Pak border build-up

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By NISHIT DHOLABHAI in Delhi
  • Published 4.12.08
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New Delhi, Dec. 3: A build-up by the Pakistani Rangers has been reported in Punjab over the past two days even as India weighs its options after the Mumbai attacks.

Pakistan’s border force has stopped granting leave to its soldiers, who are being ordered back to their outposts, sources said.

“In some places we have observed that the Rangers have been getting small reinforcements and are augmenting troops,” said a source in India’s Border Security Force, which has been on alert since the Mumbai attacks.

Punjab has a 500km border that has, historically, had a strong presence of troops. The border is fenced but, earlier this year, infiltrators had sneaked in and taken hostages in Jammu.

Sources said it is not known if the build-up by the Rangers was in anticipation of a likely Indian troop build-up or preparation for an offensive.

Intelligence sources said among the soldiers taking their place at the border posts were those who had been stationed either in the federally administered tribal areas or the Northwest Frontier Province along the Afghan border.

One school of thought in the security establishment is that moving the Rangers and possibly the Pakistani Army out of these areas will give the Taliban and other fundamentalist outfits some freedom. Pakistan now has about 100,000 troops along the Afghan border to assist the US war on terror.

The BSF has complained of lack of manpower and equipment. “We are doing some manpower planning,” a BSF official said.

But planning will not be easy since the border with Bangladesh is also unsafe. Therefore, the problem is being looked into at the highest level.

M.L. Kumawat, who was special secretary (internal security) and is now BSF director-general, participates in most high-level meetings in the new set-up at the home ministry, sources said.

Vigilance has been increased along the border as well as in the coastal areas of Gujarat. Yesterday, the coast guard caught a fishing trawler from Pakistan off the Saurashtra coast. At least two Pakistanis on board were taken for questioning.

Fresh Mumbai alert

Intelligence sources in Delhi said tonight that they had intercepted messages that suggested fresh attacks could take place in Mumbai.

Victoria (now Chhatrapati Shivaji) Terminus, one of the targets last Wednesday, the Bandra station, Dalal Street, where the Bombay Stock Exchange is located, and the Sewri station on the Harbour line could be potential targets if the new attacks take place, the sources said.

Officials from the anti-terrorism squad are on their way to Delhi to investigate a SIM card trail that leads to the capital.