While India’s Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir has been at the core of Pakistan’s terrorist plots for several decades, Punjab too has witnessed terror activity orchestrated by Pakistan in the recent past. Pakistani terrorists carried out terror attacks in the border districts of Gurdaspur and Pathankot in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
ISI activating terror outfits ahead of Punjab, UP polls: Intel
Attacks in 2015 and 2016 were sporadic ones.
Fast forward to the winters of 2021 and early 2022, Pakistan’s external spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) realised that Punjab Assembly polls are around the corner. So, it wants to foment more trouble in the state.
As per intelligence sources, the ISI has activated terror outfits to execute more panic activities in Punjab, and parts of UP which are also set to go to the polls. Meanwhile, the ISI has also told the proscribed Sikh Militant organizations that this is a time of ‘Now or Never’ for Khalistan.
Why ISI chose to step up activity before elections
For the ISI, elections in Punjab is the perfect time to foment terrorist activity.
Sources in the security set-up quoted intelligence inputs to say that ISI sponsored terror outfits may target poll rallies and also try to target some important leaders and VVIPs in Punjab, as well as parts of UP and Uttarakhand.
ISI realises that during the election process, there may be gatherings and election rallies addressed by top political leaders. It wants to carve an opportunity out of such big events.
The UP and Uttarakhand governments too have been asked to keep a vigil on such nefarious activities and keep in touch with Sikh religious leaders and prominent persons. The intelligence inputs have disclosed that ISI-sponsored groups may try to make inroads among the Sikh population in other states too, to mobilise support for their cause.
The ISI is trying hard. It has instructed Sikh militant groups based abroad to channelise weapons and explosives supply in Punjab. Organisations like International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), and Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) have been asked to arrange the supply of weapons through Pakistani handlers.
Leaders of such outfits like Wadhava Singh Babbar of BKI, Parmjit Singh Panjawar of Khalistan Commando Force and Ranjeet Singh Neeta of Khalistan Zindabad Force are reportedly in constant touch with ISI.
Terror incidents in Punjab
Last year, months of November and December witnessed two significant incidents. In November, motorcycle-borne persons had thrown a low-intensity hand grenade made in Pakistan towards an army camp in Pathankot at midnight.
Later, an investigation by Punjab Police revealed that the International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) – a pro-Khalistan, proscribed organisation was responsible for the attack.
Then, in December, there was a bomb blast at the districts and sessions court complex in Ludhiana. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) registered a case against Jaswinder Singh Multani, a member of the banned Khalistani outfit Sikhs for Justice (SFJ). Multani was later arrested in Germany.
The two attacks were possibly a consequence of ISI-backed terror activity in Punjab. Intelligence agencies had also warned of terror attacks ahead of Punjab Assembly elections 2022.
An intelligence official was quoted as saying, “We held a meeting with state intelligence officers and issued a warning to them regarding terror activities in the state. We have asked them to keep a close watch on social media to keep tapping on any rumour-mongering. At present, Punjab is more fragile than Kashmir.”
Amidst such reports, there has also been this issue of Pakistan using drones to transport weapons and explosives across the border. This is a major security challenge with officials saying that there were over 60 incidents of drone spotting on the Indo-Pakistan border in the Punjab sector.
The Border Security Force (BSF) has shot down several such drones. India must however keep its security machinery ready to respond to every terror conspiracy being hatched by the ISI.