New Delhi: In a rare development, Pakistan is said to have shared information on a possible terrorist attack in Kashmir’s Pulwama district, probably near Awantipora using a car borne explosive device, a report in the Indian Express newspaper said on Sunday quoting a senior unnamed security official in Srinagar.
As a consequence, the entire security grid in Jammu and Kashmir has been on high alert since the information was shared a few days ago, the report said. The attack, the Pakistanis say, is being planned to avenge the killing of Zakir Musa who headed an al-Qaeda affiliate and was killed by Indian security personnel last month.
In New Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs did not immediately comment on the matter. The Pakistan High Commission and the US embassy in New Delhi too did not comment.
“We are reading Pakistan’s sharing of this information in two ways. It is either a way to make sure that they avoid blame if a big attack takes place, because they have already shared the information with the Americans,” said a security official quoted by the Indian Express report in Kashmir said. “Or it is a genuine attempt to inform us ahead after they found out, particularly because the information is regarding a plan to attack by members of an al-Qaeda linked group,” the official quoted by the paper said.
“We also understand that any activities of terrorists linked to al-Qaeda are seen differently by them (Pakistan),” the official was quoted as saying.
If Pakistan did pass on the information about the possible attack, it will be seen as a rare case of Islamabad warning New Delhi of an impending terrorist attack. While Pakistan has reportedly cooperated with the US and British intelligence agencies to thwart major attacks, such cooperation with India has not been forthcoming since Pakistan views those terrorist groups targeting India as helping its cause in keeping an insurgency in Kashmir on the boil.
The timing too of the warning – if it was passed on to India – is interesting. Pakistan, which is on the grey list of the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for not seen to be doing enough to curb finances from being diverted to terrorist groups based on its soil, is to be reviewed at an FATF conference in Orlando this week. The central government has been pushing for Pakistan to be put on the FATF’s black list especially after the 14 February Pulwama terrorist attack.
At the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit in Bishkek, which Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also attended, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Chinese President Xi Jinping that Pakistan needs to create an atmosphere “free of terrorism”, but at this stage, New Delhi has not seen that from Islamabad. Modi also said he has made efforts to initiate peace with Pakistan, but his efforts have been “derailed.”
Musa, who launched and headed an al-Qaeda affiliate called Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind in Kashmir after breaking away from the Hizbul Mujahideen in May 2017, was killed in an operation in the Tral area last month. Police sources said Ansar, which had an estimated membership of about a dozen militants, is now down to “two to three” militants.
The 14 February Pulwama suicide attack killed 40 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force causing tensions to soar between India and Pakistan. India bombed a terrorist training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot region on 26 February and Pakistan in retaliation tried to target Indian military installations in Kashmir. There was concerted international pressure on Pakistan and, weeks later, China too joined the global consensus at the United Nations to blacklist Maulana Masood Azhar, chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, the group suspected to have been behind the Pulwama attack.