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4 Indian posts destroyed as Pakistan hits back

December 24, 2001

ISLAMABAD, Dec 23: In response to heavy Indian troops buildup monitored on Rajasthan, Sindh and central Punjab borders, leave of absence of all the defence personnel have been cancelled as part of an “appropriate” defence measure, an official source said.

All the defence personnel on leave have been directed to report for duty at the earliest, an action taken to face any eventuality, the source said.

Reports reaching here speak of movement of heavy defence equipment towards border areas.

A spokesman for the Inter-Services Public Relations, when contacted to comment on Indian troops buildup, said they were closely monitoring the situation and had already taken all the “appropriate measures.”

The Indian army was concentrating troops in Rajasthan, Sindh and central Punjab, a manoeuvre which the government had already condemned, he said.

Indian Prime Minister Attal Behari Vajpayee had announced that New Delhi would not exercise the option of war. This declaration notwithstanding, the Indian army was amassing its troops along its western borders.

Besides the military buildup on the international border, the tension on the Line of Control dividing Kashmir was also mounting.

Pakistan has already redeployed its troops on the LoC, which had been unilaterally withdrawn by the government last year as part of its policy of “maximum restraint” aimed at normalisation of relations with India.

An ISPR spokesman disclosed that the intensity of skirmishes between the two armies on the LoC had increased significantly over the past few weeks.

He disclosed that Indian army resorted to unprovoked firing at the civilian population in Poonch and Rawala Kot sectors at 8.30am on Sunday morning.

Indian army used artillery guns, heavy and light mortars, in the firing, which continued for well over an hour but no causality was reported, he said.

Pakistani troops retaliated and destroyed four enemy posts, causing heavy damage, he said. Fire broke out at one of the posts, which raged for hours and could be seen from far-off areas, he added.

Defence sources, however, said that the causalities at the Combined Military Hospital, Rawala Kot, had risen significantly. On average, four to five casualties were being reported daily, something which was not a routine, the source said.

Pakistan army, for the first time since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, is faced with a double border situation, and a significant number of troops and military assets have recently been deployed at the Durand Line, particularly in the southern NWFP, close to Tora Bora range, to check any possible infiltration.

In the border areas, US troops were closely working with the Pakistani army for monitoring the movement of Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters fleeing from Tora Bora.