Pakistan Moves Thousands of Troops Toward Border with India
By Ayaz Gul
26 December 2008
Pakistan said it has canceled leave of its troops because of border tensions with neighboring India over Mumbai's deadly attacks. There are also reports the military has withdrawn some of its forces from a militant-infested northwestern border region to deploy them on the border with India.
Senior Pakistani military officials said that there is no let up in tensions on the country's eastern border with India. Requesting anonymity, these officials have told VOA the situation has forced the government to cancel leave and order troops to report to duty immediately.
The stand off between the nuclear-armed rivals was triggered after New Delhi accused Pakistan-based Islamic extremists of carrying out last month's deadly terror attacks on its financial capital of Mumbai.
Pakistan has already placed its air force on high alert following what it described as threatening statements by Indian leaders.
Pakistani Information Minister Sherry Rehman on Friday reiterated her country does not want war with India.
However, the minister said, if war is imposed on Pakistan, its armed forces are well prepared to defend the country.
Pakistani leaders have promised to cooperate with India to investigate the Mumbai attacks and punish anyone responsible in Pakistan. But Islamabad said that despite its repeated requests New Delhi has not provided Pakistan with evidence.
Meanwhile, eyewitnesses and residents in Pakistan's troubled northwestern regions said trucks with hundreds of soldiers on board were seen withdrawing, for what is believed to be redeployment on the border with India.
Military officials have confirmed the reports, saying only those troops are being pulled out that were not directly involved in anti-insurgency offensive. The move represents a sharp escalation in the tensions between India and Pakistan.
The northwestern Pakistani regions border Afghanistan and are infested with al-Qaida linked extremists.
Critics said that withdrawal of troops from some of the insurgency-hit regions near the Afghan border could undermine anti-terror operations.
Mehmood Shah is a former security chief of the Pakistani border areas.
"I think this will not be totally vacated but I think the tempo of operations would be slowed down and certain troops will be retained here so that the militants do not takeover the area completely," he said.
Pakistan is considered an important U.S. ally in the war against terrorism. It has deployed more than 100,000 troops to secure the border with Afghanistan and to discourage al-Qaida and Taliban militants from launching cross-border attacks on foreign Afghan forces.
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