Surgical strikes: Why CNN-News18's sting on a PoK cop doesn't add up
On Wednesday evening, CNN-News18 claimed to have found proof of India's 'surgical strike' across the Line of Control on 29 September. The channel conducted a sting on a Superintendent of Police from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), who confirmed that surgical strikes did indeed take place at various locations on that side of the LoC.
The reporter posed as 'IG Mushtaq' of the 'Pakistan Police', and called up SP (Intelligence) of the Mirpur Range, Ghulam Akbar.
Akbar identified the following locations where the raids took place:
- Samana in Bhimber
- Hazira in Poonch
- Dudhniyal in Neelam
- Kayani in Hattian Bala
CNN-News18 claimed that Akbar confirmed "every single line that Indian Director-General of Military Operations, Lt General Ranbir Singh, had said in his press conference on 30 September, where he announced to the world that India had carried out surgical strikes into PoK and destroyed terror launch pads".
Giving precise information, Akbar told the reporter posing as 'IG Mushtaq' that the raid was "roughly 3-4 hours... between 2 am and 4 or 5 am".
While one isn't doubting the veracity of the conversation, the story does raise a few questions.
It is confirmed that there is indeed an officer of the SP rank named "Ghulam Akber" in the 'Azad' Jammu and Kashmir Police (not Pakistan Police as mentioned in the story). Even a quick internet search reveals news reports from 2011, when he was SSP in Mirpur. There is no confirmation of any 'IG Mushtaq' in the AJK Police.
However, the doubts here aren't because of nomenclature, but jurisdiction. Out of the four areas mentioned by Akbar, only one actually falls under his jurisdiction.
There are three administrative divisions in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, or Azad Jammu and Kashmir as it is called there: Mirpur, Muzaffarabad and Poonch.
Out of the four areas mentioned by Akbar, only Samana in Bhimber falls under the Mirpur range, where he is posted.
Hazira is in the Poonch division, while Dudhniyal and Kayani are both in the Muzaffarabad division, and are, therefore, outside Akbar's jurisdiction.
Another place mentioned by Akbar is Athmuqam, where he says "no one reached". Even this lies in the Muzaffarabad division.
Therefore, it needs to be questioned whether Akbar is in a position to authoritatively speak on whether the raids took place in these areas or not, leave alone assert the exact timing of the raids.
Taking Akbar's version as gospel truth becomes even more difficult when one sees the distance of these locations from Mirpur, where Akbar is presumably based.
Road distance from Mirpur: 466 km
Road distance from Mirpur: 245 km
Road distance from Mirpur: 112 km
Road distance from Mirpur: 342 km
"Mirpur is far away from these areas. Another important aspect is that whatever happened (the strikes) was on the LoC, not in the civilian area where the SP would have influence," an Indian expert familiar with the area told Catch.
It is only Samana in Bhimber district that falls under Akbar's jurisdiction as SP (Intelligence) in the Mirpur range. It is about 67 km from Mirpur.
But the problem here is that what Akbar is saying isn't very different from what the Pakistani Army has already admitted - that there was an attack in Bhimber and they suffered casualties.
Catch spoke to a number of security experts, who feel that Akbar's cannot be considered the final word on the matter.
"In the interview, the SP is not sure and he is being goaded into saying what Manoj Gupta (the interviewer) pretending to be his senior, wants him to say," said a security expert who did not want to be named.
Another expert questions the entire narrative being put forward in the story, "Our understanding is that the Indian Army has hit the Pakistan Army camps, not the launching pads in civilian territory as is being claimed".
CNN-News18 may have shown ingenuity in calling a PoK police official, but his version cannot be taken as solid evidence of the surgical strikes.
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