The possibility of India retaliating strongly post the Uri terrorist attack seems to have rattled Pakistan, with the neighbouring country choosing to fly its F-16 fighter jets over Islamabad and deploying flares. The move came to light after a tweet sent out by Pakistan’s GEO TV journalist Hamid Mir. “F-16 planes flying at 10:20 pm over Islamabad,” Mir tweeted. Reports suggest that people came out on roads to see the source of the “thunderous sound” and around 5-6 jets were seen in the sky.
This comes amidst Pakistan Air Force’s move to close a major highway to practice landing and taking off jets on the road. According to a Reuters report, traffic on Pakistan’s busy main highway between Islamabad and Lahore was diverted during the two-day air force exercise, dubbed High Mark. However, Pakistan has denied conducted the exercise on the highway in reaction to the growing tensions between India and Pakistan. Pakistan Air Force spokesman Commodore Javed Mohammad Ali told Reuters, “The exercise was not ordered in response to recent tensions with India and the timing was a coincidence.” “This exercise, High Mark, is not done overnight just like that,” Ali said trying to indicate that it was part of “routine training”.
Watch: Rattled Pakistan Conducts Military Exercise Expecting India’s Reprisal
In yet another sign of Pakistan’s growing nervousness, the country state-run airline cancelled all flights to Gilgit-Baltistan on Wednesday and the aviation regulator closed the airspace over the region. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) spokesperson Danyal Gilani said that the flights were cancelled due to “airspace restrictions”. Gilani also tweeted that flights to Chitral, Gilgit and Skardu had been cancelled. Chitral is part of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and Skardu and Gilgit cities are in Gilgit-Baltistan. Gilgit-Baltistan was earlier known as the ‘Northern Areas’ and was part of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state.
A report on the Geo News channel had on Wednesday morning suggested that Pakistan’s armed forces are on high alert amidst fears that India may attack in retaliation to the terrorist attack in Uri. Meanwhile, a TOI report states that the Indian Army is upgrading its operational readiness along the Line of Control (LoC) and is redeploying troops. The reports states that there is some “forward movement” of fuel dumps and ammunition. Some contingency plans with the IAF are also being “refined”.
India has taken strong objection to Pakistan ‘sponsoring terrorism’ and the Narendra Modi government is leaving no stone unturned to isolate Pakistan on the global stage. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised that perpetrators of the Uri attack that killed 18 soldiers will not go unpunished. The Indian Army has warned that it will retaliate at a time and place of its choice. US has also hit out at Pakistan and John Kerry has asked Nawaz Sharif to act swiftly to ensure that the country ceases to be a safe haven for terrorists. At the UN, Sharif’s bid to raise the Kashmir issue has been openly snubbed, with Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon dismissing a dossier presented to him on the state by Pakistan. Russia has also called off its joint military drills with Pakistan and the neighbouring country is finding itself increasingly isolated on the international level, a fact that would be adding to its jitters.