approved the proposal to attack India. Kashmiri then handed over the plan to a very able former PA Major from the Special Service Group (SSG), Haroon ‘Ashik’ Rasheed, who was also a former LeT commander and was still very close to LeT chiefs Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi and Abu Hamza. Haroon knew about a contingency ISI plan for a low-profile routine proxy operation in India to be executed by the LeT in the event of an all-out war between India and Pakistan. It had been in the pipeline for several years prior to 9/11, but was eventually shelved. The former Army Major, with the help of Ilyas Kashmiri’s men, hijacked this very ISI contingency plan and turned it into the devastating 26/11 attacks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008. It was almost identical to 9/11 in that it aimed to provoke India to invade Pakistan in the same manner as 9/11 had prompted the US to invade Afghanistan. The purpose of 26/11 was to distract Pakistan’s attention from the ‘War on Terror’, thereby allowing Al-Qaeda the space to manipulate its war against NATO in Afghanistan.
As a result of subsequent investigations conducted by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), 20 militants associated with the LeT were chargesheeted for being actively involved in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and they still appear in the ‘fugitives’ category. They—all Pakistani nationals—include Muhammad Amjad Khan from Karachi, Iftikhar Ali of Faisalabad, Sufyan Zafar of Gujranwala, Muhammad Usman Zia of Rawalpindi, Muhammad Abbas Nasir of Khanewal, Javed Iqbal of Kasur, Mukhtar Ahmad of Mandi Bahauddin, Ahmed Saeed of Batagram, and Muhammad Khan of Balochistan. To this must be added Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younis Anjum who are now undergoing trial in Pakistan. Four others—Abdullah Ubaid, Zafar Iqbal, Abdur Rehman Abid and Qazi Kashif Niaz—were also detained after being picked up from the Muzaffarabad-based Baitul Mujahideen HQ in PoK, but were not chargesheeted. However, according to India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), the following were the key players behind 26/11: Brigadier Riaz, Major Sajid Mir, Major Samir Ali, Major Iqbal, Major Abdur Rehman Hashim (Pasha), Major Haroon Ashik, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Muzammil Bhat, Mazhar Iqbal (Abu Kafa), Abdul Wajid, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed, Younis Anjum, Abu Qama, Abu Hamza, Yakub, Ehsanullah, Saad Shabbir, Kasim, Hassan, Rashid Abdullah, Abu Usama, Imran, and Abu Shoaib. The last one is Indian citizen Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal. In August 2009 India has shared its sixth and last dossier given to Pakistan and all these dossiers were also shared with as many as 16 countries including Australia, US, UK, France, Israel, Germany, Canada, Japan and Singapore and others whose citizens were killed in the attacks.
What, however, remains unexplained till this day is the NIA’s inability till this day to link the perpetrators of 26/11 terror-attacks with those responsible for the Samjhauta Express bombing on February 18, 2007, when IEDs packed into suitcases located in the upper compartments in coaches GS-03431 and GS-14857, both filled with passengers, just after the train passed Diwana station near the Indian city of Panipat, 80km north of New Delhi. Sixty-eight people were killed in the ensuing fire and dozens more were injured. Of the 68 fatalities, most were Pakistani civilians. Both the Indian and Pakistani governments had then condemned the attack, and had speculated that the perpetrators intended to disrupt improving relations between the two nations, since the attack came just a day before the then Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri was to arrive in New Delhi for talks with Indian leaders. An official US report had subsequently declared Arif Qasmani to be involved in this attack (Read:
Birth Of A New Offensive Psy-Ops/Information Warfare Stratagem
The year 2009 began with a stinging, globally publicised lecturing to Pakistan by the then Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in Yekaterinburg in Russia on June 16, 2009. where he was attending the Brazil-Russia-India-China (BRIC) and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summits. “I am happy to meet you, but my mandate is to tell you that the territory of Pakistan must not be used for terrorism”. This was how Dr Manmohan Singh began his crucial meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on that day. This statement, made in the full glare of the assembled global mass-media (which also recorded these soundbytes and subsequently broadcast them), hit Zardari like a well-aimed arrow as the terribly embarrassed Pakistani President quickly interrupted the PM to ensure that the assembled members of the mass-media were asked to leave the meeting room. Those few dramatic moments had served Dr Singh two crucial purposes: firstly, Pakistan could no longer showcase the meeting as proof that it was again business as usual between the two countries. Secondly, Dr Singh managed to preclude any criticism back home that India had capitulated before Pakistan. Several diplomatic obeservers had then priminently speculated if Dr Singh’s acerbic comments were by “design or happenstance”.
But unknown to India as well as Pakistan’s civilian government at that time, as part of a sustainable perception management exercise (that included elaborate psychological/information warfare components initiated by Gen Kayani immediately after he took over as the PA’s COAS and entrusted for implementation to both the ISI’s DG and to Maj Gen Athar Abbas, the then DG of the Inter Services Public Relations, or ISPR (from January 2008 through to June 2012), all-out efforts were being made to portray Pakistan not as a perpetrator of state-sponsored terrorism, but rather as a victim of state-sponsored terrorism being perpetrated by Afghanistan and India together as part of a stratagem of collusive coercion, i.e. Islamabad was striving for both moral equivalence with India, as well as mounting a full-spectrum counter-attack in the information warfare domain. The ISI and the ISPR were instructed to work consistently and creatively to turn the tide in terms of public imagination in favour of Pakistan’s armed forces, this being a counterweight to the corrupt, unaccountable and inefficient image of the country’s political class. The PA’s COAS was thus projected as being liberal, progressive, thoughtful, professional and inspirational, while on the other hand various social media tools and SMS texting were employed for spreading rumours with the intent of destabilising political opponents and keeping the political class, the judiciary and civil society deeply divided. Such deliberate and manufactured acts were also the hallmarks of manipulating Pakistan’s highly clientelised and politicised print/electronic/social media structures for the purposes of controlling the securitised national narrative and establishing a new national discourse.
Thus, there was a clear securitised strategic objective behind such image/event/perception management exercises: building capacity domestically and internationally to compete in a media war with India, whose first and seconds round were globally won by India in both 1999 (when the PA was successfully portrayed as being a rogue institution) and again in November 2008 when Pakistan was typecast as a failing state that was being overwhelmed by regressive religiosity. The period from 2002 till 2012 had seen a dramatic growth of Pakistan’s private broadcast and electronic media: 89 private TV channels were launched and 26 foreign channels were given broadcast rights. In addition, 138 licences for FM radios were granted, of which 115 were started by 2012. Consequently, exercising total control over them in order to capture discourse formulation was deemed imperative by the ISI. Hence, the ISI/ISPR combine’s perception management exercises imposed certain red lines that one was not supposed to cross, and ideological contradictions that served as fodder for various internal conflicts in all the provinces as well as inside PoK were to be presented as being externally driven. The image of a nationalist soldier who is highly professional and yet upholds the religious and cultural values of an Islamic republic had to be integral to the national discourse both inside Pakistan as well as abroad. Consequently, by 2010 the ISPR established a private radio broadcast channel, called 96 International Radio Network, which was the second largest after state-run Pakistan Broadcasting Corp, and creation was in contravention of the Rules of Business of the Govt of Pakistan. Till today, no verdict has been delivered by the judiciary in response to various petitions that were filed to challenge the functioning of this FM radio channel. Concurrently, the ISI/ISPR began a process of cajoling various Pakistani academic institutions into inviting military-friendly journalists to intellectual debating events in order to propagate the securitised national narrative of the country’s armed forces. The narrative stated that since the country cannot survive without its armed forces or cannot stand up to the existential threat emanating from India, it must bear all costs (like eating grass for 1,000 years if need be) for sustaining a strong militarised defence. Such an Indian-centric national security agenda was/is over-arching and will not allow national security to be defined in any other way than as an external threat. This in turn means that the state’s imagination of itself and the region around it remains captured by a sense of insecurity from India, which in turn signifies the dominance of defence over development, i.e. a martial rule mindset that is extremely scornful about any notion of a welfare state. On the external front, the ISPR began identifying and facilitating non-Pakistani, usually Anglo-Saxon scholars, to write military-friendly books. In addition, an endowment fund was created by the ISI to fund scholars in select think-tanks located in the US and European Union.
First indication of Pakistan’s new psy-op/information warfare counter-offensive came on July 3, 2009 when Lt Gen Pasha at his HQ in Islamabad met with the Indian Defence Adviser posted at the High Commission on during which it was reportedly communicated to India that the ISI had in its possession certain materials connected with India’s support for separatist/subversive Baloch movements. Matters subsequently became crystal-clear on July 16, 2009 when India’s then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh met with his Pakistani counterpart, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, on the sidelines of NAM (Non-Aligned Movement) Summit at Sharm-el-Sheikh. The subsequent joint statement stated: “Both Prime Ministers recognised that dialogue is the only way forward. Action on terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue process and these should not be bracketed. Prime Minister Gilani mentioned that Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas.” While the Indian PM was heavily criticized back in India for acceding to Pakistan’s point-of-view, his Pakistani counterpart was jubilant because he had secured moral equivalence by inserting the world ‘Balochistan’, meaning he had verbally raised the issue of India’s alleged moral support for non-violent Baloch separatist movements.
By then, the PA’s LICs against the TTP and its Al-Qaeda supporters inside Swat Valley and FATA were in full swing and hence, in order to provide some cosmetic relief to a still-enraged India, Lt Gen Pasha on September 10, 2009 attended an iftar hosted by India’s then High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal on behalf of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. He was among the earliest guests to arrive at the maximum-security five-star Hotel Serena and stayed on for nearly 45 minutes, chit-chatting with the invited Pakistani and foreign guests from the diplomatic world and their Indian hosts. Wearing a black sherwani over a white shalwar, the small-built Lt Gen Pasha blended in with the other, mostly Pakistani guests. Many did not even notice his presence until it was brought to their attention. Lt Gen Pasha broke his fast with a bowl of fruit; he was seated at the head table along with Sabharwal and several other Pakistani guests, including the former Foreign Minister, Gohar Ayub Khan (the late Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s son), ANP leader Hashem Babar and some well-known TV anchors. The guests in attendance included former diplomats, foreign Defence Advisers, local journalists, politicians, lawyers, civil society representatives and businessmen. “It’s a huge gesture by him,” said the former ISI DG, Lt Gen (Ret’d) Asad Durrani. When asked if things will improve between the two countries, Lt Gen Pasha answered: “Yes, I think they certainly will”. When one TV anchor-person, Hamid Mir, arrogantly said that he was sure they would not, the good-humoured riposte by the ISI’s DG was: “You seem to be giving a fatwa”. Lt Gen Pasha stayed to offer namaaz after breaking his fast, and left soon after in a flurry of bodyguards and Indian officials who escorted him to the door. This was the first time that a serving military official, let alone the ISI’s DG with a well-known dislike for India, has attended an official sponsored Indian event in Islamabad. And he took this step not due to any new-found love for India, but to demonstrate to one and all that Pakistan no longer had to lose face to India because the latter too was now well on the way to being branded, portrayed and painted as a country that was no longer being perceived as either the sole aggrieved party or the one with moral ascendancy.
By the last quarter of 2009, Gen Kayani was at the centre of five projects that were critical to the long-term objectives of the PA: 1) Guaranteeing the political and societal primacy of the Pakistan Army. 2) Extricating the PA from an unwinnable counter-insurgency quagmire by finding ways to manoeuvre a face-saving exit. 3) Escalating support to the Afghan jihadist networks striving to create an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan so that after securing political power in a future regime in Kabul, their influence could be used to scale back the PA’s conflict with the TTP at home. 4) Linked to this objective, Gen Kayani then also began working to heal his predecessor’s historic rupture with the rogue domestic jihadists (dubbed as ‘miscreants’ by the ISPR in all its press-releases of that timeback in early 2004—a constituency that was once standing shoulder-to-shoulder with state-mentored tanzeems like the LeT and Je-M, but had subsequently been increasingly supporting the TTP. 5) Re-inventing of Pakistan’s India-centric securitised national narrative so the purpose of uplifting the fighting morale of the highly confused/demoralised land warriors of the PA. For this, extensive use was made of the contents of a booklet called On India: A Study in Profile (commissioned by the PA’s Faculty of Research & Doctrinal Studies and published by the military-owned Services Book Club in 1990) that had been authored by Lt Gen Javed Hassan—who as FCNA had played a key role commanding the combined PA/NLI forces during OP Badr in 1999. The resultant narrative for all serving officers of all the three armed services was that “never-ending instability in South Asiais driven by the incorrigible militarism of the Hindus. For those that are weak, the Hindu is exploitative and domineering.”
Results of this 5-point project became visible from early 2010. It was in February 2010 that Gen Kayani told a select band of Pakistani journalists (that had been pre-identified by the ISPR as being pro-establishment) that the PA was an ‘India-centric institution’, adding that this “reality will not change in any significant way until the Kashmir issue and water disputes are resolved”. On April 30, 2010 during the first-ever Martyrs’ Day celebration staged by the PA’s GHQ at the Yadgaar-i-Shuhada memorial, Gen Kayani self-righteously declared that “the Army is the nation, and the nation is with the Army” (i.e. Pakistan’s citizenry will have to endure even the unendurable, if need be, in support of realising the goals of a military-centric/securitised national narrative). He went on to explain that “there is no greater honour than martyrdom, nor any aspiration greater than it. When people are determined to achieve great objectives, they develop the faith needed to trust their lives to the care of Allah. We are well aware of the historical reality that nations must be willing to make great sacrifices for their freedom. I am proud that the nation has never forgotten the sacrifices of its martyrs and holy warriors”. In saying so, Gen Kayani had clearly equated all the state-sponsored jihadi tanzeems of Pakistani and Afghan origin with the PA. When a furious India, represented by Foreign Minister S M Krishna, expressed outrage against such a brazen declaration by the PA during his talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad on July 15, 2010, a bruising showdown ensued between the two, which in turn further undermined the fragile dialogue between the two countries. The PA’s GHQ, on the other hand, was overjoyed because it was of the view that such talks were counter-productive unless and until India stopped deliberately dismissing Pakistan’s fears about an accretion of Indian military forces inside J & K post-1999, and the embracing since mid-2004 of the Indian Army’s ‘Pro-Active Strategy’, which was dubbed by the global print/electronic media as the ‘Cold Start’ warfighting doctrine. It needs to be explained here that mutual adherence to the November 2003 ceasefire along the LoC was based on an unwritten agreement, which in essence stipulated that neither side would reinforce its fortifications along the LoC—a measure first agreed to after the 1971 war. In 2006, the two sides exchanged drafts for a formal agreement. Since then, the negotiations had stalled over differing ideas on what kind of construction was permissible. Efforts to sign a formal agreement, though, had collapsed in 2006 itself, amid disputes over the rules governing the construction of new defensive fortifications. In essence, while India accepted that there should be no new construction, she wanted to be allowed to expand counter-infiltration measures and expand existing infrastructure. India was insisting that she needed to expand counter-infiltration infrastructure because of escalating operations by Pakistan-mentored jihadist tanzeems across the LoC. Pakistan in turn was arguing that India’s own figures showed a sharp decline in operations by foreign jihadists in J & K, to which India’s response was that it was the fencing of 550km out of the 778km-long LoC and the multi-sensor/multi-tier Indian counter-infiltration grid that was responsible for a drastic reduction in LoC infiltration-levels. In the first quarter of 2010, Pakistan as a confidence-building measure had proposed that medium-artillery assets of both countries be moved back by 30km into the rear on either side of the LoC. But this too was dismissed by India. And on July 24, 2010, following intense lobbying by the Obama Administration, Gen Kayani successfully secured an extension of his term as COAS by three years. This was followed by Lt Gen Pasha, who was appointed as the ISI’s DG in 2008, being granted a one-year extension in March 2011 and was scheduled to retire on March 18, 2012 Lt Gen Pasha had requested Gen Kayani in December 2010 to relieve him of his duties as the DG of ISI.
Unravelling The Cross-LoC Beheadings
The PA’s desire to go on the counter-offensive against the ruling civilian political elite became a reality in the most unexpected manner. Following the conduct of OP Neptune’s Spear on May 2, 2011 by the US inside the Abbottabad Compound, a full-blown civil-military crisis emerged that led to the subsequent ‘Memogate Affair’. Dr Husain Haqqani is alleged to have written a memo to the then US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, asking for his assistance in installing a ‘new security team’ in Islamabad that would be friendly to the US. After initially denying any knowledge of this memo, Admiral Mullen’s spokesman confirmed that he received it but had ignored it because it was not credible. Dr Haqqani insisted that he had nothing to do with the memo. If the memo was authentic, it would had reinforced politically toxic charges that the PPP-led coalition federal government was colluding with the US against the interests of the PA. In addition to the memo’s contents, transcripts of Blackberry messenger conversations between Dr Haqqani and Mansoor Ijaz, a US citizen of Pakistani origin who claims to have delivered the memo to Admiral Mullen via an intermediary, on the orders of Dr Haqqani, also emerged in the public domain. The conversations showed Dr Haqqani allegedly discussing the wording of the memo with Ijaz and telling him to go ahead. “'Ball is in play now. Make sure you have protected your flanks,” Ijaz allegedly told Dr Haqqani after handing over the memo. The memo had also accused Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani of plotting to bring down the civilian government in the aftermath of OP Neptune’s Spear, which in turn led to intense and highly unusual domestic criticism of the PA. The memo had asked Admiral Mullen for his “direct intervention” with Gen Kayani to stop this. However, many have questioned the logic of this, suggesting that the ‘Memogate Affair’ was a conspiracy cooked up by the PA to either embarrass the government or remove Dr Haqqani as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US.
Meanwhile, ties between India and Pakistan had been on a mend, thanks to some Indian initiatives aimed at strengthening the hands of Pakistani’s civilian government. Dr Singh had invited Yusuf Raza Gilani to watch the Cricket World Cup semi-final that was being played at Mohali on March 30, 2011.
A day before the meeting of the two PMs, Union/Federal Home Secretaries from both countries were scheduled to meet to discuss the progress on the 26/11 terror-attack probe by Pakistani agencies. Focus was also on economic ties. In April 2011, the Commerce Secretaries had met in Islamabad. The thrust was on Pakistan granting the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India, and India removing the non-tariff barriers to Pakistani products destined for India. On July 27, 2011 Pakistan’s then Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar, within hours of her arrival in New Delhi, met separatist APHC leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and others at the Pakistan High Commission. Later, delegation-level talks were held, with the Indian side led by then External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and accompanied by then Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, then Foreign Secretary-designate Ranjan Mathai, the then Joint Secretary in-charge of Pakistan in the Ministry of External Affairs Y L Sinha, India’s then High Commissioner to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal and other senior officials. Khar’s delegation included the then Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, the then DG for South Asia in Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry Zehra Akbari, and Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik. Khar had then stated that this meeting promised a new era in bilateral cooperation since Islamabad was committed to the process of normalisation of bilateral relations. “The two Ministers held discussions on the issue of J & K (meaning when the issue came up on the agenda for discussion, the Indian side asked when was Pakistan going to withdraw from PoK in accordance with Step-1 of the UNSC Resolution No.47, upon which the Pakistani side would baulk at it and say that it had something else in mind, upon which the Indian side would say if that’s the case then UNSC Resolution No.47 would remain unimplementable and hence there was no point in any further discussions on this issue during this meeting, and it was therefore time to move on to the next item on the agenda) and agreed to the need for continued discussions in a purposeful and forward looking manner with a view to finding a peaceful solution by narrowing divergences and building convergences,” said the ensuing joint statement. Later, Khar said: “It is our desire to make the dialogue process uninterrupted. Pakistan desires to open a new chapter of amity and understanding with India”. But unknown to Khar (who was honestly implementing Asif Ali Zardari’s vision for regional economic integration with all of Pakistan’s immediate neighbours and she had even manged to get the ‘yes’ nod from GHQ), the PA was in no mood to oblige the civilian government and allow it to move on to the next step, which was seamless regional connectivity within SAARC for facilitating overland transportation of goods. And this was because the PA was dead-set against offering overland transit trade rights that would have enabled India to send goods to Afghanistan. The India-Pakistan bonhomie had therefore to be sabotaged at all costs and if possible, even reversed, which in turn would cause severe embarrassment and heartburn among the civilian government functionaries, while the Govt of India would once again be forced by public opinion to freeze all its interactions with its Pakistani counterpart. And what better way to achieve this other than the staging of a barbaric, horrific incident and then claiming plausible deniability? Nor would this be the first time in recent years along the LoC despite the prevailing ceasefire.
On June 5, 2008, the PA’s troops attacked the Kranti border observation post near Salhotri village in Poonch, killing 2/8 Gurkha Regiment soldier Jawashwar Chhame. The retaliation, when it came, was savage: Pakistani officials have since alleged that Indian Army troops beheaded a soldier and carried his head across on June 19, 2008, in the Bhattal sector in Poonch. Four Pakistani soldiers, UNMOGIP was told, had died in the raid. On the afternoon of July 30, 2011, the PA’s Border Action Team (BAT) struck a remote post near Karnah in Gugaldhar Ridge in Kupwara. The Indian Army subsequently hushed up the beheading of Havildar Jaipal Singh Adhikari and Lance Naik Devender Singh of 19 Rajput Regiment. The BAT stormed the post while a handing-taking over was on between 19 Rajput and 20 Kumaon in 28 Division’s area of responsibility, conducted the beheadings and took the heads along with them to the other side. The BAT had used rafts to penetrate India’s defences along the LoC. The bodies of the two dead soldiers were sent to their families in Uttarakhand in sealed caskets as they were badly mutilated, and cremated as such. A few days after the beheading, the Indian Army discovered a video-clip from a Pakistani militant who was killed in an encounter while crossing into J & K, showing Pakistanis standing around the severed heads of Adhikari and Singh displayed on a raised platform. After repeated recce over two months, the Indian Army launched the retaliatory OP Ginger on August 30. Five Indian and three Pakistani soldiers were killed in a shooting between August 30 and September 1, 2011 across the LoC at the Keran sector in Kupwara district/Neelum Valley. On the night of August 31, an Indian border post was fired at by Pakistani troops. On September 1, 2011 three PA soldiers, including a JCO, were beheaded in an Indian Army raid on a post in the Sharda sector, across the Neelam Valley in Kel. Maj Gen S K Chakravorty, the then GOC of 28 Division, had planned and executed this operation. To carry it out, at least seven reconnaissance—physical and aerial surveillance conducted by Searcher Mk.2 MALE-UAVs—missions were carried out to identify potential targets. Consequently, three PA posts were determined to be vulnerable: Police Chowki, a PA post near Jor, and the Hifazat and Lashdat lodging points. The mission was to spring an ambush on Police Chowki to inflict maximum casualty. Different teams for ambush, demolition, surgical strike and surveillance were constituted. The operation was deliberately planned for being conducted just a day before Eid-ul-Fitr as it was the time when the PA least expected a retaliation. About 25 soldiers from the SF (Para), reached their launch-pad at 3pm on August 29 and hid there until 10pm. They then crossed over the LoC to reach close to Police Chowki. By 4am on August 30, the planned day of the attack, the ambush team was deep within enemy territory waiting to strike. Over the next hour, claymore mines were placed around the area and the raiding party took positions for the ambush, waiting for clearance through a secure communications channel. At 7am on August 30, the raiders saw four PA soldiers, led by a JCO, walking towards the ambush site. They waited till the Pakistanis reached the site, then detonated the mines. In the explosions all four were grieviously injured. Then the raiders lobbed grenades and fired at them. One of the PA soldiers fell into a stream that ran below. The raiders then rushed to chop off the heads of the other three dead soldiers. They also took away their rank insignias, weapons and other personal items. The raiders then planted pressure-IEDs beneath one of the bodies, primed to explode when anyone attempted to lift the body. Hearing the explosions, two PA soldiers rushed from their post but were killed by a second raiding team waiting near the ambush site. Two other PA soldiers tried to trap the second team but a third raiding team covering them from behind eliminated the two. While the Indian raiders were exfiltrating, another group of PA soldiers were spotted moving from Police Chowki towards the ambush site. Soon they heard loud explosions, indicating the triggering of the pressure-IEDs planted under the body. At least two to three more PA soldiers were killed in that blast. The operation had lasted 45 minutes, and the Indian team left the area by 7.45am to head back across the LoC. The first team reached an Indian army post at 12pm and the last party by 2.30pm. They had been inside enemy territory for about 48 hours, including for reconnaissance. At least eight PA troops had been killed and another two or three more may have been fatally injured in the action. Three Pakistani heads—of Subedar Parvez, Havildar Aftab and Naik Imran—three AK 47s and other weapons were among the trophies carried back by the SF (Para) raiders. But this was not without the heart-pounding moments. 28 Division HQ got a message on its secure line that one of the raiders had accidentally stepped over a landmine and blew his finger while exfiltrating. He came back safely with his buddies. The severed Pakistani heads were photographed, and buried on the instructions of senior officers. Two days later, the GOC of XV Corps turned up and asked the team about the heads. When he came to know that they had been buried, he was furious and asked the SF (Para) to dig up the heads, burn them and throw the ashes into the Kishenganga, so that no DNA traces are left behind. Those instructions were complied with.
Such cross-LoC decapitations had been going on since the late 1990s. On the night of March 26-27, 1998 the LeT had massacred 29 Hindu villagers at Prankote and Dhakikot by slitting the throats of their victims, which included women and infants. In late April 1998 the massacre of 21 villagers in Binda Mohri Sehri, 600 metres across the LoC inside PoK, and the bombing in June of a Lahore-bound train, shortly after an explosion in Jammu, are both believed by Pakistan to have been carried out by Indian security agencies. Pakistan admitted on May 4, 1998 that an Indian special operations forces unit had killed 22 civilians at the village of Binda Mohri Sehri in Bandala, in the Chhamb sector. Two villagers were decapitated and the eyes of several others were allegedly gouged out by the raiders, who comprised a dozen men, all dressed in black. They struck in the middle of the night and dropped leaflets to mark the attack. “Vengeance Brigade,” one leaflet said. “Evil deeds bear evil fruit,” said another. “Ten eyes for one eye, one jaw for a single tooth,” said a third. The PA claimed to have recovered an India-made watch from the scene of the carnage, along with a hand-written note which asked: "How does your own blood feel?" In late 1999 Capt Gurjinder Singh Suri, posted on the LoC with 12 Bihar Regiment took a team of Ghaataks across the LoC to take out Pakistani posts in retaliation of an earlier attack. While Captain Suri was killed in the assault, he was posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, India’s second-highest military gallantry award. Another raid, authorised by then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2000, and conducted by India’s 9 SF (Para) on the night of January 21-22, 2000, seven PA soldiers were alleged to have been captured in a raid on a post in the Nadala enclave, across the Neelam River. The seven soldiers, wounded in fire, were allegedly tied up and dragged across a ravine running across the LoC. The bodies were returned, according to Pakistan’s complaint, bearing signs of brutal torture. This raid was intended to avenge the killing of Captain Saurabh Kalia, and five soldiers–sepoys Bhanwar Lal Bagaria, Arjun Ram, Bhika Ram, Moola Ram and Naresh Singh–of the 4 Jat Regiment. On March 2, 2000 when LeT militants massacred 35 Sikhs in Chattisinghpora, a raiding team from 9 SF (Para) was sanctioned by Vajpayee to carry out a raid inside Pakistan. Led by a Major, the team went into Pakistan and came back after killing over 28 Pakistani soldiers and militants. On September 18, 2003 Indian troops, Pakistan alleged, killed a JCO, or junior commissioned officer, and three soldiers in a raid on a post in the Baroh sector, near Bhimber Gali in Poonch. The raiders, it told UNMOGIP, decapitated one soldier and carried his head off as a trophy.
On October 22, 2011 an Indian Army SA.315 Lama/Cheetah helicopter was launched from Leh airport, the HQ of the Army’s XIV Corps, to repair a Dhruv ALH helicopter that was stranded at Drass. About 30 minutes into the flight, the pilot and co-pilot realised that they were low on fuel and decided to refuel at Kargil and had apparently spotted the Kargil airport from air. The SA.315 had only about 20 litres of fuel on board. However, the Magellan GPS navigation receiver on the SA.315 was giving a different reading. After a quick consultation, the aircrew decided to override the GPS coordinates and shift to manual flying using prominent terrain features as a guide. The aircrew then spotted a second airfield and its fuel-oil dumps. The SA.315 landed on this airfield, and much to the surprise of the aircrew, they were approached by a man wearing a Pathani dress. Although perplexed to have been met by personnel who weren’t in Army uniform, the aircrew—perhaps in a hurry to reach Drass—asked for the SA.315 to be refuelled. And seconds later, they allegedly realised that they had inadvertently crossed over to PoK and landed in an area containing the PA’s 90 Medium Regiment. Meanwhile, another independent mistake happened. The Air Observation Post (AOP), positioned along the LoC, picked up a helicopter flying into Pakistan and reported back to XIV Corps about an alleged Pakistani intrusion into Indian airspace (because at that time the PA too was operating SA.315s). Air intrusions do happen and at times, are deliberately done to test the response systems of the enemy. As the XIV Corps got busy in determining a response to the Pakistani air intrusion, another separate input reached the XIV Corps HQ as well at about 1.15pm—it said that an Indian SA.315 was missing. For the next 45 minutes or so, till the Pakistani media reported that an Indian military helicopter had been brought down in the Kargil-Olding Sector, India at that time had no clue that the SA.315 reported missing and the alleged Indian airspace violation by Pakistan were one and the same. The Army’s HQ Northern Command informed Army HQ soon after about the goof-up. Army HQ then alerted the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Director General of Military Operation (DGMO)—who has a hotline to his Pakistani counterpart—was on the phone as well. By this time, the two aircrew of the Indian Army Aviation Corps were in the Officers’ Mess of 90 Medium Regiment. The CO of the Regiment and other senior officers of the PA rushed to the airfield. And, even though there were some doubts in the initial hours of the crisis as to how Pakistan would react to this incident, the situation at the airfield was different. The Indian aircrew were told soon after they landed that mistakes do happen when flying through such terrain. Soon, however, by about 3pm, Pakistan decided to send the aircrew and the SA.315 back. The SA.315 was refuelled—as was the original idea—and given clearance for takeoff. The PA, however, kept back the grid-map that was used by the aircrew to navigate to Kargil airport.
From Military Dominance To Full-Spectrum Hegemony
Throughout the latter half of 2011, in a bid to keep Pakistan’s ruling political elite deeply divided and on tenderhooks, Lt Gen Pasha was covertly meeting some people of the corporate world and requesting them to join either the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) led by Imran Khan, or the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) led by Maulana Muhammad Tahirul Qadri, the Canada-returned Pakistani Islamic cleric. Several Colonel-/Brigadier-level serving officers of the PA were also participants of such meetings. Lt Gen Pasha was also encouraging sit-ins by both the PTI and PAT to stage countrywide protests against the increasing lawlessness and deteriorating economic situation inside Pakistan. For instance, the big rally organised by Imran Khan’s PTI at Minara-e-Pakistan in Lahore in October 2011 was a show at the behest of Lt Gen Pasha for which he mobilised financial resources for PTI from Pakistan’s corporate world. The ISI’s DG was at that time also engaged in efforts for uniting Imran Khan and Maulana Qadri under a single platform and trying to convince them both to capture power in Islamabad through unconstitutional means by 1) the PTI mobilising the country’s youth. 2) the PAT mobilising its devout supporters from the Barelvi school of Islam. Those were also the days when Imran Khan was justifying the Afghan Taliban’s jihad in Afghanistan against NATO forces and was also accusing the so-called Jewish/Israeli lobby of attacking Pakistan’s nuclear WMD programme (both these being in sync with the PA’s over-arching securitised national narrative that had been drafted under Gen Kayani’s instructions). On December 15, 2011 Kayani for the first time acknowledged the existence of the memo, describing it as conspiracy against the PA as well as national security, and demanded a thorough probe. He made these comments in an affidavit filed on December 21 with the country’s Supreme Court, which was then hearing petitions related to the matter under the constituted Abbottabad Commission. In a separate affidavit, Lt Gen Pasha stated that he was satisfied with evidence given by ‘Memogate’ whistleblower Mansoor Ijaz. No affidavits were filed by anyone from the civilian government. Gen Kayani’s affidavit also stated that Lt Gen Pasha had briefed him about the memo on October 24, and that the PA’s COAS had requested Prime Minister Gilani on November 13 to call Dr Haqqani back for an inquiry and clarify the government’s position. While the Rules of Business required both Gen Kayani and Lt Gen Pasha to have their affidavits vetted by the Ministry of Defence, this regulation was brazenly violated by both the men-in-Khaki.
Consequently, on December 23, 2011 in one of the most audacious speeches by a sitting Pakistani Prime Minister in recent memory, Gilani unexpectedly let loose a barrage of accusations and reservations against the PA. First at a public exhibition, and later on the floor of the National Assembly, Gilani not only voiced concerns over “conspiracies being hatched against the incumbent government,” he also questioned the credibility of the armed forces over the Osama bin Laden (OBL) debacle that resulted in questions being asked on the global stage about Pakistan’s sincerity in battling terrorism. Gilani, in a direct reference, hit out at the PA by saying that a “state within (a) state will not be acceptable,” referring to the military’s dominance in governance. “If the Army considers itself a state within (a) state, then it is unacceptable,” Gilani said while responding to a point-of-order raised by the then Leader of the Opposition, the PML-N’s Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. “We will have to come out of this slavery. If we remain subordinate to this system, then there is no need for Parliament,” Gilani said. “We are being asked by the judicial (Abbottabad) commission about issuance of visas (to Americans). But I want to ask how Osama bin Laden lived here for the past six years? On what type of visa was he living here?” Gilani asked. Up next, he took on his own admission of weakness—the Ministry of Defence’s response to the Supreme Court wherein it claimed that operational matters of Pakistan’ armed forces do not come under its domain. “If they say they are not under the Ministry of Defence, then we should get out of this slavery,” Gilani said. “Then this Parliament has no importance, this system has no importance, then you are not sovereign. They are being paid from the state exchequer, from your revenue and from your taxes. All institutions are subservient to Parliament, and we have made them accountable to Parliament,” Gilani said. His conclusion was terse. “If somebody thinks they are not under the government, they are mistaken. They are under the government and they shall remain under the government, because we are the elected representatives of the people of Pakistan.” Gilani also reiterated past events where, he said, the government had stood by the armed forces at the bleakest of hours—over a storm of US pressure after the OBL raid, the NATO attack at the Salala border post on November 26, 2011 and the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks. “The democratic government has always emboldened and motivated the image of security forces on all issues,” Gilani said. Realising the sacrifices of our soldiers for the cause of the country, the government raised their salaries by 100%, he added.
The tipping point of the civil-military crisis was reached on January 12, 2012, triggering fears and doubts of what may come next, when Gilani sacked the then Defence Secretary (Ret’d) Naeem Khalid Lodhi for “gross misconduct”. But the sacking was not a straightforward affair, and the government’s Law Division and Ministry of Defence were at loggerheads over the issue. It was the Law Division’s legal advice to Gilani that resulted in the abrupt sacking. On the face of it, Lodhi was fired for causing what the government called a “misunderstanding” between the Prime Minister and the top military brass. The sacking came moments after the PA, through an ISPR press-release, denounced Gilani for accusing it of violating the law by directly responding to the Abbottabad Commission, bypassing the Law Division. The Division and Ministry had a difference in opinion over Lodhi’s move of submitting the affidavits by Gen Kayani and Lt Gen Pasha.
Lodhi had submitted his written reply to Defence Minister Chaudhary Ahmed Mukhtar a week ago, explaining his constitutional position in the submission of the affidavits. Lodhi stated that his action was neither a violation of the Constitution nor the Rules of Business. He cited Gen Ghazi’s case as a precedent in support of his explanation, wherein the latter submitted the affidavits. “My action of directly submitting the two affidavits to the Supreme Court was in line with my duties and authority as Defence Secretary,” he claimed in his explanatory statement. Mukhtar forwarded Lodhi’s explanation to Gilani with favourable comments, terming the Defence Secretary’s explanation ‘satisfactory’. However, Gilani, in turn, forwarded the explanation to the Law Division for vetting. In its vetting, the Division sharply disagreed with the Defence Minister and proposed an exemplary disciplinary action, which included Lodhi’s dismissal as Defence Secretary. Charged over the hard-hitting ISPR response over his subsequent interview given to China’s Xinhua news-agency where he termed the two affidavits as ‘illegal’, Gilani put his foot down and sacked Lodhi as Defence Secretary. The then Cabinet Secretary Nargis Sethi was subsequently handed over additional charge of Defence Secretary. On March 18, 2012 Lt Gen Zaheer-ul-Islam, 56, took over as the new DG of ISI from Lt Gen Pasha. The former was born into a military family and belonged to the Punjab Regiment. He had passed out from the 55th PMA long course. He had also served as the ISI’s Deputy DG between 2007 and 2008. Lt Gen Pasha subsequently took up a job as a security consultant with the intelligence agency of the United Arab Emirates.
At that time, India and Pakistan had no formal bilateral trade agreement. Though India had granted the MFN status to Pakistan in 1995, Pakistan had yet to reciprocate. A composite dialogue between India and Pakistan started in 1998, but was suspended fater mid-1999. It resumed in April 2010, with a bilateral trade dialogue being re-initiated in April 2011. In November 2011, Pakistan decided to extend MFN status to India amid widespread domestic protests from ISI-mentored jihadi tanzeems and the ISPR-tutored mass-media. The decision was taken at a Federal Cabinet meeting in which the then Commerce Secretary Zafar Mahmood set his Ministry’s proposal in a historical perspective by pointing out that Pakistan had first given MFN status to India during Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s time. Mahmood added that World Trade Organisation (WTO) commitments mandated that Islamabad reciprocate India’s gesture. He also clarified that the granting of MFN status would not alter the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement that allowed Afghan goods to cross from Pakistan into India and not vice versa. At the same time, he added that Indian goods were allowed to move into Afghanistan over land through Pakistan between 1959 and 1965 as per an Af-Pak agreement. The 56-year old President, Asif Ali Zardari, met Dr Manmohan Singh Singh during a visit to India on April 8, 2012. Being the first Pakistani Head of State to visit India in seven years, he made a brief stopover in New Delhi to join Prime Dr Singh for a lunch that was preceded by a one-on-one meeting during which they discussed crucial bilateral issues. Zardari, who had landed along with his son and heir apparent Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, then Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik and other senior officials on a day-long ‘private visit’, following which he flew to Ajmer to pay obeisance at the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. The two also met on the sidelines of the XVI Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Teheran on August 30, 2012. Earlier, on May 26, 2012 the two countries had failed to sign the eagerly awaited and widely expected agreement on a relaxed visa regime in Islamabad, but decided to explore the feasibility of establishing a hotline between the two Union/Federal Home Affairs /Interior Secretaries and begin discussing a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). Though India went prepared to Islamabad for signing the agreement that provides for group tourism visas and visas-on-arrival for the elderly and children, besides easier business visas, Pakistan from the first day of talks indicated that while it was in agreement with all that had been jointly decided at earlier meetings, it needed more time. And it eventually became clear that there would be no visa agreement, with Rehman Malik announcing after meeting Indians then Union Home Affairs Secretary R K Singh that the liberalised visa regime would not be signed at this meeting. Indicating that Islamabad would prefer the agreement to be inked at the political level, the Malik said that he would be glad if India’s then Union Home Affairs Minister P Chidambaram came to Pakistan for signing it. However, a joint statement issued at the end of the two-day talks attributed the delay to internal approvals that Pakistan needed to secure (from the GHQ, of course). In New Delhi, India’s then Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said that R K Singh the Home had gone “fully prepared” to sign the agreement as per the decision taken during the discussions between Dr. Singh and Asif Ali Zardari on April 8. He also confirmed that Malik wanted political participation in the signing of the agreement, adding that Chidambaram had said he would visit Pakistan at a convenient time.
In June 2012, Maj Gen Athar Abbas, the then DG of ISPR from January 2008, retired from service and handed over the ISPR’s reins to Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, who would remain the DF of ISPR till was DG ISPR till December 2016. On September 8, 2012 during a three-day visit to Islamabad, S M Krishna began crucial talks with Hina Rabbani Khar to review the second round of resumed bilateral composite dialogue. The one-to-one meeting between Krishna and Khar was followed by delegation-level talks between the two sides. Indian officials had earlier said that terrorism will form the core of New Delhi’s discussions, particularly the slow pace of the 26/11 case trial in Pakistan. Other issues included those concerning prisoners as well as trade and border issues. The talks were to culminate in the inking of much-awaited new liberalised visa agreement to boost people-to-people contacts. Also for the first time, group tourism was to be part of the new pact which was also to have other new categories, including multiple city one-year visas for businessmen and visa-on-arrival for people aged 65 years and above. Ranjan Mathai and his Pakistani counterpart Jalil Abbas Jilani were also present at these talks. Both Ministers also co-chaired the Joint Commission Meeting, which was revived in 2005 after a gap of 16 years. This was Krishna’s second visit to Pakistan in over two years. Also, Foreign Secretary-level talks were held during which the two sides discussed all aspects of the resumed dialogue, apart from reviewing the entire expanse of the discussions held so far. The two sides described their discussions as “positive and frank”. They acknowledged that progress has been made in bilateral ties but agreed that “much more needs to be done“. Later, the two sides also inked an agreement on culture between the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) and its Pakistani counterpart. On September 27, 2012 in reference to remarks by Asif Ali Zardari on J & K at the UN General Assembly (saying “Kashmir remains a symbol of failures, rather than strengths of the UN system,” and that “resolution of the issue of Kashmir can only be arrived at in an environment of cooperation. We will continue to support the right of the people of J & K to peacefully choose their destiny in accordance with the UNSC’s long-standing resolutions on this matter"). This was akin to waving a red rag at India. S M Krishna termed Zardari’s reference to UNSC resolutions on J & K as ‘unwarranted’, asserting that J & K was an integral part of India. Pakistan, determined not to let this go without a retort, gave a rejoinder, also known as a right-of-reply (RoR) in diplomatic parlance. A bristling India next came up with her own rejoinder. Not to be outdone, Pakistan refused to let the UNGA close for the day without registering its second RiR. The battle eventually boiled down to one thing: India saying “J & K is ours” and Pakistan retorting “It is not”. This high-voltage exchange between India and Pakistan at the UNGA was in sharp contrast to the reconciliatory tone of S M Krishna’s last visit to Islamabad. Then, he had expressed satisfaction with Pakistan and its actions. Then, the sides had said: “The Ministers held discussions on the issue of J & K and agreed to the need for continued discussions, in a purposeful and forward looking manner, with a view to finding a peaceful solution by narrowing divergences and building convergences.” After Krishna’s speech at the UNGA taking exception to Zardari’s reference to J & K, the Pakistani mission sent an RoR through the then Deputy Ambassador Raza Bashir Tarar, who said: “The reference to the J & K dispute in the President of Pakistan’s statement was not unwarranted. Let me also make it absolutely clear that J & K is neither an integral part of India and nor has it ever been.” Vinay Kumar of the Indian mission responded: “J & K is and has always been an integral part of India. It is ironical that these comments have been made by a country which is persisting with its illegal occupation of a part of the Indian state of J & K. These references constitute a clear interference in the internal affairs of India.” The Pakistanis responded again to Kumar’s assertion: “Mr President, the disputed status of J & K is established by UNSC resolutions and agreed upon by both Pakistan and India. Characterisation of J & K or any part of its territory as part of India is, therefore, untenable. The people of J & K have yet to exercise their inalienable right of self-determination.” India, however, was determined to get in the last word. “The people of J & K have peacefully chosen their destiny in accordance with democratic practices and they continue to do so. We, therefore, reject in their entirety the untenable comments from the distinguished delegate of Pakistan,” said India as a weary UN closed for the night. This was the first time in three decades that India formally and loudly made her legal claim to PoK.
On December 14, 2012 Rehman Malik, who was supposed go a month earlier to New Delhii but had to postpone his trip because of the impending execution of 26/11 perpetrator Ajmal Kasab, arrived at IGI Airport on a three-day visit. He next inked the agreement on operationalisation of the liberalised visa agreeent between India and Pakistan with his Indian counterpart Sushilkumar Shinde. He then headed for the Taj Mahal in Agra to belatedly spend his 61st birthday (which fell on December 12) with his wife Saeeda Rehman.
On December 27, 2012 Indian and Pakistani diplomats met to discuss the draft agreement for a formal ceasefire along the LoC, but they could make no headway. By the end of that year, 72 terrorists, 24 civilians and 15 security personnel had been killed in terrorist violence in J & K—lower, in total, than the 521 murders recorded in Delhi alone. In 2011, the figures were, respectively, 100, 40 and 33; in 2010, 232, 164 and 69. There were 117 violations (93 on the LoC) in 2012, as against 61 in 2011, and 57 in 2010. Cross-LoC infiltration attempts, too, increased, with a multi-security agency assessment putting the total number of infiltration bids to 121 in 2012, against 52 in 2011. Infuriated by India’s refusal to formalise the November 26, 2004 ceasefire agreement along the LoC, the PA was waiting to impose costs on India to such an extent that:
1) India would be forced to yet again suspend the Composite Dialogue process.
2) This in turn will force Pakistan’s civilian government to stop granting MFN status to India.
3) Increased infiltration by Pakistani jihadi irregulars across both the LoC and WB will keep the bulk of the Indian Army’s deployment in J & K (which by then accounted 30% of the Army’s total standing manpower strength) focussed on internal security duties, instead of training for offensive military campaigns.
4) It will severely curtail all socio-economic developmental activities within the Kashmir Valley—especially if the Sarpanches with power to disburse developmental funds are targetted for assassination—which in turn will lead to widespread social upheavel and alienation.
On January 8, 2013 a 15-member BAT of the PA, wearing black combat uniforms, crossed the LoC from across in Krishna Ghati sector (falling under 10 Infantry Brigade in Mendhar, Poonch district). Earlier, this BAT had been stationed at Barmoch BOP in PoK across Atma Post (manned by 13 Rajputana Rifles) a fortnight before and was watching the daily movements of Indian Army jawans. On that day, Lance-Naik Hem Raj and Lance-Naik Sudhakar Naik of 13 Rajputana Rifles were on a routine area domination patrol in Barasingha in Mendhar sector, 200km north of Jammu. Daybreak was still several hours away, the night was dark, the fog thick, and visibility almost zero. Patrolling there involved walking around over a stretch that was beyond the fence that protected India-held territory. Every border sector had been divided into grids, each under a commanding officer. There were four to seven forward posts (beyond the fence) every kilometre, with five to eight soldiers in each. The posts were alerted about the patrols; while on patrol, the scouts did not talk, smoke, use flashlight or carry cellphones. They did not even use aftershave, the smell of which could be picked up by dogs accompanying the jihadis. The patrol that included Hemraj and Sudhakar was playing safe, by not venturing far beyond the fence. They mostly remained nearly 500 metres short of the LoC. The party had seven troopers and as per the decades-old practice, had divided themselves into three pairs, with the commander attaching himself to one. Each pair was to remain within line-of-sight of another, but that was impossible in the thick fog and the thick woods. The result: the pair that was to keep Hemraj and Sudhakar in its line-of-sight did not see who were shooting at them in the fog; they only heard reports of automatic firearms firing away. As the second pair leapt for cover, before rushing to reinforce Hemraj and Sudhakar, they, too, came under fire. This fire, they realised, was not coming from the woods, unlike the bullets that had felled Hemraj and Sudhakar. This was cover-fire, coming from the hilltops on the Pakistani side of the LoC. Very unlike jihadis, and very much military-like. The Jihadi infiltrators would have fired at everyone in sight. Here, the enemy was killing only two; the cover-fire was being provided only to keep the rest of the patrolmen away. The intention was to kill two, and only two, and then seize their bodies. Indian posts returned fire; the exchange lasted several hours, well past daybreak. As the fog cleared by 10.30am, a couple of remaining patrolmen saw the enemy—clad in dark black, the uniform of the PA’s Special Service Group (SSG), known as the Black Storks. The cover fire, the patrolmen knew, was being provided by 29 Baloch Regiment, which had been there for several months. As the firing finally ended at 11:32am, the sight in front froze them. Hemraj and Sudhakar lay dead and frozen in pools of blood, far away from each other. Sudhakar’s head was missing; Hemraj had deep slashes on his neck, indicating a failed beheading bid. This happened between Chhatri and Atma posts in Mankote area of Krishnaghati. The beheading was done by one Anwar Khan, a resident of Jabbar Mohalla of village Sher Khan (Rawlakote) who also was the local guide for the SSG. He ran a shop in Barmoch Gali in PoK, and he was also involved in the beheading of an Indian Army Captain in 1996 in the same Mendhar area. Till January 9, the BAT was camping at Tattapani and was also involved in planting anti-personal mines in Helmet, Chattri, Dayal Top, Atma and Rocket BOPs of 10 Infantry Brigade. The consequent phone call was short and sombre. Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, the then DGMO, spared pleasantries and told his Pakistani counterpart, Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem, that India did not want to escalate tensions, but Pakistan had to respect the LoC. Before he hung up, Lt Gen Bhatia reiterated that Pakistan must probe and take appropriate action against its soldiers who violated the LoC and mutilated the bodies of two Indian soldiers. This was the third hotline call between the two DGMOs since a localised confrontation had begun on January 6. While the Indian Army had immediately retaliated with increased mortar-based artillery firepower, New Delhi tried to stop tensions from spiralling out of control. It advised the Indian Army to stay calm. However, it was aware of the anguish and anger within the Army over the mutilations. Dr. Manmohan Singh chose the Army Day celebration at the Indian Army COAS’ residence on January 15 to send a strong message to Islamabad: “After this dastardly act, there can’t be business as usual with Pakistan,” he said. “Those who are responsible for this must be brought to book. I hope Pakistan realises this.” What this meant was that payback time was guaranteed at a time and place of the Indian Army’s choosing.
On January 30, 2013 Pakistan’s Federal Cabinet ratified a $1.5 billion agreement with Iran for the laying of nearly 500 miles of pipeline in Pakistan that would connect the country’s gas infrastructure to Iran’s massive South Pars natural gas fields. The pipeline would potentially add over 750 million cubic feet of gas per day to Pakistan’s grid at a time when the country was facing crippling energy shortages, with some cities suffering frequent protests against 20-hour long power outages. Iran had offered cash-strapped Pakistan $500 million in project financing to lay the Pakistani section of the pipeline after several private and sovereign foreign entities backed out of the plan over fears of incurring US ire for participating in the project (and when Pakistan refused to award contracts to some without bidding). The Iranians offered even more funding if the Pakistanis demonstrated seriousness in going ahead with and completing the project. Pakistan, in return, awarded the contract for the construction of the Pakistani segment of the pipeline to an Iranian company called Tadbir Energy.
On July 27, 2013 a PA soldier was reportedly killed and another seriously injured in “unprovoked” firing by Indian troops across the LoC on Rawlakot’s Nezapir sector, according to the ISPR. On July 28, 2013 Zafran Ghulam Sarwar, Wajid Akbar, Mohammad Wajid Akbar and Mohammad Faisal left their homes on the Pakistani side of the LoC in the Neelam Valley and never came back. India said that she had no idea what happened to the men. Not long after they disappeared, though, five still-unidentified men were shot dead by Indian troops in the same area, 500 metres inside the Indian side of the LoC. On the night of July 30, 2013, four Pakistani men were killed near Katwar post in India. India said that the men were “intruders” and “militants”, but Pakistan disputed that claim and said that the men were “local civilians” plucking herbs and had strayed close to the LoC when they were abducted by Indian soldiers. On August 6, 2013 PA troops killed five Indian soldiers in a cross-border strike in Poonch. The five Indian soldiers were sitting ducks in a well-planned ambush by a BAT about 450 metres inside Indian territory. 14 Maratha Light Infantry (MLI) had just arrived in the Sarla battalion area of the 93 Infantry Brigade, stationed along the LoC north of Poonch, to relieve 21 Bihar Regiment. An Indian patrol headed out from Cheetah, a post 7km west of Poonch, along the Betad nullah, or moutain stream, which heads towards the LoC. They were headed for Delta, an occasionally-occupied position half-way to another major post, code-named Begum. These posts guarded the areas around the village of Khari Karmara, facing the PoK village of Bandi Abbaspur. 21 Bihar Regiment’s Shambhu Sharan Rai, Vijaykumar Ray, Premnath Singh and Raghunandan Prasad, and 14 MLI’s Pundlik Mane and Sambhaji Kute, were sent out on a patrol to familiarise the newcomers with the terrain. Elsewhere on the LoC, troops would have been extremely cautious about resting in the course of a patrol. The troops had no reason to expect trouble, though: the Chakan-da-Bagh sector, home to a trading post where cross-LoC trade is conducted, had long been peaceful. Late on that fateful night, the men bivouaced at a position some 450 metres across the border fencing that runs some distance away. Kute was put on guard duty, while the other men rested. Kute, the only survivor, later said that he saw the patrol come under fire from multiple directions. He was, however, unable to provide substantial further detail—bar saying he thought some 20 men, some in uniform—had executed the pre-dawn ambush. Forensics later showed that the slain men were killed with single shots, fired at almost point-blank range, evidence of a surgical, well planned ambush. Kute’s less-than-complete testimony led the then Indian Defence Minister A K Antony to issue an ambiguously-worded statement soon after the attack, saying that it was carried out by “20 heavily armed terrorists along with persons dressed in PA uniforms”. Antony’s statement appeared to refute an earlier statement by the Indian Army, saying the killings were carried out by terrorists “along with soldiers of the PA”. Earlier in January, after the beheading of Lance-Naik Sudhakar Naik, Antony had expressly charged Pakistan’s SSG with the outrage. Following protests in Parliament, Antony issued a fresh statement blaming the PA for the killing. Indian Army officials claimed that elements of the 801 Mujahid Battalion were also involved in this attack. Subsequently, 21 Bihar Regiment’s Commanding Officer Col C S Kabsuri, under whose command the patrol team operated; 91 Infantry Brigade’s Commander Brigadier S K Acharya, who was Kabsuri’s immediate boss and Acharya’s boss and 25 Infantry Division GOC Maj Gen V P Singh—were in the gunsights of a Court of Inquiry probing the incident. So was the GOC of the Nagrota-based XVI Corps, Lt Gen B S Hooda, who was then commanding these officers.
On September 26, 2013, audacious strikes in quick succession by Pakistani jihadi irregulars on Indian security forces killed 13 people inside Jammu along the busy Jammu-Pathankot national highway. They had crossed the LoC at Haria Chak village, at the junction of the Punjab-J & K state border and were looking for men in police or CRPF uniform. This same team first attacked the Hiranagar Police station, killed three and injured two men. It later targetted the 16 Cavalry’s and 168 Mechanised Infantry Brigade station in Samba in. The terrorists had a free run for close to two hours from the first attack at Hiranagar to Samba camp around 20km away. The tempo of these attacks built up steadily from 2008 till 2013, culminating with major skirmishes at Charonda and Shalabhattu, and along the Samba–Kathua belt.
Eighty per cent or 540km LoC fencing along the LoC has to be replaced each year, metre by metre. Hollow cement blocks, concertina wire and metal poles all have to hauled up by foot and pony—40 tonnes of equipment for each kilometre of wire. Israel-supplied hand-held thermal imagers are ineffective in fog, and their battery-life drops sharply in extreme cold. Battlefield surveillance radar isn’t always able to pick up movement in the rocky gullies cutting up the mountains. There’s no option but to build the wall, metre by painstaking metre, and walk it, every day. At 16,700 feet, with up to 30 feet of snow at minus 25 degrees Celsius, it isn’t easy to conduct patrolling and hauling perishable supplies from the supply base at Macchel to the HQ of 53 Infantry Brigade at Zamindar Khan Gali. It takes at least 10 men, with avalanche rods and spades, five hours to beat a path through the snow to get to Katwar, down the valley. Then, the post there takes over. It takes them another five hours to Dapal—and a third party then takes five more hours to Dudhi. Finally, the party at Dudhi marches the last stretch, to Macchel. It was in this area that a local skirmish began less than a week before September 27, 2013, with Indian troops being engaged in a murderous fight to oust PA troops and their jihadi irregulars who had occupied a ghost village of Shala Bhata along the LoC. The intruders were using abandoned homes to fire on Tndian troops attempting to clear the area. The intrusion took place on the night of 23 September, 2013 by taking advantage of gaps in patrolling, which took place when troops of the 20 Kumaon Regiment were handing over charge to the 3/3 Gurkha Rifles. The intruders took cover in unoccupied observation posts overlooking a nullah, or village stream, as well as abandoned homes. Shala Bhata, some 20km as the crow flies from the district headquarters at Keran, looks over the Kishanganga River, and is perched on a strategically-vital arc that overlooks Pakistan’s main line of communication to the northern stretches of the LoC. Meanwhile, in northern J & K’s dense Kalaroos forest, 53 Infantry Brigade despatched troops to search the area. The 28 Infantry Division too fanned out across the sprawling Kalaroos forests—terrain pockmarked by caves and boulders, and cloaked in dense Deodar trees that reduces visibility to just a few feet.
Both these attacks (in September) were clearly aimed at derailing the forthcoming meeting between the PMs of India and Pakistan in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA. On September 28, 2013 Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that his statements on the J & K issue at the UNGA was based on historic facts and stressed that the UN should honour its own resolution. “What I have said is factual truth. I have tried to remind the UN that it should implement the resolution passed by its Security Council,” Sharif said in New York. In his address, he had stressed that the UN must continue to remain attentive to the issue of disputed J & K, and realise the right of its people to self-determination. He had also pointed that the sufferings of the Kashmiri people cannot be brushed under the carpet because of power politics. On September 29, the PMs of both countries agreed that they needed to stop the recent spate of attacks inside J & K in order for peace talks to advance. They also both accepted invitations to visit each other’s countries, but no dates were set. Dr. Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif had met for just over one hour. It was their first face-to-face meeting since Sharif was elected as PM in May.
On November 29, 2013 Gen Kayani, 61, stepped down as the PA’s COAS after handing over the command baton to Gen Raheel Sharif, who became the PA’s 15th COAS (till his retirement on November 29, 2016).
On December 24, 2013 the DGMOs of both countries met in Wagah after 14 years—their first meeting since mid-1999. Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia and Pakistan’s Maj Gen Aamer Riaz also decided to hold two flag meetings between the Brigade Commanders on the LoC. By then, however, ceasefire violations along the LoC and Working Boundary (WB) had sharply spiked. In 1998, there were 5,153 ceasefire violations, while in 1999 there were 2,896 violations prior to May 1999. In 2011, there were 86 firing violations along the WB and LoC; 230 in 2012; 414 in 2013 (India says that there were 199 ceasefire violations along the Loc and 148 along the WB); plus 175 along the LoC. There were 275 infiltration bids in 2013, and 95 infiltrators are estimated to have entered J & K. The PA, however, was most unlikely to attempt any form of escalation along either the LoC or the WB since it by then had a deployment ratio of 54.6%, resting and re-equipping ratio is 12.7%, & the remaining 33% undergoing the training cycle.