THE SECURITY BRIEF

Vol. 6-Issue No 41

19th December, 2020

Editorial

Will India attempt a surgical strike against Pakistan?

India is straining at the leash to restore the image of its armed forces which was badly bruised by the humiliating fiasco of downed Indian jet and capture of its pilot Abhinandan and further drubbing of the Indian soldiers by the Chinese forces at Ladakh. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan informed the international media in the UAE that Pakistan has very specific and reliable intelligence of Indian designs to attempt surgical strikes against Pakistan.

If it is confirmed, instead of a press conference, Pakistan should gird the lions to prevent it and make adequate preparations to strike back with matching force. To keep the element of surprise in hand, it would be important to carefully choose the time, targets and modus-operandi to strike back. The defence against any surgical strike should be robust and the counter attack should be swift. Meanwhile, it is essential for Pakistan to adopt a permanent strategy for countering and responding to surgical strike and its threats so that enemy’s strategy to keep us under strain with the aim to wear us down, could be foiled.

The track record of so called Indian surgical strikes shows, it has always been a hoax or a shamelessly timid attempt to target civilian population across the LoC. In 2016 when India claimed to have carried out a surgical strike against Pakistan, an investigative report of BBC dated 22 Oct 2016 stated, ‘despite the use of the term “surgical strikes”, the Indians definitely did not airdrop commandos to hit “launching pads of militants” inside Pakistani-held territory, or conduct ground assaults deep into the Pakistan-administered side. But they did cross the Line of Control (LoC), in some cases by more than a kilometer, to hit nearby Pakistani border posts. A similar advance by the Indians in the Dudhnial area of Neelum valley further north was beaten back by the Pakistanis’. 

The other reason that India might not dare to conduct a surgical strike, lies in the fact that Indian economy shrank by around 25 % in April-June , 2020. Millions of jobless workers have returned to family homes, adding to the woes of the government. In such grave circumstances, it might not be a good idea for India to squander the depleting reserves to restore the tarnished image instead of looking after its impoverished people.

In case India dares to launch this limited war, termed as surgical strike, it must be considered an act of war. Parliament should pass a resolution to this effect. It will give Pakistan a justification to retaliate befittingly. As suggested earlier, the choice of retaliatory attack would be of Pakistan’s choice; a covert operation cannot be ruled out. But Pakistan will never use its tactical nuclear weapons till an open war is launched.

May be India is itching to test its newly acquired Rafale jets. It would be good opportunity for Pakistan to down one, costing US $ 250 million. Even a pre-emptive attack would be justified. The Ambala Air Force base in the northern state of Haryana, where Rafale jets had landed, is only 220 kms from the Pak-India border. Before India uses these jets for surgical strike in Pakistan, an attack to destroy them in their home would make Pakistan more secure.  Ambala Air Force Base was attacked by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in both the 1965 and 1971 wars. In 1965, PAF attacked Ambala and reportedly destroyed some 25 Indian planes just after they had returned from missions.

(Corrigendum: Oman has not joined the peace deal with Israel as it was erroneously mentioned in the editorial dated 1st Dec 2020. So far the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan have signed it.)

NATIONAL

Terrorism/sectarianism- At a glance

Punjab

Sr.NoIncidentKilledInjuredArrested
 Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) in collaboration with a security agency arrested five suspected terrorists and recovered arms & ammunition, explosives, maps, photographs, Afghan ID cards and currency from their possession (09th December). A case FIR was registered against the in the PS CTD, Lahore (09th December). __     __  05
 25 persons were injured as a result of blast near PS Ganj Mandi, Rawalpindi. The Investigations are under progress to determin the nature and cause of the explosion (13th December).  0025 
 In another raid Punjab CTD claimed to have arrested a group of terrorists from Adiala Kharkan Road, Rawalpindi, who were planning to attack Islamabad Stock Exchange and earlier been involved in carrying out four of five such incidents in Rawalpindi, this year including 04th December IED attack in Pirwadhi area. They had been doing such acts on the directions of their handler from Afghanistan. They sent him photo clipping of every incident to receive money (14th December).  03

Comments & Analysis:- The terrorist outfits have intensified their attacks in Punjab too. In Rawalpindi it was the second attack near a police station in 10 days. On 04th December, one person was killed and seven other injured in the IED blast near PS Pir Wadhai, Rawalpindi In March this year, seven people were injured due to detonation of an IED in the Saddar Bazaar. In a similar incident one person was killed 12 others wounded on 12 June.

No doubt the LEAs and intelligence agencies are doing their bit which is evident from the arrest of the terrorists from Lahore and Rawalpindi. But there is a need for more comprehensive, coordinated and sustained efforts to smash terror networks and take preemptive actions to thwart their designs.

Sindh

Sr.NoIncidentKilledInjuredArrested
 1.Four persons including two Rangers personnel, a security guard and a passerby were injured after unidentified motorcyclists hurled a grenade or  low intensity bomb  on the Sindh Rangers’ vehicle near the Sheikh Zayed Islamic  Centre, Karachi University (15 December). 04 
      2.Sindh CTD arrested two terrorists of the banned outfit Sipah-e-Muhommd (SMP-Agha Hassan Group), namely, Karrar Hussain @ Pathan and Kamran Haider @ Kami, from Korangi, Karachi and recovered two pistols and rounds from their possession. (08th December).__  __  02
3.“The Steel Town police, arrested a target killer and extortionist Muqeem @ Shah from Karachi and recovered a grenade and pistol from his possession (13th December). He was reportedly the brother of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi militant Sheikh Mumtaz allias Firun who had escaped from the Karachi central prison a few years ago and later was killed by the security forces during an encounter in Balochistan on returning from Afghanistan.—  01
4.A magnetic explosive device was planted under the vehicle of a Chinese national, owner of a local restaurant. He remained unhurt as the bomb did not go off due to some technical fault, in the Clifton area of Karachi (15th December).

Comments & Analysis: –  Karachi has been the target of the terrorists for last many months. The above arrests show that besides TTP etc., sectarian terrorists are also active in the city. There have been sectarian killings of known religious scholars during the last three months. The sectarian parties and their front men vie for their pie from the economic hub of Pakistan. This propensity of milking Karachi by terrorist, ethnic and sectarian parties must be bridled forthwith. The small separatist groups like Sindhu Desh Revolutionary Army (SRA) are also involved in such activities. The attack on Chinese national smacks of Indian involvement to scare away the Chinese investors. Last year Chinese consulate Karachi was also attacked. 

KPK

Sr.NoIncidentKilledInjuredArrested
      1.One Qais Javed a member of the local Christian community was shot dead by unidentified motorcyclists in Machina Colony in Dera Ismail Khan (08th December).01   __  
2.Four unidentified armed persons in masks, looted Rs. 1.5 million from the Branch of of National Bank of Pakistan in KDA Town, Kohat and fled away (08th December).__  __   
3An unidentified suicide bomber exploded himself during a raid by the security forces in Said Shah area, near the Thangi Bazaar of Bajaur tribal District (07th December).01   
3One Noor Abdullah, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the main bazaar in Mirali town of North Waziristan Tribal District. The  deceased had no personal enmity with anyone in the area (12th December).01 
 A CTD official was shot dead near his house by unidentified gunmen in Kachi area of Kohat District. (14th December).01  
 CTD KP, arrested two alleged terrorists namely Asif and Waqar from Malik Doran Gul Market of Bars tehsil, Khyber Tribal District and recovered two grenades and pistols from their possession (15th December).  02
 Police constable Muhommad Rafiq was killed and a private cook of the police was wounded in an attack on the police van by the unidentified gunmen near Wanda Alam Check Post on Data Tang Chasms Road in Laki Marwat District (15th December).0101 

Comments & Analysis:- Five persons were killed and one injured in terror related incidents in KP during the last week. Target killing is the new strategy of TTP and IS. Besides targeting policemen, soldiers and Maliks, the minority members also appear to be their target to create fear and insecurity among various segments of the society. Random killing is part of the strategy wear out the forces and create fear among the public. The intelligence agencies should see the patterns of killings and take preemptive measures with the active help and support of the LEAs.

Balochistan

Courtesy DAWN
Sr.NoIncidentKilledInjured
1.Five bullet-riddled bodies identified as Mukhtar, Noor Hussain and Aziz were recovered from the Ehdai bordering area of Tump near Iran and two  others namely Hanif and Mitan from Heroik Bridge of Hoshab, 40 km from Turbat City  in Kech District (08th December).05  __   
 2.A railway track was blown up due to the blast of an IED, planted by the unidentified terrorists at a railway crossing in Wali Khan area of Mastung District on the Quetta-Zahidan train route. No one was injured in the blast (10th December).  

Comments & Analysis:- The phenomenon of recovery of bullet-ridden bodies from various parts of Balochistan is continuing for last many years. It is learnt that they were affiliated with outlawed Baloch separatist groups and involved in the terrorist incidents. They were killed during clashes with the security forces.  However, any official confirmation in this connection has not been reported, so far.

DEFENCE/NATIONAL SECURITY

The US Special Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and Commander Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan Gen. Austin Miller called on Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa at GHQ, Rawalpindi. They held discussions over the matters of mutual interest and the progress of “peace process” in Afghanistan (14th December).

The ambassadors of Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka also called on Gen. Bajwa at GHQ separately (15th December).

Comments and Analysis:  It is learnt that the visit of Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. Austin Miller pertains to seeking more support from Pakistan to ensure success of the second round of intra-Afghan dialogue scheduled to be heldl in early January, next year.

Army and Air Chiefs witness Air Defence Exercises

Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and Air Chief, Air Chief Martial Mujahid Anwar Khan witnessed air defence exercises near Gujranwala Cantonment. On this occasion, the Army Chief said that the armed forces were fully prepared to face any threat against the country with the support of nation. He lauded the capabilities and professional skill of the troops taking part in the exercise (16th December).

Comments & Analysis:- According to ISPR, the exercise manifested “The Comprehensive Layered Air Defence”  in which air defence weapons of all regimes were incorporated. The long range air defence weapons and missile systems were practiced.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

FM with Mullah Abdul Ghani Brather

The Taliban delegation led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Brather arrived Islamabad on three day visit and held discussion with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi about the progress of intra-Afghan dialogue. (16th December).

Comments & Analysis:- The visit of the Taliban delegation is a part of the Pakistan’s approach to contact all stake holders to accelerate the Afghan peace process. It is surmised that the Taliban delegation was urged to be more flexible on their stand on certain demands during the next round of intra-Afghan dialogue and were convinced for an early ceasefire in Afghanistan.

CRIME/LAW & ORDER

  1. Police arrested three persons for committing a rape of a minor girl in Pendhigheb town (12th December).
  2. Police arrested a person on the charges of kidnapping and attempt to commit rape of a minor girl in village Khanka Sharif in the jurisdiction of PS Sammsatta, Bahawalpur District (13th December).
  3. Two person Hashmat Khan and Kamran Khan were killed and three others injured in a clash between the rival groups over a minor dispute between the children in Yaqoobi village, PS Chhota Lahore, Sawabi District (13th December).
  4. Five persons including Abdullah, Noor  Buksh and Dad Kareem  were killed and four others injured due to a clash between the two groups on account of family feud in Panjgur District, Balochistan Province (16th December).

Crime Details- 09/12/2020 to 18/12/2020

             Source: Media & National dailies   

Regional

India

Indian Army chief’s visit to UAE and Saudi Arabia

Indian Army Chief Gen. M M Naravane reached Saudi Arabia on the second leg of his two-nation visit to the Gulf and called on the Commander Royal Saudi Land Forces, Gen. Fahad Bin Abdullah Muhammad Al-Mutir. During their meeting they reportedly held discussion on bilateral defence cooperation (13th December).

Earlier, Gen Naravane visited the UAE where he discussed bilateral defence cooperation and issues of mutual interest with the UAE’s Commander of the Land Forces Major General Saleh Mohammed Saleh Al Ameri.

Comments & Analysis:- His visit is being viewed as a reflection of India’s growing strategic ties with the two countries and is expected to further open up new avenues for cooperation in the defence and security sphere. His visit comes in the midst of fast-paced developments in the Gulf region including normalisation of Israel’s relations with several Arab countries as well as situation arising out of the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. In the last few years, India’s ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE have witnessed a major upswing. Pakistan considers India as its arch rival and its growing proximity with Saudi Arabia and the UAE is not viewed favourbly by the government and especially by the people of Pakistan.

India, Israel reviewed progress in defence/Security and economic fields

A senior Indian diplomat Sanjay Bhattacharyya and Director General Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alon Usphiz reviewed the progress of the ongoing cooperation in the strategic fields of defence and security, counter-terrorism and cyber security between the two countries (07th December).

Comments & Analysis: – Israel is one of the major sources of supply of advance weaponry, drones and radars to the Indian military. India has welcomed the recent setting up of Israel’s diplomatic relations with some gulf states including the UAE. Pakistan is keenly observing these developments.

Indian Forces increase arms & ammunition stocking capacity

Indian Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Bipan Rawat stated that efforts were underway to strengthen county’s defence capabilities with arms & ammunition and building necessary infrastructures in view of the threats by the adversaries, on  air, land and sea borders  and China’s attempt to change status quo on LAC in Ladakh(14th December).

Comments & Analysis:- The statement was aimed at increasing India’s arms & ammunition stocking capabilities at a place from 10 to 15 days. Indian army is apprehensive that China is establishing significant infrastructure in Tibet on LAC. Indian political and military hierarchy is constantly displaying belligerent posture to Pakistan and China.

LoC/IHK

Two Pakistan army soldiers- Naik Shah Jehan and Sepoy Hameed were martyred during unprovoked ceasefire violation by the Indian troops in Bagsar Sector along the LoC (15th December).

Comments & Analysis: The nuclear flash-point is heating up.

Afghanistan

Terrorism/Violence

  1. Deputy Governor of Kabul Mahib Ullah Mahboobi and his secretary was killed while two guard wounded after detonation of a meganatic bomb planted in his motor car by unidentified terrorists in Kabul (15th December).
  2. Deputy Head of the Provincial Council of Ghor Province was killed and one other injured due to magnetic IED blast in Feroze Koh (15th December).
  3. A security guard of one Ahmed Malikzada of Bagrami was killed and the Malikzada and one other wounded in Kabul as a result of IED blast in his vehicle in Paghman District of Kabul (16th December).
  4. In another incident a police officer was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Paghman District of Kabul (16th December).
  5. Thirteen Afghan security forces personnel were killed during a clash with Taliban near Wazirabad Check post of Khumri District in Baghlan Province (16th December).

Comments & Analysis: Violence in Afghanistan is not petering out. Incessant blood shed can mar the peace process and intra-Afghan dialogue.

 Afghan President met  US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held a meeting with US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff in Kabul. First Vice President Amarullah Saleh, NDS Chief Hamadullah Mohib and Army Chief Gen. Yaseen Zia were also present there. Both sides discussed the security situation in the country, increased violence and the progress of intra-Afghan dialogue. On this occasion the US Military Commander said that the US support to Afghan defence and security forces would continue (16th December).

Comments & Analysis:-  Gen. Milley’s meeting with the Afghan President was significant in the wake of the recent US announcement of pulling out 2500 more troops from the country. 

Intra-Afghan Dialogue

Afghan President while addressing the cabinet meeting proposed that the next round of intra-Afghan dialogues be held anywhere in Afghanistan instead of Doha. Taliban spokesperson Muhommad Naeem opposed the said proposal. He said that as the interval and resumption of the next round of the negotiations after 05th January, 2021 was  a mutually agreed decision by the two sides therefore, the same should be commenced in Doha rather than anywhere else (14th December).

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Afghan Reconciliation Council Abdullah Abdullah urged the two sides to ensure the next round of “talks” regardless of the venue of the meeting (16th December).

Comments & Analysis: – The Afghan Government seems internally worried that any possible outcome of the “peace talks” will enhance the image of Taliban not only domestically but globally. President Ashraf Ghani is weary of any major power sharing arrangement with the Taliban.

The former Ambassador of Pakistani to Kabul, Mr. Asif Durrani, stated during a recent talk in the Policy Study Institute, Islamabad, that the intra-Afghan dialogue will now enter in crucial stage, therefore, there was a need to neutralize the internal and external spoilers who wanted to undermine any mutual agreement between the Afghan Government and Taliban. He was of the view that swift withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan before achieving the “peace agreement” might further intensify the current violence leading to civil war in the country. He stressed-upon Taliban to show flexibility in their stand and agree on ceasefire before completion of the agreement in the interest of peace.

Coronavirus Crisis Update

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pakistan rose to 254,673 on 19th December, 2020 (Saturday) after new infections were confirmed in the country.

The Province-wise breakup of the total number of cases as of 01:45 pm, December 19th is as follows:

• Sindh: 20,815

• Punjab: 8,321

• Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: 4,501

• Balochistan: 397

• Islamabad Capital Territory: 5,737

• Gilgit-Baltistan:106

• AJK: 1,045

Deaths: 9,250

Comments & Analysis: There was hardly any let up in the severity of the second wave. The vaccine, however, is round the corner, which has given some hope against the killer disease.

Pakistan’s Security Barometer

Terrorism: Terrorist groups like TTP and its affiliates are continuously operating as per their twin strategy, i.e. target killing and IEDs. These groups are trying to carry out target killings in big cities. Low-intensity insurgency is continuing in ex-tribal areas.

Threat Level: High – The threat level is high due to national, international and regional security environment. The intelligence agencies must keep the guards up and take pro-active pre-emptive measures.

Level of Sectarianism & Religious Extremism: On the rise. There is an urgent need to bridle the situation through all means.

Border Situation: Tense – Indian shelling and firing continued at the LoC. The Western border (Pak-Afghan), remained relatively calm.

Social Unrest: Rising; due to exorbitant price hike and political unrest.

Note: TSB is based on open source information.

Weekly Security Brief has been renamed The Security Brief

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