Don't confuse our soldiers

Aug 12, 2013, 07:15 IST | Smita Prakash

The past week saw the opposition and the media roast Defence Minister AK Antony over coals because of the flip flop over his statements in Parliament

The past week saw the opposition and the media roast Defence Minister AK Antony over coals because of the flip flop over his statements in Parliament.

And justifiably so. Somehow, preparing a note seems to be a Herculean task for officials of the government of India. They perhaps need to go back to taking Class 10 Board examinations. To substitute men ‘dressed’ in uniform with ‘specialist forces’ is completely cringe-worthy. Men or women are in uniform not “dressed” unless it is a fancy dress party. And pray, what are ‘specialist forces’? Were they a team of ENT doctors?

Only truth: The families of the soldiers only know that their kin fell to Pakistani bullets

The families of the soldiers only know that their kin fell to Pakistani bullets. Ask their fellow soldiers in the unit: who killed their buddies? It doesn’t matter to them whether it was a jehadi terrorist or an enlisted soldier of Pakistan army. That distinction is irrelevant. And that is the way it should be. On the front --and LoC is a front, even in these times of an official cease-fire -- there is your unit and there is ‘Dushman’.

And that is true of Pakistan as well. On their western front, the Pakistani army and paramilitary forces have to deal with terrorists, in uniform or in rags, mowing down Pakistani soldiers and civilians using sophisticated weaponry and suicide vests. Does that make Pakistan a victim of terrorism? On the face of it, yes. There are bombs blowing up unarmed civilians every single day in Pakistan for the past two months. The media mirrors public opinion in anguished editorials and talk shows as it wonders why the world does not empathise with its bereaved families, and does not see Pakistan as a victim of terrorism. Odd, isn’t it? Pakistan has been labelled as the world’s jehadi factory, epicentre of terrorism, and breeder and protector of mass murders and international terrorists. Pakistanis have to realise that they are identified by the government they elect, and by the institutions they have created, encouraged and left unchecked.

That Pakistani army and its intelligence agencies create, train and arm terror groups is accepted globally. The ignominy of that has to be borne by Pakistanis. Unfortunately that’s the way the dice rolls. Just like Indians have to now bear the brunt of being labelled corrupt. We have allowed corruption to become our leitmotif and that’s how we are now seen globally, a people with potential but who won’t move without ‘chai-paani-kharcha’.

Back to the incident on the LoC. The signs were there, glaring at us. The jail break in Dera Ismail Khan where 254 prisoners escaped was an operation by three jehadi groups that worked with military precision. This is what one jehadi commander told the Pakistani media: “A total of 125 men took part in the operation. The fighters were divided into separate groups, one of whom was reserved for back up… a ten-man group was assigned the task of gathering intelligence, while a group of 25 men, including 18 equipped with night-vision, stormed the jail in the initial phase. Another 25 men were deployed outside the jail to guide the prisoners to vehicles and while 25 more were tasked with transporting them out of the city. A 25-man group was also deployed on the road to respond to any security forces movement and another 25 men were reserved for backup.”

What was the response of the Pakistani security forces? They were outnumbered, they fled, did not call for reinforcements, the army stationed barely an hour from the jail did not arrive even though the whole operation took several hours because the jehadis sent threat messages that the garrisons would be attacked next. The prisoners and jehadis coolly dispersed into safe havens, secure that they would not be followed or hunted down. But they left their signature: five Shia prisoners beheaded and some heads taken away.

Now these jehadi groups are armed to the teeth and trained, as well, if not better than the Pakistani security forces. How does it matter whether they are “dressed in uniform” or not? “Specialist forces” or not? Operating in Dera Ismail Khan or at the LoC? Our forces deployed on the 1,800 mile border should not be sent befuddling signals by the Indian government. Whether uniformed or not, whether regulars or irregulars, if they cross the border, then they have to be tackled in the way that befits an intruder. Regulars can morph into irregulars and vice versa rather easily. That lesson from 1947, 1965 and Kargil must never be forgotten.

Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on Twitter @smitaprakash  

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