JK: Pak cuts troops from key Strike Corps

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Jammu, Feb 3: Pakistan has moved the troops from its key Strike Corps facing India across the Line of Control (Loc) following the increased violence in areas bordering Afghanistan, intelligence sources said.

To meet the worsened situation on its western borders which had escalated after the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan has thinned out its troop strength against India, including across the Loc in Jammu and Kashmir, well-placed sources told UNI. At least nine brigades of various Strike Corps, including two from the crucial I Corps's (also known as Army Reserve North) Kharian-based 17 Infantry Division, have been moved towards violent Afghan borders, sources said.

The Army Reserve North across the Line of Control (LOC), especially its troops at Kharian on the South of Jehlum and West of Chhamb sector of Jammu region, always had a strategically advantageous position against India.

Sources said three Brigades of Peshawar-based XI Corps and two of Quetta-based XII Corps were also moved to take on violence in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) on bordering Afghanistan.

Pakistan had moved the X (Rawalpindi-based Corps responsible for Jammu and Kashmir), XI and XII Corps from its Afghanistan frontier locations to the eastern borders with India, when New Delhi ordered probably its largest ever military build-up after the Parliament attack in December 2001.

Meanwhile, sources said one Brigade each from the XXX Corps (Gujaranwala) and Bahawalpur-headquartered XXXI Corps has also been relocated to meet the ''internal crises'' in Pakistan.

The Bahawalpur-based XXXI Corps, which was created in 1986-87 from the Multan-headquartered II Corps, holds the responsibility of international border (IB), primarily with the Rajasthan whereas the XXX Corps is primarily responsible for areas bordering Punjab and J&K.

By relocating its nine brigades, sources said Pakistan had undertaken an ''unprecedented depletion of troops'' from its borders against India. ''In this process, Islamabad has withdrawn a Corps worth of troops from its various key positions against India,'' sources said, noting that it is for the first time it (Pakistan) has thinned out its forces against India with which it had fought in 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999 (Kargil).

Defence analysts, however, said that the relocation of its troops had become more important for Pakistan as its failure to curb unrest in Waziristan and the NWFP in Afghanistan borders could invite foreign forces, which the latter would never like. ''Pakistan has to fight unrest with its own resources because the foreign intervention can not be favourable for its security plans,'' they equip.

The increased attempts of militants to destabilise Pakistan in the remote tribal areas on the Afghan borders has also triggered US concerns.

The US had also expressed willingness to send troops Pakistan to fight against militants, which the latter have rejected.

Pakistan has declared the action of militants, who had also carried out several concerted attacks on Luddah fort in South Waziristan recently, as an ''open war against the state''.

The situation in areas bordering Afghanistan becomes further alarming with the ensuing election in Pakistan.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has estimated that some 25,000-27,000 polling stations are to be marked as sensitive with NWFP and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the lead.

Earlier, around 17,000 troops were deployed in these sensitive areas to check the ANY communal violence during Muharram.


UNI

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