New Delhi, Feb 26 (IANS) Balakot, the town in a remote valley in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where the Indian Air Force struck the Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest training camp on Tuesday, was the “epicentre of jihad in South Asia”, according to a 2010 book “Partitions of Allah-Jihad in South Asia”.
In the book, historian Ayesha Jalal had contended that the idea and practice of jihad had a long tradition in the Indian subcontinent with Balakot as its epicentre.
Jalal had noted in the book, published in March 2010 by Harvard University Press, that Balakot was the place where Sayyid Ahmad (1786-1831) and Shah Ismail (1779-1831) waged a jihad against the Sikh kingdom of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and fell in battle on May 6, 1831.
“Balakot’s association with the idea and practice of jihad in South Asia was reinforced in the 1990s, when militant groups set up training camps in its environs to prepare for their campaign against the Indian security forces stationed in predominantly Muslim Kashmir. For these militants, Sayyid Ahmad and Shah Ismail are great heroes, whose jihad their admirers wish to emulate, to redress what they perceive as current injustices,” Jalal had written in the book.
Terror groups are fixated on symbolism and it was Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that emreged as the place for the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammad, which has claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terror attack.
Balakot was on the radar of Indian intelligence agencies for being a hub of JeM. Intelligence agencies were sure that the Pulwama attack was also planned in Balakot where even Masood Azhar’s son Abdullah had undergone terror training and so had Pulwama attack mastermind Ghazi.
The location of Balakot is away from the LoC which made it a safe heaven for terrorist training. Even the Border Action Teams (BATs) of Pakistan army regulars, who carry out cross-border raids on Indian patrols on LoC, are trained in Balakot.
There was an element of deception before carrying out the strike as the focus of Indian response was given away as JeM headquarters in Bahawalpur. The Pakistani agencies were busy protecting Bahwalpur but the attack centred on Balakot.
It was decided that the revenge would be taken on the 13th day of Pulwama attack to pay “best homage” to the slain CRPF personnel who lost their lives after a bus, part of a 78-vehicle convoy, they were travelling in was blown up by a suicide bomber on the Jammu-Srinagar highway.