Defence Ministery says polls in provincial assemblies to leave country vulnerable in report submitted to SCISLAMABAD:
The defence ministry has said India’s top spy agency has planned to exploit fault lines of the country to hurt the federation of Pakistan if elections at the Punjab Assembly are held prior to elections for the national legislature and other provincial assemblies.
“The RAW [Research and Analysis Wing] identified fault lines to hurt the federation of Pakistan especially [by fanning] ethnic issues, water disputes, [the alleged] resource capture and monopoly of Punjab and as terrorists say in Balochistan, the colonisation by Punjab.
“Therefore, holding of general elections of Punjab Assembly would fuel the situation,” the ministry said in the report submitted to the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
It said senior leaders have also opined against the visualised monopoly of Punjab. “Hence, an even more charged environment in Punjab can trigger instability in the country, besides a constitutional crisis.”
The report said that the terrorist threat in Pakistan is likely to increase in the immediate future but the situation will improve by winter [October 2023].
It said Pakistan would continue to be a victim of a Global Great Game, where India enjoys primacy with the permissive environment to hurt Pakistan through terrorism, targeting Chinese interests in the country.
"Pakistan is threatened not only by insecurity due to external aggression but also by internal instability. Both are interlinked. Internal chaos invites external aggression.
“Therefore, India would continue with strategic coercion including through terrorism in Pakistan and exploit any opportunity at the operational/tactical level for limited military action to all-out war.
It said the terror threat has increased as compared to 2018 and 2021 because the environment in Afghanistan is worst after August 2021 after the return of the Afghan Taliban to Pakistan.
With the TTA government, US control is gone, 1500 terrorists have been released from jails and the latest military equipment is available to the TTP, making the threat more potent.
"Relatively unchecked freedom of movement is available to TTP, JUA, BLA, BNA, BLF, ISKP. TTP/ISKP are settled on border districts of Pakistan Afghan Border.
“TTA is not in a position to conduct operations against TTP. In 2021/2022, Pakistan opted for reconciliation with the TTP to minimise terrorism, but it ended as a failed strategy leading to increased cases of terrorism in K-P, Balochistan and elsewhere in Punjab.
“Major blow to counter-terrorism was in August 2022.
“The TTP is re-grouping in Afghanistan posing a greater threat to us. Afghanistan continues to offer ungoverned ungovernable spaces to terrorist groups.
“Iran offers a fairly enabling environment to terrorists operating in Balochistan including hosting, financing and facilitating RAW /Hostile Intelligence Agencies against Pakistan.
Due to Pakistan's efforts in 2023, IAG (Interim Afghan Government) is now undertaking relocation of the TTP terrorists away from border areas of the Pakistan-Afghan Border to the areas away from the border.
“This process is likely to start by winter / October 2023 and will accrue positive dividends to Pakistan with respect to Counter-terrorism.
“Recent understanding amongst China, Pakistan, Iran/Afghanistan on Counter Terrorism which is being led by PRC will also produce results in 6-8 Months,” says the defence ministry's report.
Why Punjab is Highly Vulnerable to Terrorism
The report says a fresh wave of terrorism has emerged. A total of 150 threat warnings have been received from January 2022 to April 2023 out of which 78 were averted via Counter Terrorism Intelligence Operations.
“However, 8 of them materialised including a few major terrorist incidents during the last quarter like the attack on Police Station Makarwal, 31 January 23. (TTP) IED Blast on Jaffer Express, Sahiwal 16 February 23.
Attack on ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan. AQ, AQIS, LeJ, and other terrorists' sleeper cells are active now in Punjab, South Punjab, and even ICT as evident from High Profile Attacks.
Apprehension of Terrorists and sleeper cells confirmed more threats in offing. Reports of Terrorists ex ISIS, ZB returning from Syria /Yemen / Middle East to Pakistan including Punjab, pose a security risk.
The report says there are a number of threat alerts received against the political leadership of various political parties, mostly in Punjab.
In case some terrorist or HIAs threat materialises.
it may cause chaos and further deepen the existing political polarisation, which could lead to instability and breakdown.
"In wake of the highly charged political environment in Punjab/ Country and the element of violence recently introduced into politics, the possibility of clashes among the political workers of various political parties has risen exponentially which complicates Law and order situation and is good for terrorists.
"RAW identified fault-lines to hurt the federation of Pakistan, especially ethnic issues, water disputes, resource capture and monopoly of Punjab; and as terrorists say in Balochistan, colonisation by Punjab.
Provincial general elections in the province would fuel those sentiments. Provincial assemblies of Balochistan and Sindh have already resolved against this.
Senior leaders have also opined against the visualised monopoly of Punjab. Hence, an even more charged environment in Punjab that can trigger instability in the country, besides a constitutional crisis"
About the situation along borders, the report says that the security situation, over the last few years, has necessitated the concurrent deployment of a large number of troops on both eastern and western borders.
"Despite a cease-fire understanding in place, India continues to challenge Pakistan's response capacity through frequent violations along LOC/LAC /International Border.
Along Pakistan-Afghanistan Border, elements like TTP persistently attempt infiltration across Pakistan-Afghanistan Border besides recurrent exchange of fire with Interim Afghan Government elements as well.
72 cross-border incidents -- with 2 soldiers shaheed and 8 soldiers injured -- have taken place since 1 January 23 along Pakistan-Afghanistan Border.
"Similarly, cross-border movement and attacks against security forces by militant organisations in Balochistan, utilising territory of neighbouring countries, are constant challenges along the Pakistan-Iran border with 8 cross-border incidents occurring involving 9 Soldiers Shaheed since 1 January 23"