NEW DELHI: Pakistan has reactivated its terror camps and seven launch pads along the Line of Control (LoC) to infiltrate around 275 terrorists, including Afghan and Pashtun mercenaries, into Jammu & Kashmir. The move comes ahead of the meeting of global terror finance watchdog Financial Action Task Force next month when Pakistan’s fate would be decided.
Though the involvement of Afghan and Pashtun jihadists in Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism in Kashmir is not unprecedented, it is quite unusual, top intelligence sources told TOI.
Pakistan first began pushing foreign mercenaries of different ethnicities into Kashmir in 1990 when it launched cross-border terrorism as a proxy war against India in the Valley. However, after the aggressive counter-terror operations conducted by Indian security forces against foreign terrorists, Pakistan began sending terrorists from mostly ethnic communities of Punjab and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK).
Official documents accessed exclusively by TOI reveal that there are credible inputs that the Pakistani army and ISI have set up launch pads along the LoC with the maximum number of terrorists prepared to infiltrate through Gurez sector in north Kashmir. Across the LoC, around 80 terrorists are camping near Gurez, 60 in Machhal, 50 in Karnah, 40 in Keran, 20 in Uri, 15 in Naugam and 10 in Rampur, top intelligence sources said.
After the Jaish-e-Muhammad suicide bombing in February this year in Pulwama, TOI was the first to report that Pakistan had instantly shut down its terror camps and launch pads along the LoC and moved terrorists of various outfits to army installations, fearing international scrutiny and retaliation from India. As a result, India launched air strikes on Jaish’s terror camps deep inside Pakistani territory in Balakot.
Since Donald Trump came to power in the US, Pakistan has been under tremendous pressure to crack down on terror groups. FATF has put Pakistan in the “grey list”, squeezing Islamabad financially, and this status would be reviewed next month.
On Monday, the Asia-Pacific joint group of FATF began its four-day meeting in Bangkok to review the compliance report of Pakistan, seeking answers to 125 questions. The meeting with a 15-member Pakistani team will decide whether the country continues to be in the “grey list” or is further downgraded to the “black list” during the FATF review in Paris from October 16 to 18.
After New Delhi revoked J&K’s special status last month, Islamabad has been threatening violence, including nuclear war, over Kashmir. Security specialists in Srinagar told TOI that they have credible intelligence that Pakistan is planning to escalate tensions by pushing in more terrorists into Kashmir. “Pakistan’s objective is to internationalise the Kashmir issue. They want to prevent restoration of normalcy in Kashmir by terrorising common people [to prevent them] from opening shops, schools, businesses and resuming normal life. For that, they need more than the prevailing 250 terrorists in Kashmir at the moment. The ISI realises that as of today, with not a single bullet fired since August 5, New Delhi has the situation in its control. So they will make their best efforts to create mayhem here,” he said.
An army officer said the involvement of Afghan and Pashtun terrorists gives Pakistan more plausible deniability than before, especially in view of the FATF pressure. “Since Afghan and Pashtun terrorists are mostly active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, they will pretend that they have no role in it. The ISI was probably also hoping that the US will strike a peace deal with the Taliban and Pakistan could divert some of their idle Talibani jihadists to Kashmir,” he said.
It is typical of the ISI, which keeps changing names of terror outfits or transferring their cadre from one group to another as and when there is international scrutiny, a Pakistani journalist told TOI on the phone. “When Jaish was under spotlight after the Pulwama attack, they moved the terror group’s cadres to Al Badr in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. At the end of the day, all their sponsored terrorists aimed at India are one and the same,” he said.