New Delhi: The Pakistan Army has been fast losing its young officers to homegrown terror on the Western border, replacing operations on the Indian side as the primary cause for casualties.
In what is now a continuing pattern, a series of recent encounters in which young officers – from newly commissioned lieutenants to combat experienced majors – have fallen took place on the restive western frontier.
The latest was 28-year-old Major Ishaq, who died in Dera Ismail Khan on Wednesday, days after Captain Junaid Hafeez lost his life to a cross-border attack by terrorists from Afghanistan. A total of 11 young officers of the Pakistani Army have died in such operations this year, according to official data with the Pakistani Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR).
In sharp contrast, a comparison of casualties of young officers before home-grown terror became a problem for Pakistan shows that most of its losses were on the India border. Official Pakistani Army data on casualties accessed by ThePrint shows that in 2002 also, 11 young officers were killed during service.
However, most of these were attributed to either shelling from India or accidents in difficult areas like the Siachen Glacier and other mountainous border posts. Three captains and a major are listed as having being killed due to `snow slides’ while a captain died after falling down from a mountain. Yet another captain died due to dehydration at a high altitude post.
Official data on Pakistani casualties was collated from the Pakistani Army site, before it was taken off a few years ago, apparently as it exposed its list of soldiers killed in the Kargil operations. Young officers are crucial to successful operations – leading from the front to muster troops to take on hard to hit targets. Indian anti-terror operations too hinge on youngsters who lead small strike groups into action.
It was only after the US invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001 post the 9/11 attacks that the Pakistani Army got actively involved in fighting on its Western Frontier. The first casualties listed in 2002 on the Western Front were under Operation Al Mizan (Justice).
A paper in the Journal of the Research Society of Pakistan (JRSP) describes the objective of the operation to clear South Waziristan of “militants, extremists and the jihadists especially of those international militants who had threatened Pakistan’s security, solidarity and sovereign status.”
Taking on a fight for the American cause, in return of which the Pakistani Army received considerable funds and equipment under Washington’s foreign military assistance pact, the operation was designed as a supporting tool. Since then, continued operations under different names have taken place on Pakistan’s western border.
“The Operation Al-Mizan was aimed to capture the master mind and operatives of these terrorist organizations making plan to deepen its roots in the PATA and FATA regions. These terrorists had begun their offences not only against Pakistan army but targeted the US and NATO forces, as they attacked the US fire bases, on the Pak-Afghan border,” the JSRP paper reads.