The farce at Gurdaspur and the war of perceptions

Published: August 8, 2015
The writer is a political and security analyst who retired as an air vice-marshal in the Pakistan Air Force

The writer is a political and security analyst who retired as an air vice-marshal in the Pakistan Air Force

Ravi was in flood, especially after excess rains in its catchment areas in India and in the various rivulets and streams that feed the river in Pakistan. Ravi crosses into Pakistan just below the Madhopur Headworks near Kathua in India and continues to meander either side till finally settling down in Sialkot, Pakistan, where it then becomes a fixed geographical border. The tap to the flow in this river is in India; unless it rains and despite when it rains. As was the case on July 27, 2015 when because of incessant drench, the river was swollen and flooded. This was also the day when certain terrorists attacked the small town of Dinanagar in Gurdaspur, India, after having allegedly infiltrated from Pakistan. Despite the abnormal rains this year in both countries, someone had chosen to push in three terrorists across the Ravi to attack a sleepy police station in the equally sleepy town of Dinanagar.

Just above from their alleged point of braving across the raging Ravi lies a better target than Dinanagar — the Indian Air Force station of Pathankot. Anyone looking to make a statement through audacity of aggression could have been far more effective taking on the Base than a sleepy town. Granted that the Base would have been better defended, but what then was the intended purpose of such aggression? To kill six unsuspecting policemen of a sleepy Punjab town? What statement did that make? Surely anyone going in was meant to fight till death and cause maximum damage. Why then choose a target which will incur irrelevant damage? The planners of this operation clearly wished Pathankot to escape harm.

A few more pearls from the planners’ genius: the GPS was provisioned for each of the attackers, it now appears, to enable easy reconstruction of the route and their origin. It is almost hilarious given that even the cows on either side know the terrain so well as to navigate their way in and out of the controlled border without the 21st century contraptions. Or, perhaps it was a flooding Ravi which forced them to rely on the GPS. Cross, allegedly, they did.

Having successfully waded their way across the raging Ravi — no mean feat — they now hit the railway line which runs parallel to the border, a slight distance away; and walked along it to the town of Dinanagar. What happened to the GPS if a contour was finally to lead them into the town? And under a pervasive danger that a train just might chance on them? The DG of police who briefed the entire story — pieced immediately after the three terrorists had been put down after an 11-hour gunfight — somehow knew that the three knew the train timetable well and chose the hour when a train was not expected! Next, as they came to the railway line, they buried three bombs weighing 5kg each under the track to destroy a train that wasn’t expected. And then conveniently left a night-vision goggle at the scene to identify the location where the bombs could be discovered by the police; all within the 11 hours of the gunfight. By midday, the ISI was once again under Indian crosshairs. The gunfight still raging. More elaborate attention to detail may not have been seen other than in an excellently scripted screenplay for a Hollywood thriller. In Bollywood though, they still miss out on the finer details.

Dispensing the three bombs also helped reduce the backpack load to a more bearable 50 pounds that the three could now carry for the next 15 miles. Once there, they announced their arrival by firing randomly into the town and then jacking a small Maruti to their final destination, the police station, which they knew well despite the GPS. There, they held out the police and the Indian security forces for the next 11 hours till they too vanished in a wild west ending. This is mostly out of what the Punjab Police Chief Sumedh Singh Saini briefed on the incident. The best of Saini came in the end, confirming that: “They (militants from Punjab) themselves have failed to revive terrorism in Punjab, so they are in touch with their counterparts in J&K”. And mind you, he is talking of the Indian J&K; not AJK.

For the next three days, the Indian media went hysterical, invoking Mumbai and framing Pakistan as the sponsor of Gurdaspur. This lived on for three days, then dying a natural news-cycle death and reaching its fated implausibility as a yarn. Ufa wasn’t yet cold when the Indian BSF unleashed its rain of fire and death across the established border that Pakistanis call the Working Boundary and Indians the international boundary. By the Indian claim then India violates the inviolable whenever it fires across into Pakistan. Gurdaspur followed soon after. Nothing that India does is not deep, even if hilarious in enactment.

When Nawaz Sharif received a bad press on his return from Ufa, voiced mostly by the usual suspects, the Indians could only think of fishing further to reinforce the divide between the civil and the military. The firings across the boundary, and Gurdaspur, came in an accompanying tirade by the Indian media framing the Pakistan military as an aggressor in a message meant to convey the military’s dissonance and displeasure with the Sharif approach towards India, denying him the liberty to proceed with the mission of peace. While Bollywood may not be as detailed, those in the business of statecraft in India are surely no novices, though they remain transparently errant at times.

As I pen this piece, the bombings from across the border go unabated with a reported loss of life again. This comes about only two days after India has invited the Pakistani NSA to visit India per decisions in Ufa between the two prime ministers. Clearly, such exchange of fire following an appeasing political move is meant to reinforce the perception to the Pakistani civil society that the Pakistani military invests in hate even as the politicians and the diplomats on both sides yearn for peace. The Indian media is once again abuzz with Mumbai; raking the past and stoking the fires. Call it the war of perceptions, farcical or theatrical, but loaded against the march of time. This Indian establishment not only follows a dangerous strategy, it is taking a leaf from a book that has long lost its relevance. Twentieth century thinking cannot resolve 21st century challenges.                

Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th,  2015.

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Reader Comments (38)

  • Bairooni Haath
    Aug 8, 2015 - 1:37AM

    1993 Mumbai Bomb Blasts were traced to Pakistan
    2001 Indian Parliament attack was traced to Pakistan
    2008 Mumbai attack was traced to Pakistan

    Sooner or Later the truth always comes out. The Honorable (Retired) Air Marshal should point out that the Pak Military is more afraid of a peace deal with India than anybody else.Recommend

  • kanishka
    Aug 8, 2015 - 2:27AM

    Author Shahzad Chaudhary, retired Air Vice Marshall of the Pakistan Air Force represents the establishment of Pakistan with deep tentacles.Recommend

  • J.Niaz
    Aug 8, 2015 - 4:17AM

    Brilliant analysis as always.Recommend

  • Ashfaq
    Aug 8, 2015 - 4:19AM

    I also found the whole GPS thing hilarious. Even my $49 GPS does not store any history. Why would any well trained terrorist use GPS with all information stored including their origin. It’s a little convenient since the terrorists are dead and there’s no trial to question the evidenceRecommend

  • American
    Aug 8, 2015 - 7:00AM

    The author is absolutely correct…”Twentieth century thinking cannot resolve 21st century challenges.”
    Only 7th century thinking from Arabia can solve Pakistan’s problems of 21st century. Recommend

  • pn awasthi
    Aug 8, 2015 - 7:36AM

    It has become a passion and favorite pastime of writers in Pakistan to weave conspiracy theories and then deny Pakistan involvement on technical ground despite the hard evidences.
    Pakistanis have constantly conjured up conspiracies that deposit blame for all manner of misfortune,from floods to fraud scandals on India’s doorstep.Such charges afford Pakistani officials a means of shielding themselves from blame for their country’s ills.By the time Shahzad chaudhary might have finished witting this article one more live fish is in Indian net that is Mohammad naved from Faisalabad Pakistans,So there is no dearth of plots for next article..Recommend

  • pn awasthi
    Aug 8, 2015 - 7:43AM

    “Even my $49 GPS does not store any history”.This statement implies that either you are trying to mislead or you don’t know how to use it.Recommend

  • Im an Idiot
    Aug 8, 2015 - 8:33AM


    You are right your $49 GPS may not have history feature.
    Question here is not of History of GPS tracking.
    There is called Microchips (microprocessor) inside your GPS.
    As you can delete history in your computer, investigator still can track your online history from memory.( are you with me?) or is it too difficult for you to understand?
    Same way investigator can track you GPS history from microchips.
    And you don’t need PHD to do this.

  • Virkaul
    Aug 8, 2015 - 10:22AM

    What was the purpose of intruding into Mumbai and indiscriminately kill about 200 people at railway stations, hotels and streets? Recommend

  • Srinath
    Aug 8, 2015 - 10:40AM

    The vice of this Air Vice Marshal (R) is to spew hot air too soon and squirm when confronted with incontrovertible piece of evidence. He came with all guns blazing after Mumbai massacre but when Kasab popped up, he took recourse to metaphysics. After Abbotabad, he wrote creative pieces picking up holes in the US narrative. He should realize that what is farcical and bizarre for the rest of the world is quite normal in Pakistan. At least Gen Musharraf summed it up much better when he was asked to comment on Bin Laden’s killing ; “Pakistan is a happening place”. Recommend

  • N.S
    Aug 8, 2015 - 10:50AM

    Twentieth century thinking…India actually follows even older shastras and ideology, statecraft. The Chanakya ideology is about 350 BCC. More than two thousand year old school, also known as Kautilya…and it shows in their misdemeanors and tricks.Recommend

  • Karachite
    Aug 8, 2015 - 10:54AM

    Very believable and thoughtful writeup. One attack…too many…seems India has lost the plot. Recommend

  • Karachite
    Aug 8, 2015 - 10:58AM

    India doesn’t hesitate to kill its own people to ridicule Pakistan, and to portray it as an epicenter of terrorism. Its getting very predictable by India, need to come up with something out-of-the-box. They actually tried this time with GPS idea I guess. Recommend

  • mahakaalchakra
    Aug 8, 2015 - 11:11AM

    Earlier India is used to raise question about terrorism aided and abated by Pakistan.And Pakistan use to claim, the said terrorism is due to Kashmir. Now Pakistan has started claiming that India is behind all terrorism in Pakistan.

    “Once Kashmir is resolved there will be no more need for terrorism/Jihad”..and hence there was no progress on the issue of terrorism as Kashmir is non negotiable for India.

    This time when India raises the issue of terror during the coming NSA meeting, ..Pakistan will raise it too and hopefully mutual deal to end terrorism from both sides will be reached….or not. India will have no problem in ceasing terror operations in Pakistan (because India never committed any terror in Pakistan) but Pakistan who has been doing terror acts in India since 1987 will have difficult time to digest this bitter pill. Modi has asked Doval to make this meeting “productive” and we will watch the developments once Pakistan confirms to participate.Recommend

  • ajeet
    Aug 8, 2015 - 11:24AM

    Pakistan’s creation was based on a lie. An artificial country created for a religion which doesn’t belong to India. At least Israel had a historical tie to Palestine.Recommend

  • Vectra
    Aug 8, 2015 - 11:26AM

    You may write as many article against India but India’s case is water tight and carries much weight at international level that is enough to shame Pakistan and indirectly sanction it.By putting hard evidence before the world India was successful that no one visits pakistan and its economy remains in bad shape due to no cooperation from outside world.This India has achieved even without UNSC sanctions which was constantly vetoed by China.This proves India’s diplomatic clout and global influence.Recommend

  • ABC
    Aug 8, 2015 - 11:43AM

    Ha ha ha, OK, Please go through this ….

    US to help track origin on night vision device used by Gurdaspur attackers –

  • N.S
    Aug 8, 2015 - 2:31PM

    Jinnah, the creator of Pakistan was in ‘Congress’ for a better part of his political carrier, but with constant back tracking and back stabbing by Hindu dominated Congress party, Jinnah formed the Muslim League.
    Similarly Allama Iqbal, who use to write ‘Sarey Jahan sey accha Hindustan hamara’, was pushed to the corner by the Hindu extremists and he came up with ‘Pakistan resolution’ in 1940. It shows there were hatred for Muslims in undivided India, and creation of Pakistan was a necessity and not a choice, hatred is not there after the creation of Pakistan, it was intrinsic.
    Many independent surveys has pointed out to the fact that Muslims is today’s India are in worst condition than even the low caste Dalits. They don’t have the quota the Dalits have in government jobs and in universities. A big part of them lives in Ghetto’s. Google search about it.
    The Caste system is a stigma of Indian society and will remain there as it is a vital part of their religion. Recommend

  • Karachite
    Aug 8, 2015 - 2:40PM

    Why is there so much hatred in India. Mumbai Marathi speaking hate Hindi speaking, south Indians hate north Indians. Hindus hate Sikh Punjabi speaking, North eastern, Maoists, Naxalites hates hindi speaking. Keralites hate Tamils, and this is just ethnic. If you look at the religious angle the hate factor is much more.
    This is the reason India indulges in these type of inside jobs to stop Indian people from fighting with each other, and look for the common enemy Pakistan. To gel in, to bond, to create cohesion between different ethnic groups. Hey look Indians…stop fighting with each other…look at the enemy, look at Pakistan. Recommend

  • Vectra
    Aug 8, 2015 - 5:35PM

    Who said they hate Hindi,they never hate Hindi but they want to give priority to local state language but in general accept Hindi as their national language.Btw some North Indian and South Indian local drama is an isolated incident and in no way can be seen in national perspective.Rest all of your opinion is also false.Above everything the feeling of being Indian is the binding factor that held Indians togetherRecommend

  • Puppet on a chain
    Aug 8, 2015 - 8:07PM

    @Bairooni Haath:
    Pointing fingers without proof and logic does not make it true. On the other hand Shahzad Chaudhry sounds logical and hence true. Specially the point that Pathankot would have been a logical target.Being more in numbers does not mean that all Indians speak truth.Recommend

  • I'm a bigger idiot than anybody
    Aug 8, 2015 - 8:14PM

    @Im an Idiot:
    You need time to analyse the data where as the Indian media started naming ISI while the police was still tackling the culprits.Recommend

  • I'm a bigger idiot than anybody
    Aug 8, 2015 - 8:20PM

    Muslims are different from Hindus, and you think it’s a lie? I think you need to grow up. Despite being different they can still live together sounds more logical. Next time don’t let your biasness get the better of you.Recommend

  • ABCD
    Aug 8, 2015 - 9:52PM

    @I’m a bigger idiot than : Do you think all Muslims are same ? Fact is that even no two human being are same. Being different was no basis to create Pakistan. Being different is no reason to force uniformity. How come Muslims find it difficult to live peacefully in any country ?Recommend

  • N.S
    Aug 9, 2015 - 12:21AM

    There are 51 Muslim countries in the world including Indonesia, Malaysia, UAE, Saudia, Turkey, Kuwait, Bangladesh, Pakistan etc. The problem is in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Afghanistan, Pakistan is now faring better with terrorism down by 90% in many areas. It is more important to know who are the creator of these problems, who are the big players playing their dirty games. If Israel bombs Gaza killing 1100 people including 350 children, its Israel who is the perpetrator with peace all around and Gaza is the killing field, who do you blame?
    If you for a while consider India’s different states as separate entities and look at the number of communal riots between Hindus and Muslims, between Hindus and Christians, Hindus and Sikhs, Hindus(high caste)and Hindus(low caste) it is easily in hundreds of riots and the killings in several hundred thousands. Here what is the common denominator in riots, its Hindus. Recommend

  • Syed
    Aug 9, 2015 - 12:22AM

    Damm too many indians got free time trolling ET. Recommend

  • I'm a bigger idiot than anybody
    Aug 9, 2015 - 12:29AM

    Your biasness is blinding you, dear. Read my comment carefully and try to understand. ‘Despite being different they can still live together’ is a clear indication that despite being different in rituals, beliefs and way of life, they can live together with other religions. Blind rage distorts clear thinking. Keep away from it.Recommend

  • rama
    Aug 9, 2015 - 9:55AM


    From the Pakistan’s perspective this is possible because that was the Pakistan’s experience , But from other civilized nation it is far fetched .. Recommend

  • observer
    Aug 9, 2015 - 10:21AM

    @ AVM Sahib

    Well, let us call the Indian bluff.

    A. Get Saudi Arabia/ China/ UN collect DNA material from Naveed , allegedly from Faislabad, currently in Indian custody.

    B. Ask the same body to collect DNA material from the alleged father, in Faislabad.

    C. Send it to a neutral Lab.


    India’s Farce is exposed to the world.Recommend

  • Alien1
    Aug 9, 2015 - 11:16AM

    @Karachite: There might be many differences b/w states in India, but one thing we hate the most are the pakistanis…nothing can erase the hatred for pakis in india.Recommend

  • Puppet on a chain
    Aug 9, 2015 - 4:42PM

    Thank you for speaking the truth. May baghwan has mercy on your poor soul burdened by so much hatredRecommend

  • mahakaalchakra
    Aug 9, 2015 - 5:44PM

    @I’m a bigger idiot than anybody:

    The creation of Pakistan was entirely based on TNT or TWO-NATION THEORY which was explained by none other than Jinnah that Muslims are different from Hindus and cannot live with Hindus so they need a separate nation.

    Now many non-Muslims throughout the world, do not want to live next to Muslims after noticing the violent tendencies and lack of tolerance to other religions in their behavior.Recommend

  • bahadur khan
    Aug 9, 2015 - 7:01PM

    from pakistani point of view the gurdaspur attackers were from india. similarly ajmal kasab was from india, naved/usman/khalid came from faisalbad to india by flight. if the idea is to test the tolerance level of modi govt so be it. sufferers are india muslimsRecommend

  • Alien1
    Aug 9, 2015 - 7:45PM

    @Puppet on a chain: May allah bless ur soul for being born in the cradle of terror (pakistan).Recommend

  • I'm a bigger idiot
    Aug 9, 2015 - 9:01PM

    Now you are stereotyping all Muslims into one bracket. You are branding all Muslims as terrorists. It means, the same goes for the Muslim living next door to you in India also. I pity that person’s family who has to undergo your hatred/biasness because you hold that kind of perception. As for Jinnah, Indians only pick or misconstrue what suits them and that is the basis of enmity between the two countries because India has not forgiven Jinnah for dividing India and never accepted Pakistan. When quoting Jinnah, you forget that in the same breath he said that I would like to see the same kind of future for India and Pakistan as America and Canada has. Then he welcomed all non Muslims in Pakistan and told them that they are free to practice as per their religion. But I think you people are blind to all these things.Your hatred for us will never allow you to see anything positive in us. Therefore there is no point in carrying on this conversation. Recommend

  • From Mars
    Aug 10, 2015 - 6:32AM

    @bahadur Khan no one came from anywhere. The boy was from J&K, Muzzafar Ahmed urf Jhalla , mentally challenged. The poor fellow was being paraded as from Faisalabad when he was their own fellow. This is called propaganda, a lie should be so tall that others should be ashamed to disbelieve it. Indians are perfecting that art of Goebel.Recommend

  • Puppet on a chain
    Aug 10, 2015 - 6:39AM

    @Alien1 Thank you Zarb e Azb is successfully taking care of it, Alhamdulliah, much to your disappointment. Recommend

  • fazu
    Aug 10, 2015 - 7:15AM

    @mahakaalchakra stereotyping all muslims as terrorits. l pity your mentality. you know nothing about Jinnah so leave him alone. Recommend

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