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View: Why Pakistan's terror blitz in Jammu is directly linked to Lok Sabha elections

Jun 13, 2024 07:55 PM IST

The sudden spurt of terror-related killings are at the behest of the Pakistani deep state, which has given a green signal to jihadists

A day after three jihadists of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) sprayed bullets on Hindu pilgrims on board a bus returning from Shiv Khouri to Katra on Reasi-Katra road and killed 10 innocents, Prime Minister Narendra Modi side-stepped former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif advice on replacing ‘hate with hope’ in his congratulatory message and made it clear that priority of Modi 3.0 is well-being and security of Indian people.

Inside the ill-fated bus on Shiv Khori-Katra road, which was attacked by terrorists on June 9.
Inside the ill-fated bus on Shiv Khori-Katra road, which was attacked by terrorists on June 9.

The very next day, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was more candid when referring to the vital issue of cross-border terrorism between India and Pakistan and made it clear that terrorism could not be the policy of a good neighbour.

Since the time PM Modi took the oath of office in Rashtrapati Bhawan on June 9, there has been a spate of terror attacks in the Jammu sector. Apart from the 10 killed and 33 injured in the bus firing, six soldiers were injured in firing by terrorists at Chattergala in Bhaderwah in Doda district on intervening night of June 11-12, while two Pakistani terrorists were gunned down by security forces in Kathua before the Doda incident.

A CRPF constable was also killed in the early hours of June 12 after being fired upon by terrorists in Hiranagar area of Kathua district.

So what is the reason for the sudden escalation in the terror incidents south of Pir Panjal and what is Pakistan playing at?

First, the terror perpetrators behind the Reasi bus attack and other dastardly incidents are Sialkot-based LeT handlers Sajid Jutt aka Saifullah, Mohammed Qasim aka Gujjar, and Abu Qatal aka Qatal Sindhi.

The trio has orchestrated the recruitment and dispatch of LeT terrorists from Pakistan to target innocent civilians including Hindu pilgrims and security personnel. Jutt is a high-ranking LeT commander and Qasim Gujjar is the right hand man of Lahore based LeT commanders.

Abu Qatal came to India in 2002-2003 and has been active in the Poonch-Rajouri range along with other terrorists. In the past year, no less than 30 to 35 foreign terrorists or Pakistanis have infiltrated into Jammu sector and the current hotbed of infiltration is Samba-Kathua sector with the possibility of the cross-border tunnel not being ruled out. With the Pakistani jihadists outnumbering the local radicals, the Jammu sector has witnessed increased mayhem and violence.

Due to the Sajid-Jutt and Qasim Gujjar module, the Rajouri-Poonch-Samba-Kathua axis has been targeted by Pakistani jihadists since 2021 with no less than 38 soldiers and 21 civilians losing their lives in the Jammu sector.

Top intelligence reports indicate the presence of at least four groups of three terrorists operating in the Rajouri-Poonch region since 2021 and all are equipped with American M-4, M-16 assault rifles or Russian-origin AK-47 rifles.

While Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has sent his best wishes to PM Modi, the sudden spurt of terror-related killings are at the behest of the Pakistani deep state, which has given a green signal to jihadists. Fact is that during the Indian general elections, Rawalpindi GHQ had clamped down on cross-border terrorism as it would perhaps polarize the Indian voter towards the BJP or lead to a Balakot type of attack from India on Pakistan in the event of Pulwana-like terror strike.

The Reasi bus attack, which comes just 20 days before the Amarnath pilgrimage, was designed to hit India hard, had providence not pushed the ill-fated bus into a deep gorge.

Had the bus crashed on the road, then the jihadists would have mowed down all the innocent 53 passengers on the bus. This would have been a replay of terrorist firing on a bus carrying security personnel at Hyderpora on the outskirts of Srinagar in June 2013. Both the attacks had the signatures of Sajid Jutt and the diabolical plan was that of Muridke-based LeT emir Hafiz Saeed at the behest of Rawalpindi GHQ.

The key reason for the jump in terror attacks in the Jammu sector is massive voter turnout of 58.6 per cent during the 2024 General elections in the parliamentary constituencies of Srinagar, Baramulla, Anantnag-Rajouri, Udhampur and Jammu. The voter turnout of 50.86 per cent from the three parliamentary constituencies in Kashmir Valley witnessed an unprecedented jump of 30 points from the last general elections in 2019 where it was 19.16 per cent.

The parliamentary constituencies of Srinagar, Baramulla and Anantnag-Rajouri recorded a massive voter turnout of 38.49 per cent, 59.1 per cent and 58.84 per cent respectively, which has been the highest in the past 30 years and post abrogation of article 370.

What got the goat of Pakistan leadership and jihadists alike was that Kashmiri Muslims including separatists and Jamaat-e-Islami workers were seen flashing their ink-stained fingers enthusiastically before the media after voting in the 2024 elections.

The sudden spurt of terror strikes is to remind the J & K residents that they will be targeted brutally if they participate in the Indian democratic process in the future. Given that the predictions of Western media and pro-Pak media that Kashmiris will give the elections a pass were proved totally wrong, the attacks are a reminder that Islamic jihad is not over in the UT.

While Indian national security planners do not rule out more terror attacks in the Jammu sector, the Indian security forces face a daunting task in neutralizing the Pakistani asymmetric offensive from across the border. The task is hard as the terrain in Jammu sector is not only mountainous but also heavily forested as a result of which the terrorists are that much difficult to find and eliminate.

The intel on these terrorists needs a lead time of 18-20 hours due to hard terrain as the immediate deployment of forces is not possible as in the case of the valley. Thus, the Indian security forces need to hunt down terrorists hiding in the forested and high mountain terrain with previously not used tactics. The Indian security forces also need to get actionable intelligence in the area from across the border as these terrorists belong to the area and live off the land. Actionable HUMINT and TECHINT are required as drones cannot pierce through the thickly forested terrain.

The newly appointed Indian Army Chief Gen Upendra Dwivedi is well-versed with the terrain and the tactical difficulties in the counter-terror operations in Jammu sector and it is incumbent on him and his Northern Army Commander Lt Gen M V Suchindra Kiumar to take the battle to the adversary. But the first priority is to stop infiltration and then neutralize the FTs through lure and lucre to the overground workers of these jihadist groups.

With the jihadists going on rampage, the Indian security forces need to sync with the Jammu and Kashmir police and intelligence to push back the terror offensive.

The Modi government particularly Home Minister Amit Shah and NSA Ajit Doval are more than ready to provide any support with the PM himself making it clear to the Army that he cannot allow innocent Indians to be killed at will by Pakistanis. The terror game is on the razor’s edge in the Jammu sector and Bharat will retaliate in equal measure to the Pak-sponsored jihad. PM Modi does not take terror lying down.

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