LeT lights India-Pak fire

Islamabad: The start of a new year in the sub-continent proved only to increase the tension between Pakistan and India, as Indian officials claimed a Pakistani boat exploded in Indian waters off the coast of Porbandar in Gujrat.

Indian officials claimed that the boat began its journey in Karachi, carrying four suspected terrorists on board. The officials suspected Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) to be behind the alleged attempted attack.

The Indian Coast Guard intercepted a suspicious fishing boat, after which a chase ensued and ended after the Indian Coast Guard fired a warning. 

“Soon thereafter, the crew hid themselves in below deck compartment and set the boat on fire, which resulted in an explosion and major fire on the boat,” a statement by the Ministry of Defence in India said.

The Pakistani government rejected the claims that a Pakistani fishing boat carrying explosives was intercepted by the Indian Coast guard.

However, in what is criticized as retaliation to India’s interception of an alleged Pakistani boat, Indian reports state that Pakistan has captured two Indian fisherman vessels, but the Pakistani media has not reported this.

BJP government officials reacted strongly to the boat incident near Porbandar, claiming that Pakistan is using the same tactics it used in the 26/11 attacks, an accusation Pakistan has denied a countless times.

However, Indian legislators have been arguing over the matter, with Congress accusing BJP of not coming clean about the boat issue, and stating that there was no concrete evidence to suggest that those on the boat were terrorists, BJP has responded by criticizing Congress of “speaking the same language as Pakistan”.

On the other hand, fresh gun battles and mortar shell exchanges between the border security forces of India and Pakistan along with Line of Control (LoC) and the International boundaries have erupted again. Both sides have suffered civilian casualties and mass displacement of locals living in villages along the border.

While Pakistan continues its military offensive against the Pro-Taliban militants in the tribal areas of North Waziristan and the Khyber Agency; it does not put banned outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in the same list in its targeted operation.

It is pertinent to mention that recently, an anti-Terror court in Pakistan granted bail to the suspected mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhwi after 5 years of investigation into the case, basing its decision on lack of evidence against him. The decision was later challenged in the Supreme Court of Pakistan by the Federal government while Lakhwi stays in detention.

The boat blast incident has shifted the focus to terror outfits trying to infiltrate major cities of Pakistan including the economic hub of Karachi.

It is no secret that Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives, sub factions of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and the Al-Qaeda continue to operate freely across Karachi as pamphlet distribution with detailed messages from banned outfits are witnessed every Friday outside mosques after Jummah prayers.

India has raised serious concerns over the involvement of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) behind the boat blast incident.

Lashakr-e-Taiba (LeT), the militant faction of Jamat-ud-Dawa (juD) led by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is believed to be operating its nexus under the name of a non-profit organization ‘Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FiF)’.

FIF workers are seen as the first to reach the border lines with India every time there is a cross-border firing incident and are also among the first to reach any terror attack place with ambulances and relief workers.

FIF holds one of the country’s largest ambulance networks comprising of over a million workers.

Being part of the Jamat-ud-Dawa, FIF is based in JuD’s main camp in Muridke, about 35 kilometers from Punjab’s provincial capital Lahore. It has been claimed many times in the past that Muridke holds one of the biggest recruiting and training camp for Lashkar-e-Taiba militants, who later are deputed at various positions across the country including Kashmir, Sialkot, Kasur and Karachi.

All the mentioned areas are closest to India’s border and have been used for militant penetration and movement back and forth through the border for terror activities.

Mumbai’s 26/11 attack proves that India is susceptible to terrorist strikes, and with the alleged mastermind on the brink of release, a legitimate concern over future attacks on India can be expressed. Thus, there is a probability of the intercepted boat actually transporting terrorists.

This may shed light on the alleged LeT involvement in the boat intercepted by the Indian Coast Guard. Arrested LeT militant, Abu Jundal, in the past had disclosed the fact that LeT planned on using aerial and sea attacks against India; sea attacks that could be made possible through Karachi.

With Lakhwi’s bail hearings underway, and India’s outrage at the fact the alleged terrorist mastermind was even granted bail, LeT could be responsible for the boat in Indian waters.

However, terrorist involvement in the boat interception situation is yet to be confirmed. While both the countries have terrorist threats and with reports of terrorist activities coming in from Karachi – where the boat allegedly set sail from – militancy is not the only viable reason behind a suspicious boat being found by Indian officials near its coast.

Though an investigation is underway into the incident, the fact remains that the existence of terrorist groups that are concerned with India are not being realized and targeted in Pakistan’s line of action in its counter-terrorism strategy.

Hafiz Saeed, a man with a $10 million bounty and a declared global terrorist, moves across Pakistan as a free man, as declared by Pakistani courts. 

This raises concerns over Pakistan’s intent in normalizing their relationship with India and acting on what it claims to be a non-discriminated approach in its action against terror elements on its soil. It also raises concerns over the stretch of the Nawaz Sharif led government with the military establishment and its capability to take them on board if it decides to re-initiate the dialogue process with India.

With tensions between the two rivals on the borders along with a consistent stretch on hopes of any probability of talks between the two countries; a resolve to the tension seems far from sight and keeps both sides engaged in a low-scale waged war of cross border firings, terrorist penetrations and blame game.

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