Drones for arms smuggled to Punjab

Following the dropping of arms including a large number of AK 47 assault rifles through drones in Punjab from Pakistan side, the Punjab Chief Minister has sought the help of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, writes Bharat Hiteshi

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The Punjab Police have busted a terror module involving the use of drones to drop arms in the state that were dropped near Khalra village in Tarn Taran district. The arms were obviously meant for fomenting terror in Punjab and also Kashmir that is currently witnessing a lockdown after the abrogation of Article 370. Punjab has in the past witnessed terror activities in Pathankot when Air Force base was attacked sometime back. The Pathankot incident took place in year 2016 and a year before that in 2015, Dinanagar in Punjab had witnessed terrorist activities.

The Punjab Police took the incident of using drones to supply and drop arms in the state very seriously for two reasons-one being Punjab’s proximity to Pakistan and second past history of Punjab as far as terrorists activities are concerned. In the present case, the police suspect it to be the handiwork of the Pakistan’s Intelligence agency ISI. Punjab has 550-km-long border with Pakistan and infiltration of terrorists is a routine affair. Punjab is a known target for terror outfits to supply arms and drugs in this border state. Punjab’s border with Jammu and Kashmir makes it vulnerable for terror groups to use it as a launch pad and to disturb hard bought peace.

The seizure of arms cache is a precursor to Pakistan up to it old practice of creating chaos in Punjab. The intelligence agencies have submitted a report to the Ministry of Home Affairs in this connection stating that a large number of AK-47 assault rifles and grenades were dropped in Amritsar in Punjab by drones in September.

According to intelligence agencies, eight sorties have been detected so far and these weapons were meant for terrorists who could use them to create trouble in Jammu and Kashmir in the aftermath of abrogation of Article 370. The report has raised questions on the vigil by Border Security Force stating why the force was not able to detect the presence of any drone activity along their area of operation. Again last week, drones were detected in two more locations in Punjab at Hazarasingh Wala and Tendiwala villages in Punjab.

An official statement by the Punjab government said it had recovered two drones used in dropping weapons from across the border during the last two months. An official spokesman said one drone was recovered in August and another was seized in the burnt condition in September from Jhabal town in Tarn Taran.

The BSF sighted two high-flying drones along Punjab’s Hussainiwala sector, days after police recovered Pakistani drones used to airdrop arms and ammunition in border areas of the state.

The BSF personnel sighted the drone four times on the Pakistani side, while once it was seen almost a kilometer inside the Indian territory, a BSF official said.

Official sources alleged that Pakistan is hell-bent on pushing militants into India besides making attempts to drop arms and ammunition in Punjab after the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. Following the heightened security along Indo-Pak border, Pakistan-based terror groups are now using Punjab as a place to dump supplies of arms, ammunition, narcotics and counterfeit currency.

In these cases, the drones, immediately after entering into the Indian territory, soon thereafter, returned to Pakistan.

BSF officials had also informed Punjab Police about a third Drone which was seen entering into Indian Territory last week. However, the police failed to trace any drone. A Pakistani drone was also seen on October 1, 2019 in Fazilka sector. On August 13, 2019 too a Pakistani drone was found crashed inside paddy field in Muhawa village in Amritsar. The police on September 25 had recovered remains of a charred Pakistani drone from Jhabal area in Tarn Taran.

Police investigations have found that the terrorists of Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) and Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) had at least used four drones to send supplies of weapons and ammunition besides the counterfeit currency. In view of these incidents, the security agencies, Border Security Force, police and military intelligence are keeping an eye on the movement of Pakistani drones. The police and Army authorities have said that any suspicious drone found venturing into Indian Territory will be shot down.

To avoid any mix up, the people have been warned in the border villages to not to use drones during weddings. The police have banned flying drones near military and Air Force stations. The BSF has also started sensitising the border area residents to inform the police or BSF authorities if they spot anything unusual near the zero line.

In the meanwhile, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said the incident has a new and serious dimension to Pakistan’s sinister designs in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370. The Chief Minister urged the Union Home Minister to tackle the problem at the earliest.

Tagging Union Home Minister Amit Shah in a tweet from his official handle, Capt. Amarinder wrote, “‘Recent incidents of Pakistan-origin drones dropping consignments of arms & ammunition is a new and serious dimension on Pakistan’s sinister designs in aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370. Request @AmitShah ji to ensure that this drone problem is handled at the earliest.”

Union Minister of State for Defence Shripad Yesso Naik said that “India is capable of dealing with it and there is no issue of concern.”

The Army and Border Security Force (BSF) had even sounded an all-out alert along the entire Indo-Pak border and Line of Control (LoC) following reports of the drones. According to information divulged during their interrogations, the drones landed as a result of the drones’ height and weight following which the militants destroyed the carriers or hid them. The GPS-fitted drones capable of lifting up to 10 kg flew in from Pakistan seven to eight times to airdrop the cache of arms, ammunition and fake currency seized in Punjab’s Tarn Taran district, according to a probe by Punjab Police.

State Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta had pointed out that initial investigation revealed that the weapons were suspected to have been delivered recently across the border from Pakistan over drones launched by Pakistan’s ISI and the State-sponsored Jihadi and pro-Khalistani terrorist outfits working under its command. The DGP observed that “The large-scale infiltration appeared to have been aimed at scaling terrorism and militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and the Indian hinterland, in the wake of the recent developments in the Valley.”