Islamabad: In what seems to be a sign of escalating tensions, Pakistan army personnel are being increasingly deployed along the 190km international border in Jammu at border outposts and camps usually manned by the Pakistan Rangers.
The change in deployment has been noted by the Border Security Force and is seen as a clear departure from the practice of specialized paramilitaries, instead of armies, guarding the borders in Jammu, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Bengal.
Top sources in BSF and the government confirmed that the Pakistani army had deployed soldiers and weaponry at the Rangers’ posts, placing regular Pakistan troops face to face with the BSF. “It’s difficult to say if the Pakistani army has taken control of the Rangers’ posts at IB but there is certainly a lot of movement, with many vehicles regularly bringing soldiers and arms. This has been going on for the past 8-9 days,” said a senior official.
There is no intelligence input on what the Pakistani army is doing exactly, but the intent seems to be to beef up military presence along the international border.
The change ties in with New Delhi’s assessment that the Pakistani army will continue to provoke hostilities until the end of the month, when chief General Raheel Sharif is due to retire. “General Sharif may be hoping to leverage the tension he has created on the border to determine the choice of his successor,” said a senior government functionary in Delhi. The Indian Army is in charge along the line of control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir, where the boundary does not have official recognition and is disputed.
The BSF has gathered information on the rank and number of Pakistani regulars, and is linking their presence to the firing and shelling directed at Indian civilians along border areas.
According to sources, the sector commander of Chenab Rangers (part of Pakistan Rangers) in Jammu is Brigadier Amzad Hussain, an army officer. “There seems a high probability that Pakistan’s army is directing attacks on civilians in contrast to the Indian Army,” said a BSF official.
The sector opposite the Indian sector hit worst last week — Samba, with eight civilian deaths — too has an army officer, believed to be Lt Col Hashim Bhatti, commanding the 24 Chenab Rangers.
Similarly, opposite India’s Chicken Neck sector, Pakistani army’s Lt Col Tariq is understood to be in charge of the 21 Chenab Rangers, which oversees 30-odd border outposts in Head Marala. Lt Col I A Khan looks after 12, Wing in Langay Manjkay across India’s R S Pura sector.