The Pakistan Army will “celebrate” its defeat at the hands of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2019 by mobilising residents of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) on February 27 — anniversary of the failed ‘Operation Swift Retort’ — and starting a new ‘hate India campaign’, sources have told CNN-News18.
On February 26, 2019, the IAF carried out an airstrike deep inside Pakistan’s Balakot and destroyed a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp. Following the strike, the Pakistan air force wanted to “surprise India” by carrying out their own strike code-named ‘Operation Swift Retort’. However, the IAF not only repulsed the attack but Wing Commander Abhinadan Varthaman also shot down a US-made F16 fighter jet of the Pakistan Air Force.
Even after two years, Pakistan has not acknowledged that it lost an aircraft. And now it will celebrate the second anniversary of the operation in a big way.
The sources said the Pakistan army has told its intelligence agencies working in PoK area to get in touch with prominent residents of the area and force them to gather civilians in large numbers to visit the local army formations and show their “love for the Pakistan army”.
“The local leaders of POK have been warned of dire consequences if they fail to mobilise large numbers of local residents at the army camps on February 27 to show their love for the Pakistan army and to celebrate Operation Swift Retort,” claimed the sources.
The agencies have also been tasked to make videos and upload them on social media with hashtags to show “love of Kashmiri people for Pakistan army”.
Sources claimed that apart from building a narrative about POK residents’ love for Pakistan Army, this would also help them refuel the Kashmir issue and identify youth who can be recruited in terror camps and sent across to the Indian side.
“By holding such gatherings, Pakistan also wants to reaffirm the lie it had spread in 2019 that it surprised India by carrying out Operation Swift Retort, but they will never acknowledge that the operation was a failure as they were badly defeated by the IAF,” added a source.
Security experts believe that with carrying out such a “hate India” information and influence campaign, Pakistan would also try to appease China that failed to coerce India in Ladakh.
“With China’s failure to coerce India in Ladakh, there is every possibility of it demanding that Pakistan calibrate the situation in J&K to prevent further integration of the territory and the people with India. Towards this intent the role of the people of PoK will be of immense importance,” former General Officer in Commanding of Srinagar-based 15 Corps, Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain, told CNN-News18.
Hasnain said projecting their sentiment in favour of the Pakistan Army “will form an essential aspect of the ‘hate India’ campaign. One can expect this to commence in the spring to attempt a peak in summer”, he added.