Embarrassed ISPR refuses to admit Baloch revolutionaries fired on Pakistani army helicopters
Despite revolutionary advances in technology to prevent machine malfunctions, incidents of equipment failure do occur, and helicopters are no exception. However, when two military helicopters meticulously maintained by the Pakistan Army Aviation Corps and flown by experienced pilots fall through the air in as many months, something is wrong. The fact that these two supposed ‘accidents’ occurred in restive Balochistan further raises suspicions that it may not have been due to mechanical failure or pilot error.
On August 1, a Pakistani army helicopter carrying the commander of the 12th corps from Quetta, General Safraz Ali, and five other people [including two pilots] crashed in Musa Goth-Windar area of Lasbela in Balochistan and Pakistan Army Media Wing Inter Services Public Relations [ISPR] quickly announced that it was a “accident”. However, in a statement released by Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar [BRAS]an umbrella organization of Baloch armed rebel groups fighting against the occupying Pakistani army, its spokesman Baloch Khan tweeted, “Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS) Accepts Responsibility for Targeting a Pakistani Helicopter and Killing Six Senior Military Officials of Enemy Forces”.
The ISPR rejected this BRAS claim and it was widely accepted that the August 1 helicopter crash could have been an accident. However, it is ISPR’s tweet that the helicopter “The accident happened due to bad weather according to initial investigations,” which raised doubts as to the veracity of this statement, for although the sky may have been overcast that day, from an airman’s perspective, it was certainly not “bad weather”. Also, unless there is an operational emergency or some other unavoidable emergency, helicopters do not fly in bad weather, especially with corps commanders on board.
Baloch Liberation Army [BLA] claimed that its cadres shot down the helicopter which crashed near Khost area in Harnai district in Balochistan. His September 26 press release reads:Last night, freedom fighters from the Baloch Liberation Army arrested two members of the Pakistani army during an intelligence-based operation near Zardaalo, an area of Harnai. Later, Pakistani helicopters arrived in the area. Baloch freedom fighters shot down at least one helicopter near Khost, Harnai, about 5 kilometers from the area where Pakistani personnel were arrested. ….”
While the ISPR has kept a stoic silence on the alleged abduction of members of the security forces by a Baloch armed group. She also announced that this helicopter “The helicopter crashed during [a] flying mission near Khost, Harnai Balochistan late last night [September 25].” Again, it was the ISPR statement that sowed suspicion for three reasons. One, despite the name Naib Subedar Kaleem Ullah serving with Frontier Corps [FC] Loralai Scouts being circulated on social media as one of the abductees, the otherwise hyperactive ISPR did not refute this information.
Secondly, while the Pakistan Army Aviation Corps gives due importance to operational night flying training in Balochistan, it does not venture into ‘Do not go’ areas like Khost region in Harnai district, as its steep mountainsides are teeming with Baloch armed groups. In fact, the influence that the Baloch armed groups wield in this area can be measured by the fact that it was here that his armed freedom fighters brazenly set up a “checkpoint” on the main road and kidnapped Lieutenant Colonel Laiq Baig Mirza and his cousin on July 12. This year. So if this helicopter was indeed performing routine night training “flying mission” in this field, then someone at the top of the military ladder must explain why six young army men were needlessly exposed to avoidable danger!
Finally, according to the attire visible in the photos of the deceased passengers communicated by the ISPR, it appears that at least two of them [Subedar Abdul Waheed and Havildar Muhammad Imran] belonged to the special services group [SSG], the elite commando of the Pakistani army. Thus, even if the helicopter was performing a routine “flight mission”, as the ISPR claims, what were two SSG commandos doing on board in the middle of the night? This inexplicable anomaly lends further credence to the BRAS claim that this downed helicopter was one of two attempting an operation to rescue some abducted members of the security forces. Plus, from that helicopter crash site [according to BLA] has been “about 5 kilometers from the area where the Pakistani personnel were arrested”, the downed helicopter being here fits into the scheme of things.
It is therefore entirely possible that Baloch freedom fighters abducted one/two FC (Frontier Corps) personnel near the Khost region of Balochistan and that the Pakistani army employed the SSG to launch an operation night rescue and used two helicopters for this purpose. The helicopter that crashed was likely the first [‘path finder’] and carried only a two-man squad consisting of an NCO and an NCO. This ‘pair of friends’ were in all likelihood tasked with bringing the helicopter down in a hover using ropes to find the location of a suitable and safe spot where the next helicopter could similarly disgorge the balance of the rescue team as he was transporting.
Being launched by the SSG, this must have been a well-planned operation; the pilot and co-pilot would also have been specially selected based on their experience and flying skills. Since the BLA is not known to be in possession of anti-aircraft missiles, it seems that things went wrong, either because the BLA fighters were expecting a helicopter rescue or because it was just a coincidence that the ill-fated helicopter got close enough for the BLA. fighters to bring it down. Whatever the reason, will the truth about this crash, that of August 1, which cost ten lives, never be known?
Post Scriptum : In his well documented book ‘The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth’, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mark Mazzetti mentions how, in 2004, General Pervez Musharraf authorized the CIA to undertake drone operations on Pakistani soil when he “I didn’t think it would be difficult to maintain the ruse”, because according to him, “In Pakistan, things fall from the sky all the time.”
So could it be that Rawalpindi is making the recent helicopter crashes in Balochistan look like mere ‘accidents’just for “keep on the ruse”? And does PTI leader Fawad Chaudhary make a cryptic observation- “Helicopter flying becomes dangerous, it requires a technical assessment, too many crashes…” indicate that not everyone believes in the ISPR ‘accident’ the theory?