Pakistan air force, army on high alert; lines border with F-16 fighters, troops
Two weeks after India’s air strike on a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is on full operational alert with an entire squadron of F-16 fighters deployed along its eastern front even as independent American satellite imagery with the Indian Air Force (IAF) has confirmed direct hits on the camp, top defence and government officials said on condition of anonymity.
According to them, while Pakistani air space restrictions continue along the country’s borders with India, the Rawalpindi headquartered 10 Corps along with a Special Forces brigade from Sialkot of the Pakistan Army have been deployed all along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir.
“We have confirmed reports that PAF’s F-16 acquired from both US and Jordan are on high alert all along India-Pak border—from Hyderabad in Sindh to Skardu in Northern Areas. The Pak Army deployment including radars and air defence system along the LoC was strengthened immediately after the February 14 Pulwama attack as they expected Indian retaliation similar to that of the surgical strike,” said one of the officials, referring to India’s 2016 counterstrike on terror installations within Pakistan after the terror strike on Uri, also by JeM.
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The officials say Pakistan’s immediate reaction to the February 26 strike was to intensify shelling on that day itself. According to the collated data, the Pakistan Army targeted Sunderbani, Naushera, Poonch, Bhimber Gali and Krishnaghati sectors repeatedly through heavy mortars and 120 mm artillery guns after the air strike. Data accessed by Hindustan Times shows that there were 19 ceasefire violations on February 26, 16 on the day PAF retaliated and 26 on February 28, 2019. There have been a total of 467 ceasefire violations in the past two months with February accounting for as many as 251. While there were 971 violations in 2017, the number rapidly increased to 2140 in 2018.
Senior South Block officials said that Pakistan Director General Military Operations (DGMO) did not pick up the routine Tuesday telephone call from his Indian counterpart on February 26. The Indian DGMO unsuccessfully tried to call his Pakistani counterpart the following day also after Islamabad dramatically accused India of launching nine missiles.
The first DGMO level conversation took place only on March 5 with the Pakistan DGMO asking for de-escalation along the LoC as the Indian side had replied in equal measure to cross-LoC firing. Since then, there has been a lull in cross-LoC firing.
The officials did not provide details of the Indian deployment along the LoC but said that the Indian military is also not taking any chances and is ready to response to any exigency.