Even though Pakistan has expressed ignorance over the cross-border firing incident in which an Indian smuggler was gunned down on Monday night in Khemkaran, the flow of heroin from across the border has grown if the steep rise in seizures made by the Border Security Force (BSF) along the Punjab frontier is any indication.
The BSF officials take up the matter with Pakistani Rangers each time a seizure is made or an intruder is gunned down, but the rangers always expressed ignorance over any such incident, with a standard reply, "Fence is in the Indian territory and guarded by the BSF, so how can we comment on that?"
Recently, a Pakistani senior official, who came for a meeting with BSF, even went on to say, "It was the huge demand of the drug in the Indian market that was the cause behind smuggling."
As Pakistan continues to feign ignorance, the BSF, which is maintaining extra vigil in order to curb the smuggling menace, has also seen a steep rise in heroin seizures. In 2011, 67-kg heroin was seized from the Punjab border by the BSF, while in 2012 it went up to 288 kg. With just three-and-a-half-months into 2013, the drug seizure has already touched 70-kg mark. These figures come from the seizures made across the state by the BSF and if the drug recovered by other agencies like customs department, directorate of revenue intelligence and others are included the figures would be higher.
During the operation on the intervening night of March 18 and 19, heavy gunfire was exchanged between Pakistani smugglers and the BSF men, in which one Indian smuggler was shot and two Pakistani smugglers were injured.
The BSF lodged a strong protest with the rangers after the incident, but the latter stuck to their standard reply that they do not know anything regarding the incident and that no men came from their side.
Talking to HT, a spokesperson of the BSF said, "Be it meetings at commandant or sector commandant-level or the biannual conference, the BSF lodges strong protest with the rangers over every smuggling bid on the Punjab border. Rangers would maintain that they cannot do anything as the fence is in the Indian territory and guarded by BSF."
"We have also sent them complaints in writing many times. At times, they have denied accepting the bodies of Pakistani smugglers killed in encounters on the Punjab border," added the official.
However, the BSF claimed that they were not letting the guard down and their high vigil had led to big seizures of drug in the past two years.
Apart from huge quantity of heroin, the BSF has recovered arms and ammunition along with fake currency from Pakistani smugglers in 2012 and in the last three months of this year.
If 2012, 23 weapons, 33 magazines and Rs. 46 lakh in fake currency were recovered. In the same year, at least seven Pakistani smugglers were shot.
In the past three-and-a-half-months, three weapons, four magazines and Rs. 43 lakh in fake currency have been recovered along the Punjab border.
A BSF spokesperson said, "Not only that troops are on high alert, intelligence sharing and inputs are also helping in seizures of arms and drugs." Still, Pakistani rangers always say that they never see a smuggler or a courier moving towards the Indian fence.
At times, however, the rangers allege that they regularly seize liquor from the Indian side.
Year Heroin seized
2012 288 kg
2013 (till March 20) 65 kg
Conceal and clear
It has been seen that on many occasions, drug peddlers from across the border hide a consignment somewhere across the fence in the Indian territory and their accomplices in India clear it on an appropriate time. Many a time, abandoned consignments have also been found.
The most common way used to smuggle drugs is through pipes. The BSF has often said Pakistani smugglers insert a plastic pipe measuring 10-12 feet through the fence. The pipe contains drug consignment packed in a cloth and it is pushed into the Indian side.
A BSF official claimed that on a few occasions it has been seen that underground water pipes that bisect the two sides also are used to smuggle drugs.
Throw it over the fence
The smugglers from Pakistan throw drug packets over the fence after setting up time with their counterparts on the Indian side.