The good thing about Pakistan Army’s media wing Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) is that it never disappoints those who are looking for a good laugh. Remember how after the post Balakot aerial combat, Director General (DG) ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor announced with great flourish that “our ground forces arrested two (Indian Air Force) pilots; one of them was injured and has been shifted to CMH (Combined Military Hospital) and, God-willing, he will be taken care of.” It seems that God answered Maj Gen Ghafoor’s prayer and had really “taken care” of the injured pilot, because by evening, this pilot simply vanished from the face of the earth without any trace and hasn’t been heard of ever since!
Then, on the same day, DGISPR went on to vehemently deny that Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had used US supplied F-16 fighter jets during its February 27 foray across the Line of Control (LoC). However, even when IAF displayed remnants of AIM-120 C-5 AMRAAM air-to-air missile that can only be fired from an F-16, DGISPR didn’t give up and continued to stand by his statement. But on April 1, he suddenly made a U-turn by saying “Even if F-16 have been used as at that point in time complete PAF was airborne including F-16s, the fact remains that Pakistan Air Force shot down two Indian jets in self-defence.” This admission once again revived the issue that a PAF F-16 being downed by IAF on February 27.
Surprisingly, just four days later, Foreign Policy, an American news publication carried an article quoting “two senior US defense officials with direct knowledge of the situation” as saying that US personnel had counted the F-16 of PAF after the February 27 aerial combat and found none ohttps://foreignpolicy.com/2019/04/04/did-india-shoot-down-a-pakistani-jet-u-s-count-says-no/f them missing. It went on to say that “The findings directly contradict the account of Indian Air Force officials, who said that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman managed to shoot down a Pakistani F-16 before his own plane was downed by a Pakistani missile.” This report should have vindicated Maj Gen Ghafoor’s claim, but rather than settle the issue once for all, its contents and subsequent developments made his assertions appear all the more suspicious.
For one, the article didn’t name the two officials, which is intriguing as the magazine said it was Pakistan that had invited the US to physically count its F-16 planes after the incident as part of an end-user agreement signed when the foreign military sale was finalised. Therefore, there was nothing secretive about US auditing the holding of F-16s of PAF that necessitated anonymity. Secondly, it’s quite unlikely that “two senior US defence officials” would indulge in speculation just to ratify DGISPR’s stance by saying “It is possible that in the heat of combat, Varthaman, flying a vintage MiG-21 Bison, got a lock on the Pakistani F-16, fired, and genuinely believed he scored a hit.”
But Maj Gen Ghafoor’s latest tweet claiming that the Indian Army had lost more than 60 soldiers along the LoC since February 27 suggests that ISPR hasn’t learnt anything despite its monumental failures of the past. But with India using its special forces, air force and long-range artillery to pulverise terrorist camps located inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), DGISPR has no other option but to exaggerate Indian Army casualty figures to such an extent that public opinion at home is diverted. The Indian Army, no doubt, has been suffering casualties due to ceasefire violations along the LoC, but unlike Pakistan Army which has a proven record of concealing its fatalities, the Indian Army doesn’t have any such perverted proclivity.
Remember how during the Kargil Aar in 1999, Pakistan Army refused to accept the dead bodies of its soldiers killed in combat? In fact, such has been Pakistan Army’s obsession with suppressing data on fatal battle casualties that in 2017, this issue was hotly debated in the Upper House of Pakistan Parliament and what transpired there was downright comical. During a discussion on the situation along the LoC, senators were shocked when the Minister of State for Power who was speaking on behalf of the Defence Minister only gave out the details of civilian casualties, clarifying that “Pakistan Army wants to withhold the information about the losses suffered by its troops due to security reasons.” This irked six-time Senator and Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani so much that he not only shot back saying “Nothing can be withheld from parliament” but even hit out at the Pakistan Army by saying “Declare us irresponsible people, then (it’ll be) fair enough.”
Needless to say, Rabbani’s assertion on supremacy of the legislature fell on deaf years as the military stood by its illogical explanation that declaring details of fatal military casualties would compromise Pakistan Army’s security. Consequently, while Rawalpindi celebrated the deaths of Indian soldiers in artillery duels and skirmishes along the LoC, many of its own casualties were denied the respect that are due to martyrs simply because they went unreported. Data of Pakistan Army casualty figures collated by reputed military analysts who have been meticulously monitoring open sources of information reveals that the Pakistan Army has suffered inordinately high casualties after it escalated hostilities after the Balakot airstrike.
One such analysis lists out the names of more than 60 Pakistan Army soldiers along with the date and place where they were killed within just a matter of five weeks during July-August this year. The fact that this handle has been suspended by Twitter clearly indicates that this was done on the complaint of some entity that wasn’t very comfortable with such specific data and this in turn establishes beyond any doubt that the Pakistan Army does have plenty of skeletons in its cupboards when it comes to supressing data on its fatal casualties!
But ISPR would still like us to believe that while the Pakistan Army is bleeding Indian Army dry along the LoC, it itself remains unscathed despite Indian Army’s devasting retaliation and this in itself is a howler that’s beyond compare!
Tailpiece: Napoleon may have been exaggerating when he said “God fights on the side with the best artillery” but the fact is that this adage is very apt for the LoC. It’s no secret that the guns and munition available to the Indian Army are far more superior in both quality and quantity than what the Pakistan Army has and it’s but natural that being badly outgunned, the Pakistan Army has always been at the receiving end when guns blaze along the LoC. That’s why, when Gen Pervez Musharraf declared a unilateral ceasefire along the LoC in 2003 even after having had to bite the dust in Kargil, it was not out of any goodwill or his quest for peace, but purely to reduce the humungous casualties that the Pakistan Army was suffering!