‘Evacuation not based on intel inputs’

Questions mount over the Punjab government’s decision to evacuate around eight lakh people along the Pakistan border, with intelligence sources telling The Hindu that it was not based on any security assessment from the central agencies.

The evacuation of around 800 villages situated within 10 km distance of the International Border has become a political issue, with the Opposition questioning the rationale behind the move.

Though there has been no record of cross-border firing along the Punjab border since 2001 when the multi-layered fencing was completed, the district administration said it had issued orders on the directions of the Home Ministry. “We didn’t generate any report suggesting retaliation from across the border in Punjab. We expected some action in the border areas in J&K, which are prone to ceasefire violations,” an intelligence official told The Hindu.

The Border Security Force mans the 2,308 km-long border with Pakistan from Gujarat to Jammu and Kashmir.

In Jammu district, 192 km of the International Border, referred to as a working boundary by Pakistan, is manned by the BSF, while the remaining 8 km is secured by the Indian Army. The 740 km LoC, running along Kashmir is entirely secured by the Army.

“There has been no instance in the past when the border villages in Punjab have been evacuated like this, ” said a senior BSF official.

Another official said it was highly unlikely that there would be firing along the Punjab border, as both the sides are densely populated and dominated by agrarian population.

“Though Jammu is also densely populated, it has been witness to shelling and firing, as Pakistan doesn’t consider it to be the International Boundary. Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat are different, there is no ambiguity here and no ceasefire pact in place since it is a settled boundary,” said the official.

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