Pakistan’s Operation Order - OO No 216/ K/ GHQ / MO Dte -1/ East dt 17 Aug 2019
Having spoken about the psyche of Pakistani power brokers, namely the military, radical Islamist parties, Army-appointed PM, leading a voiceless Senate and powerless ruling Party, let me now analyze the events that took place at Rawalpindi and at Islamabad, lately.
Two important meetings were held by the Pakistan Army Chief on the current situation in J&K. The meetings at GHQ, Rawalpindi, on 15 Aug 2019, before the return of Pak Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureishi, from Beijing, its iron friend, was essentially to war-game the options available to Pakistan. The later meeting held on 16 Aug 2019 (1900 h to 2345 h Pakistan Standard Time- with an hours’ break for dinner between 2030 h to 2200 h) was meant to ‘inform’ the civilian leadership about what Pakistan Army intended to do.
The assessment of what happened during these meetings is based on some leaks which took place subsequently, information passed on by some sources within the establishment and the Operation Order (OO No 216/ K/ GHQ – MO Dte-1 dt 17 Aug 2019) issued by the Pakistan Army’s DGMO at 0930 h on 17 Aug 2019.
Let us get done with the second meeting first. In this meeting, presided over by Pakistan’s powerful COAS, Q J Bajwa, the invitees from the civil set-up were PM Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureishi, Defence Minister, Parvez Khattak, Sohail Mehmood and Ijaz Ahmad Shah, the Secretaries of Foreign, and Defence Ministries respectively, and Imran Khan’s side kick, the I & B Minister, Fawad Choudhry. During most of the course of the meeting, Imran and his civilian colleagues generally remained quiet while Gen Bajwa spoke. During the detailed briefing carried out by the CGS, Lt Gen Bilal Akbar, Imran spoke only once, when he said, “Pakistan is one with our valiant troops in carrying out our renewed Jihad to liberate Kashmir from the brutalities of a million-strong Indian occupation forces…..”. Before he could end his sentence, his FM intervened, “In fact, the whole world is with us. I have just returned from China…”. While he was still speaking, Gen Bajwa cut him short, “This is time to act. We have been briefed adequately on what we have achieved on the diplomatic front.”
As per the planned format of the meeting, at this stage the meeting broke off for dinner. The civilian leadership left the GHQ. Imran was accompanied by the Chief till the portico and both talked in very low tone. Nevertheless, according to a source, he heard a term like ‘Nassar’ being mentioned once or twice.
The PM and FM travelled in the same car.
The silence was broken by Imran, who asked Shah Mehmood, ” How did you find the Chinese attitude this time?” ” Khan Sahab, let me assure you, as I said during my briefing at the Aiwan e Sadr, Beijing has given a go-ahead about raising the issue in the UNSC, but I must confess that I got the impression that they won’t go whole hog; perhaps not wanting to antagonize either their new-found friend Russia, or even America, with whom they are embroiled in their own trade war and other hassles, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. But, one impression I clearly carried from there- if push comes to shove, they will be with us; they are with us in this, as always.” Qureishi replied in a manner of a conquering General who reports back to the King after a hard-fought victory in a bloody battle. However, Imran Khan clearly understood that the reassuring second sentence that Qureishi uttered was only meant to dilute the effect that Qureshi’s first sentence had on Imran. Nevertheless, not appearing to be reading Qureishi’s mind, Imran said, “Haan, mein China ki majboori samaj sakta hoon. Agar hum Kashmir issue ko UNSC mein China ki madad se uthwa saktein hein, to, Insha Allah, yeh hamari badi kamyabi hogi.” “Insha Allah.”, replied Qureishi.
The first meeting, the crucial one, where decisions were actually taken and plans on a broad canvas drawn, was purely an Army Affair. However, LeT boss Hafiz Syed, Jaish e Mohammad Second in Command, United Jihad Council Chairman, Syed Sallah ud din and his deputy, Khalid Saifullah, were connected through video conferencing whenever they needed to either receive orders or were to be queried about something specific. The Army’s queries basically revolved around two/three issues; the existing strength of their respective Jihadi groups, specifically, their state of arms and ammunition and their morale ( for GHQ, morale of the jihadi groups had been a worrying factor after heavy losses their cadres suffered during ‘Operation All Out’ in Kashmir in the last three years).
Prior to these two meetings, the Army Chief had on 13 Aug, 2019, discussed some crucial issues with CGS, the ISI Chief, Lt Gen Faiz Hameed and Lt Gen Bilal Akbar, GOC X Corps, while all of them formed a four-some in the Independence Day Golf Tournament, organized by the GHQ in Rawalpindi. Walking over the lush green golf course between the 9 holes that they played, they had agreed that Pakisitan Army needed to do something- something big- “otherwise Kashmiris will lose faith in us and our cadres in the Valley will find it difficult to retain popular support.” The CGS had said. The ISI Chief, the hands-on man, added before the Chief could say anything, “After the elimination of nearly complete leadership of our Tanzeems during the last one year and particularly after Balakote, our cadres had been told to melt in those rural areas where they found the population more sympathetic.” The Chief, turning towards the ISI Chief, asked, “How much time do you need to mobilize them?” The ISI Chief was about to reply, when the Chief, after a little pause, continued, “Do you have enough Fidayeen cadres available? I have always felt that after our Mumbai venture, Jaish has produced better and trustworthy Fidayeen than Lashkar guys.” He paused long enough to permit the ISI Chief to reply, “Sir, we have adequate Fidayeen cadres in the staging areas, though not many in launch pads as yet; most of them are, in fact, from Jaish. There are a few locals too in the valley, in south Kashmir, particularly in Shopayan district, but they have not really come up to our expectations, as you are aware, Sir.” The Chief and the CGS nodded briefly and concentrating on their next shots.
After last of the clubs were swung around, the Chief added the parting shot, “Please work out the details. It appears that we will have to finalize our plans before long. I will let you know. Also, as I was mentioning earlier, Kashmiri Awam needs to be involved. Staying inside their homes will not serve our purpose at all. Actually, it is over five days since these developments took place, yet not a single Kashmiri has died in the Valley protesting against these constitutional changes. Yeh nahin chalega.”
Before the Chief was seen off after the game was over, the Gen Bajwa gently pulled the CGS little away from others and whispered to him to follow the instructions on Nassar meticulously. The CGS, replied,” Yes Sir.” The Chief was then seen off by others as his vehicle had by then already pulled up. The others also left immediately thereafter.
Much of the nitty gritty of the plans drawn were explained by the CGS and GOC X Corps, helped frequently by their respective Staff Officers. The ISI Chief gave some valuable inputs, which on many occasions, removed the fog surrounding some of the plans. Though the meeting was meant to last till 2330 hours, it continued well past midnight. The plans, finally approved, left only a few loose ends to be tied up. The broad contours of the plans are given below:
1) No involvement of regular troops inside Kashmir Valley at the initial stage.
2) Troops deployed on the Line of Control to be beefed up by thinning out the V and XII Corps (western borders with Afghanistan and Karachi, respectively).
3) BAT cadres to be strengthened in every brigade sector on the Line of Control to ensure complete dominance of the frontage of respective brigades.
4) Additional troops being brought to the LoC will occupy the defence works prepared within the villages closest to the Line of Control.
5) Additional Artillery units, particularly, mediums, to be made available to X Corps as under:
(a) One regiment each from the three arty brigades of XII Corps.
(b) One Regiment each from two divisions of V Corps.
6) Tanzeem cadres to move to the launch pads, starting Aug 20/21 night and subsequent nights as need arises.
7) QMG to ensure adequate supply of personal weapons, ammunition, explosives, sniper rifles, shoes, warm clothing, etc.
8) IT cells at Battalion to Divisional Hq to work at optimum levels with effect from 21 Aug 2019.
9) Decision about activation of Working Border will be issued subsequently. However, preparations will continue as applicable elsewhere.
10) Ingress routes will be selected by GOC X Corps in consultation with CGS and DGMO. It will be kept in mind that North, North West, West and South are to be activated simultaneously. Following areas were specifically mentioned:
(a) North: Turtuk- Chalunka, Tebelunka Nala.
Dudhgai Forests, Nalsar Forests and Kalaban (all astride Kishenganga)
(b) Northwest: Shalabhato, Kanwali Galli and Neelam Valley.
(c) West: Area east of Haji Pir Pass and forests around Hajira.
(d) South: Area south of Munawar Tawi and all along the working border till the International Border.
11) DGMO will monitor the situation and render all available assistance to X Corps.
12) HATF 9, the short-range Nuclear Missile to be deployed initially in the I Corps Zone-Mangla and south.
13) Targets within Rajhastan, Punjab and Gujarat are to be considered seriously.
It was apparent that Pakistan Army could not think beyond the well-tested operational plans from which they have derived huge dividends in the past. They also factored the usual reaction of Indian political leadership in handling such situations at both diplomatic and political level which had helped them retain that Part of Kashmir which they captured through such means earlier and had, additionally, ensured that western world mostly supported them. However, they seem to have overlooked a crucial change in India’s world-view after the present dispensation at the centre won a resounding mandate for the second time recently.
Pakistan’s game plan essentially revolves around Kashmiris spilling their blood on the streets of Kashmir, after the restrictions are lifted. This is another area which Pakistanis do not seem to have analyzed carefully. From available reports Kashmiri youth is likely to go along with these changes rather than go with the diktat coming from a sinking ship, that is Pakistan.
Pakistan has also not taken into consideration the fact that diplomatically they are more isolated today than before and therefore, it is bad idea going for a major strike in Kashmir with bulk of the world opposing you.
Deployment of HATF 9 under such circumstances is expected, though its use is not. It is an extreme form of caution.
After 21 August, Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir will have to be fully on alert to thwart Fidayeen type of attacks: this time even in civilian areas.
It is possible that Pakistan might yet see the writing on the wall and not indulge in any venture as part of its diplomatic brinkmanship.
Suicide attacks across border states cannot be ruled out.
Disclaimer: The above account is based on the likely events which would have taken place in Pakistan after Aug 5, 2019. The chronology of events or those who have been mentioned, therein are a mere assessment based on common military knowledge and past wars fought between India and Pakistan and the 30 years old ongoing insurgency in Kashmir.