ISLAMABAD: The day seven Pakistani soldiers died in unprovoked shelling by India troops along the Line of Control (LoC), 11 Indian servicemen were also killed in retaliatory fire from the Pakistani side of the de facto border, revealed army chief General Raheel Sharif. “So far, 40 to 44 Indian soldiers have been killed in skirmishes,” the army chief said in an informal chat with journalists at the Presidency where he was attending a dinner hosted by President Mamnoon Hussain in honour of his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The disclosure came two days after the military said that seven soldiers had embraced martyrdom in shelling by Indian forces in the Bhimber Sector of LoC in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. At that time, the military’s media wing, the ISPR, only said that “Pakistani troops while responding to unprovoked Indian firing targeted Indian posts effectively”.
Gen Raheel said Indian Premier Narendra Modi must have fully realised by now what Pakistan’s armed forces were capable of. “He [Modi] knows what we are doing and what we can do. He has come to know that aggression is counterproductive,” he added. Modi has been trying, though unsuccessfully, to isolate Pakistan globally after the Sept 18 deadly militant attack on an Indian military base in the Uri area of Indian Occupied Kashmir. New Delhi blamed Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad militant group without a shred of evidence and subsequently whipped up war hysteria. Not only did the Indian military increased the frequency and intensity of ceasefire violations along the LoC and Working Boundary but also claimed that its special forces had carried out ‘surgical strikes’ against ‘terrorist launch-pads’ on the Pakistan side of the LoC. The Indian claim blew in its face as it failed to substantiate it with evidence, while the Pakistan Army took a group of national and international mediapersons on a rare visit to the LoC to expose the baseless Indian claim. Referring to what was later dismissed by the media as ‘farcical strikes’, the army chief said the “baseless claim turned out to be a mere jugglery of words”. Interestingly, despite repeated prodding by opposition parties, the Modi administration could not produce any evidence to substantiate its surgical strikes claim.
Earlier on Wednesday, addressing troops after witnessing the military exercise ‘Ra’adul Barq’ (Thunder of Lightning), the army chief said defence of the country was impregnable and no one could cast an evil eye on it. “Pakistan’s armed forces are fully capable of giving a befitting response to any aggression.” Gen Raheel said Pakistan’s armed forces knew how to tackle the threat whether it was conventional or non-conventional, and vowed that the coming generations would inherit a better and secure Pakistan. “Sacrifices rendered during Operation Zarb-e-Azb will not go to waste,” he added. “The time is not far when the people of Pakistan will be free from the scourge of terror.”
Nawaz warns of ‘befitting response’
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who also witnessed the military exercise, said that any attempt to harm Pakistan’s security and territorial integrity would be met with a ‘befitting response’. “There is no doubt that the country’s armed forces are battle-hardened and ready to confront any external and internal security challenges,” Nawaz said in his remarks after the exercise. He said the enemies of Pakistan had exposed their intentions to harm Pakistan’s national integrity and economic prosperity. “However, determination and resilience of our armed forces is a shield that counters any nefarious designs by our adversaries,” he added. Nawaz said Ra’adul Barq denoted the commitment of the country’s armed forces for the cause of national defence, and expressed satisfaction that their enhanced capabilities made them “one of the finest fighting forces of the world”. The prime minister said no country could remain oblivious of its national security, adding that “our strategic vision gives utmost priority to the defence of our motherland”.
He said the government was following the policy of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs and expected the same to enable lasting peace in the region. He said Pakistan had been a major target of terrorism being supported and financed mainly by external actors. “No country can tolerate such attacks on its sovereignty. Our nation and armed forces are successfully countering the malicious designs of our foes,” he added. “We will not be deterred by the perpetrators of terrorism who will find us even more determined to eradicate this evil, and we are steadfast against all anti-state activities.” Nawaz said Kashmir has been a bone of contention between Pakistan and India, adding that serious efforts were required for its resolution in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.
Earlier, the prime minister witnessed Ra’adul Barq military exercise, jointly conducted by Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force, in Khairpur Tamewali firing range of Cholistan. The comprehensive joint exercise showcased the combat-readiness of the country’s defence line with live firepower demonstration using heavy artillery, fighter jets and air defence weapons. Premier Sharif, along with Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Rashad Mahmoud and three services chiefs, witnessed the movement of artillery corps’ Al Khalid tanks successfully engaging targets in the firing range, some 70 kilometres from Bahawalpur. PAF’s fighter jets, including JF-17 Thunder, F-7PG and Mirage, hit the targets with agility and precision avoiding the radars. The manoeuvering Mirage aircraft flew close to ground striking at the designated targets. The Firing Falcon – formation of four F-16 aircraft, each capable of carrying 24,000 pounds high explosive bombs enough to target 2×2 kilometres of land, successfully hit targets.
The Cobra gunships and Z10 helicopters fired missiles having six kilometres range and successfully engaged targets. The helicopters of Army Aviation Combat Group that participated in the Operation Zarb-e-Azb also demonstrated their combat potential. The exercise also demonstrated indigenously developed surface-to-air missiles, multi-barrel rocket launchers, sky radars for target detection and rocket-propelled target system. The demonstration concluded a fly-past by F-16 aircraft receiving thunderous applause by the audience. Deputy chief of staff of Saudi armed forces especially flew in on behalf of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef to witness the exercise.