The Indian Air Force (IAF) crossed the Line of Control (LoC) for the first time after 1971 to launch a targeted attack on terror groups stationed at a place called Balakot on February 26, 2019. This act signaled a major attack against Jihadi terror not just in the context of India, but also on the global scale.
One needs to look at the history of the place, Balakot, that received India’s targeted attack to know that this strike, in a way, was on behalf of the world as well. For several decades, Balakot in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region in Pakistan has remained the hotbed of terror. According to the media reports which have quoted the Indian intelligence sources, flags of the U.S., U.K., Israel and India were painted on the staircases of Balakot terror camps, indicating the pan-global threat from the Jaish terror group that the world at large.
It is to the credit of the IAF and the Indian intelligence apparatus, with the decisive political leadership at the helm, that took the decision to hit the terror launch pads there with extreme precision, completely putting the civilians and military installations away from risks of this attack.
Balakot- A Terror Training Ground
‘The New York Times’ has an archive where it made some documents related to Guantanamo Bay prison available to the public. One particular document dated January 2014 speaks about a detainee whose name is Hafez K Rehman, from Pakistan. The document says that this person was detained in 2002 because of his knowledge about the terrorist camp in Balakot, Pakistan.
The document also stated that the detainee had confessed that he was working for JeM terror oufit and received the training in Pakistan’s Balakot. So, Balakot has been a nerve center of terrorists’ training from a long time. In fact, this official US document presents the notorious picture of Balakot which you can read from this snap shot.
In the story of Hamid Hayat, an American with Pakistani origin, the terror links of Balakot were even more evident. It is true that the American court in later stage set this man free from terrorism charges. However, that does not wash away the observations that the previous 2007 judgement carried about this person, especially with regards to the Balakot connection. However, one must note that the 2019 decision to set free Hamid Hayat was on the basis of the trial attorney’s inability to present the witness who were mostly in Pakistan.
The 2007 judgement had mentioned various instances to highlight how Hamid Hayat had received training in the Balakot terror camp, and had a fair knowledge of terror training camps and their techniques in Pakistan’s Balakot.
A report in the Business Standard also quotes the 2011 book Pakistan: Terrorism Ground Zero by Rohan Gunaratna and Khuram Iqbal of Pakistan, and highlights the existence of terror infrastructure in Balakot.“The JeM facility at Balakot was called the ‘Syed Ahmad Shaeed’ training camp, Gunaratna and Iqbal wrote, adding that Indian sources said the camp was still functional in early 2003, even after the group was banned in January 2002,” the report quoted the authors.
Historical Roots of Jihad in Balakot
When the IAF attacked Balakot on February 26, 2019, it essentially gave a body blow to Jaish-e-Mohammed’s largest terror training camp in Balakot. It is argued that terrorist Masood Azhar wanted the base in this particular place because it had roots in Jihad, thereby making it a revered place for Islamic terrorists.
Back in 1831, an extremist called Syed Ahmed went to Balakot area from Rae Bareli, with an aim to mobilise force against the Sikh empire of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He was joined by Ismail Dehlvi, whose objective was to establish Islamic caliphate in whole of India at that point in time. However, the army of Ranjit Singh went there and annihilated both Jihadi leaders along with their force estimated to be in thousands.
In this context, when the Indian Air Force undertook the strike on Balakot, it was not just a reaction to the attacks of terrorists on Indian soil, but also a brave act of striking the very nerve of a global Jihadi terror module.