For public relations (PR) agencies, ‘dressing-up’ unpleasant news through a mix of euphemisms, emotional rhetoric and even a bit of white lies is understandable, but to mislead the public by grossly fudging facts is unpardonable, especially if this is done by a respected organisation like the army. However, Pakistan Army’s media wing Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) has no qualms in blatantly peddling falsehoods, even though this has severely eroded its credibility. Where else in the world would you find an army’s media wing trying to justify enforced disappearances by using the irrational ‘All is fair in love and war’ logic
Through its press release [No PR-256/2020-ISPR, dated December 27, 2020], ISPR had once again treated us to yet another of its patent big-fat-lie. It reads, “Terrorists fire raid on Frontier Corps Balochistan post in Sharig, Harnai, Balochistan late last night. During intense exchange of fire, 7 brave soldiers embraced shahadat while repulsing raiding terrorists. Area has been cordoned off and escape routes have been blocked to apprehend fleeing miscreants. A large scale search and clearance operation is in progress. Such cowardly acts by inimical elements backed by anti state forces will not be allowed to sabotage hard earned peace and prosperity in Balochistan. Security forces are determined to thwart their nefarious designs at all costs [sic].”
From the contents of this press release, three important facts related to this attack emerge. One, it was a “fire raid,” implying that the assailants had targeted the post from a distance. Two, the firing took place during ‘late…night’ and three, that security personnel manning the post had succeeded in “repulsing [the] raiding terrorists”. So, since the attackers apparently didn’t have courage to come close to the checkpost due to the fear of getting killed and instead chose to carry out a “fire raid” and that too in the dead of night, ISPR has rightly called this attack a “cowardly act”.However, if the details of this incident as stated by ISPR are indeed true, then the fact that the Frontier Corps (FC) personnel within the checkpost suffered seven fatalities is rather intriguing for more than one reason.
Firstly, security forces establish check-posts at sites affording good visibility and natural defensibility, so that they can’t be surprised by attackers. Secondly, security check posts have a well-planned defensive perimeter interspersed with field fortifications that not only afford adequate protection to soldiers, but are so sited as to provide ‘interlocking fields of fire’ that ensure the entire frontage around the post and all approaches to it can be engaged by two or more weapon systems. Defiladed positions [areas providing protection from direct gunfire] are ‘covered’ by indirect fire through high trajectory weapons like rifle grenades and mortars. Thirdly, accuracy of direct firing weapons is inversely proportional to the distance between the firer and the target as well as prevailing visibility conditions. So, it’s virtually impossible for any attacker firing from long distance at night to inflict such heavy casualties to troops who were protected by field fortifications.
Hence, from the military point of view, Baloch freedom fighters succeeding in killing seven soldiers during a “fire raid” carried out in the dead of night is indeed a stupendous achievement, which even the best equipped and most professional armies in the world can’t boast of. This raises suspicions that there was something weird in ISPR’s narrative- a hunch was proved right by a video of this attack released by Baloch Liberation Army [BLA] on YouTube titled “Baloch fighters (BLA) capturing Pakistan Army base.11 Pakistan army soldiers killed,” last month. While viewing this video, the first thing that strikes the viewer is that this attack took place in broad daylight and not during ‘late night’ as is being claimed by ISPR. The second noticeable thing in the video is that the post being attacked is perched on a high ridgeline with a defensive wall all around as well as pill boxes and ‘crawl trenches’ to facilitate safe movement of soldiers from bunker to bunker when under attack.
The video shows BLA fighters moving in the open and exposing themselves to fire while closing-in with the post on a bright and sunny day, exposing ISPR’s lie that it was a “fire raid,” and 6:22 minutes into the tape, Frontier Corps soldiers can be seen abandoning the post one by one. How many did so isn’t clear but in the video, at least six Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers can be seen shamelessly running away and leaving their comrades to fend for themselves. Similarly, anyone who has been associated with the profession of arms cannot but admire the determination and valour exhibited by BLA fighters because those who have faced bullets know how perilous it is to engage in close combat with an opponent who has the dual advantage of being both well-armed and well entrenched!
With the video showing a large number of weapons and massive amount of ammunition seized by the BLA from the Harnai post, it’s clear that the FC post wasn’t overrun due to lack of wherewithal to thwart the BLA attack, but only because a large number of soldiers chose to desert it. So, it clearly emerges that rather that being a “fire raid”, which took place ‘late night’ and was ‘repulsed’ by FC personnel, [as the ISPR wants the world to believe], the truth as clearly revealed by the BLA video is that Harnai post was physically overrun by BLA fighters in broad daylight.
So, while this incident is definitely a “cowardly act”, (as mentioned by the ISPR), but after seeing this video it is amply clear as to which side is guilty of pusillanimous conduct! ISPR may claim that BLA fighters are an unprincipled lot, solely motivated to fight the establishment for money which Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing [R&AW] provides them. However, ask any neutral observer who has seen this video and you’ll be told that the phenomenal grit and determination displayed by BLA fighters indicates a very high level of unconditional dedication to a cause, which can’t be replicated by lucre of money. In fact, despite having all the possible military advantages, the fact that at least half a dozen FC soldiers’ chose to flee rather than fight reflects the moral ascendency Baloch fighters enjoy over security forces due to their superior motivation!
There can be no two views that Balochis are fighting for the legitimate cause against denial of the basic rights, excesses by security forces and exploitation of the region’s mineral resources. So, those who consider them to be ‘soldiers of fortune’, need to ask themselves a simple question-even though there are hundreds of mercenary groups in the world, but can anyone cite a parallel of cadres belonging to any such outfit putting the lives in line of fire in the determined way BLA fighters did by charging and capturing a well-fortified security force post in broad daylight?
Tailpiece: On April 5, 2019, the then DGISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor had preceded his “Time for India to speak truth” tweet with the time-tested “truth always prevails” adage. So, will the present DGISPR care to spare some time and ponder upon his predecessor’s sagacious advice- or will ISPR continue to make a fool of itself by vending lies as hitherto fore?