Kaalkut. Chapter 25

29 May 2020

19:10 Hours IST

New Delhi, India

PM Bisht was about to leave for his home after a long day in the office. His security detail was going over the last minute checks as he waited inside the air-conditioned office avoiding the humid weather. There was a knock on his door and chief of  security crew Abhay Nambiar entered the room along with two other Special Protection Group (SPG) special agents. He spoke quickly, “Sorry for the interruption sir, but there has been an emergency situation and evacuation protocols have been initiated. We need to get you to Air Force 1 as soon as possible.” 

Taken by complete surprise, the PM asked, “Do you know what this is about?”

Nambiar shook his head in negative, “From what I was told, it has something to do with Pakistan. Someone from NSA’s office will inform you on the plane or helicopter.” PM nodded and followed their instructions. They had practised this drill  in the past and it played out just like they had planned.

The three SPG agents escorted the PM out of his office and to the waiting helicopter. He was then taken to Palam airport where a special Boeing 777-300ER designated Air India 1 was already refuelled and waiting. DM arrived just a few minutes after PM and was escorted in after him. The plane took off soon after escorted by two Sukhoi-30MKIs armed with jammers and air to air missiles. The Boeing aircraft itself was fitted with multiple self defence systems like Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM), multiple radar spoofing and jamming systems, flare & chaff dispensation systems and extra shielding for protection against nuclear blasts and Electro Magnetic Pulses (EMP).  Multiple communication systems with redundancies ensured that the plane’s occupants could stay in contact with anyone they needed to. President and some other members of the cabinet were taken to similarly equipped Air India 2.

NSA Dhumal was already waiting for PM via a tele-conference screen from plane AF1 as soon as he reached the plane’s meeting room. “What’s going on Dhumal? Is it China or Pakistan?”  

NSA looked tired on the teleconference screen. “We have an imminent threat from Pakistan. If China is involved in some way, we don’t know about it yet.”

“Imminent threat! What do you mean?”

“NSA fiddled with his tablet and sent images of Major General Qasim Rizvi and Pano Aqil airbase to another screen in the flying meeting room.”It seems like a Pakistani army officer from their Army Strategic Forces Command, one Major General Qasim Rizvi has gone rogue and taken control of Pano Aqil base in Sindh. There were reports of extended firefights and explosions but Pakistanis have cut off all phone and internet access to the area. So we have only limited information till our assets there manage to contact us on radio or something else.”

DM was brought to AI1 in an abrupt manner just like the PM and he was still trying to collect his bearings. He stared at the screens and papers in his hands and muttered, “Great ! As if Chinese and their viruses were not enough, now we have to deal with nuclear weapons under control of their more than just batshit crazy assholes.” He paused for a second, leafed through papers again and asked, “What are Pakistanis saying officially?

“Their Home Minister claimed on a TV channel that there was a large terrorist attack on the base by unknown terrorists with unknown motives. After that there has been a full blackout. Most of their political administration including the PM and most of cabinet has gone incommunicado. Most of the senior military command is supposedly hiding or gone underground too. But we have noticed large scale movement of ground forces and air assets in the area already. But no plane has been seen taking off from the Pano Aqil airbase itself.”

PM exhaled and looked at DM, “We need to start making preparations of our own.”

“Yes, I spoke to General Bharat Samant from Armed Forces Special Operations Division (AFSOD) and Air Marshal Arjun Mukund from Strategic Forces Command (SFC). At this moment, it seems like their people will need to get involved before anybody else. Rest of the command will contact us as soon as there is more clarity about the situation.“ DM answered and then addressed NSA, “Dhumal ji, do you think that Chinese are involved in this incident?”

“I’ve been thinking about this and I can’t discount the possibility. However we simply don’t have enough intelligence to be sure about this. Whatever we know about this Maj Gen Rizvi is not very conclusive either. I’ve sent you his file. Our intelligence marked him as competent, a bit aloof and somewhat of a devout muslim. He had turned a bit more religious after the death of his wife, but nothing out of ordinary. Unlike most Pakistani generals, he had the reputation of being honest, competent and upright.” 

“Knowing Pakis as well as we do, it all might just be an elaborate ruse to attack us or get more money from any of their four fathers.” DM responded bitterly.

“For what we know presently, it could be anything. We need to be prepared for all eventualities. Utilise all resources and get all the information possible you see fit. Our defence command and a few others need to be part of the decision making process. I want another meeting as soon as we have more information. I hope we’ll have enough data by then to make informed decisions.” PM spoke to end the meeting.    

20:15 Hours

Pakistan News & Information Service, Sukkur Desk 

BREAKING: Pano Aqil Aqil Military Base Under Siege

We have reports coming in from various sources that a military base in Pano Aqil is under attack by yet unknown assailants. According to civilian eye witnesses in the city, there were multiple explosions and heavy firing in the area. A video sent by a local resident shows two helicopters  at Pano Aqil air base trying to take off and then being destroyed by heavy machine gun fire from the ground. 

Another witness reported sounds of heavy gunfire at  a military facility 1.5 km from the airstrip and atleast three pillars of dark smoke rising from the area. After the initial reports, authorities have initiated a full blackout of the region and blocked all kinds of civilian communications and traffic. Electricity supply to most of the city has been cut off increasing panic among the civilian population. But people who were trying to get out of the city were sent back home by Pakistani army personnel patrolling the roads. At the same time, there were reports of unusually heavy air traffic at some nearby airport.

   Many defence analysts claim that Pano Aqil is used by Pakistani armed forces as storage for their nuclear weapons and is considered to be highly secured. Some reports suggested that the attack was planned and led by a senior officer commanding the base. One spokesperson from Sindh’s home ministry claimed that an installation in the cantonment was attacked by terrorists and the situation was under control. But everyone including the federal government and Pakistan Army have refused to provide further details.  

21:55 Hours

Skies Over Madhya Pradesh

A large screen played a video of bearded Major General  Qasim Rizvi talking to the camera in his full military attire. He spoke in Urdu using a calm measured voice.

“My name is Major General Qasim Rizvi and I have served Pakistan as an army officer for 35 years. I started as a Lieutenant and worked my way to the post of Major General after decades of sacrifice, and hard work . There is not a single person who can raise doubts over my integrity, honesty and loyalty to the nation and islam.  In our army, there were many others even more dedicated people than me who sacrificed everything they had for betterment of Pakistan and glory of islam. But sadly, people like me are now a vanishing minority. We are punished because we care about the country more than the bank balances of our senior officers. Pakistani army  and politics have become tden of a few power hungry and greedy elites who just use their privilege to squeeze out every single paisa from the bones of our long suffering masses.

Most of the politicians are just a tool in hands of these corrupt armed forces officers and in most cases, even more spineless and corrupt. They’ve all abandoned islam and Pakistan for their imported liquor, carnal pleasures, suitcases full of cash and mansions in the west. They rile up masses in name of country, the martyrs, Kashmir, islam and even cricket. But their only motive is to just grab as much money as possible for their lives of sin and debauchery.

I am an devout muslim and a patriotic Pakistani. My grandfather didn’t choose to live in Pakistan just to be a servant of liars, thieves and slaves of the kafirs. I know for a fact that the majority of my countrymen share these feelings but feel powerless to take any action. 

I request such patriotic muslims to consider me their representative and allow me and my companions here to truly liberate Pakistan and add stars to the glory of islam. If you are watching this video, then it means that my companions have succeeded in first phase of our campaign. We now control our own Islamic atom bombs.  The weapons in our control are enough to wipe out crores of kafirs in India, Israel and their friends in a few other places. 

We really don’t want to use these weapons and cause so much suffering anywhere. If we were bloodthirsty terrorists like they’d like you to think, we’d have already fired the weapons months before. But all we want is development of Pakistan and glory to islam in peaceful way. For this purpose, we have decided upon a list of demands that each party mentioned here has to fulfill. Every single point is carefully chosen and completely non-negotiable. Non-compliance of any single order will result in us unleashing everything we have.

1. This regime led by the incompetent puppet PM Sohail Niazi be dismissed and replaced by a military board comprising of three selected honest officers .If this order is not fulfilled within 24 hours, then our men will arrest or nuetralise all members of Pakistani cabinet. If you think that you can save yourself by increasing the security, then think again. How can you be sure that the bodyguard is not my man or the cook will not poison your breakfast?

2. All military officers mentioned in the list I’ll read out in the end should resign of their own accord and handover control of their commands to us. Conditions are same as previous point 

3. Americans need to withdraw from Afghanistan within 10 days. We want to hear this announcement of complete and unconditional withdrawal in 12 hours. We don’t care if they negotiate with “terrorists” or not. Refusal to comply will result in strikes on all their bases and Afghan allies in the region.

4. Indian forces deployed all over Jammu and Kashmir should disarm and retreat to their mainland. Muslims of the state shouldn’t be oppressed by guns of Hindus. If this doesn’t happen in next 72 hours, then every Indian city under our reach will turn into a pile of radioactive ashes. And trust me, I am on a very short fuse with this one.

Now my dear countrymen, knowing you as well as I like to think I do, I know that many of you will be happy with these steps. Then there’ll be a few who think just this is not enough. You will rightly say that I should’ve demanded that Jews go back from Palestine, Americans stop their military operations not just in Afghanistan but our whole Arab lands; and there is so much more. But my dear Pakistanis, I am but a single old man and facing huge odds. The fact that you are watching this video itself is such an improbable miracle that I have to ask you for help.

 It’s very likely that I and many of my companions on this mission may not survive. But I want this holy jihad to go on with your contributions. I know not all of you can pickup guns, but I implore those who can to do so. Those who really can’t, please pressurise your politicians to do the right islamic thing, abandon the path of unislamic debauchery and become true muslims. Report and confront the traitors within us. If we all work together, then we’ll see Pakistan at it’s rightful position as the head of worldwide Dar’ul Islam.

Allah Hafiz

PM rubbed his eyes tiredly and looked at the video conferencing screen. There were expressions of confusion on faces of all the people. He took a sip of water and asked, “So what do we do know? Any ideas?”

NSA spoke first, “From what we know, Pakistanis have stored 4-8 nuclear tipped Nasr missiles on 1-2 launch vehicles  with range of 50-70 km and 400 kg payload in Pano Aqil base. It’s nuclear warheads are low yield type,  0.5 to maximum 5 kilotons.  Pakistani doctrine envisages their use against our massed land troops in a Cold Start type attack. If fired from Pano Aqil base, it’ll not even cross the border. It’s major threat is it’s radiation rather than the yield. Missile’s size is so small that Pakistanis need to pack a lot more than usual Plutonium to have nuclear fission. 

Then there are 4-6 Ghauri (Hatf 5) ballistic missiles with claimed range between 700 to 1200 km depending upon the warhead size which can be between 700 and 1200 kg. Yield of these nuclear warheads can be 35 kilotons. We are not sure how many of the missiles are armed with nuclear warheads, but even a conventional warhead on our bigger cities will cause thousands of deaths.

Ghauri is a copy of North Korean No Dong 1 while Nasr is based on Chinese WS-2 multiple launch rocket system. We don’t have to worry about Nasr right now, but it is possible in theory that it’s smaller warheads can be mated with Ghauri missile. We don’t know if it’ll work in real life or not, but our plan of action assumes that it will.”

He then paused to take a breather and started again, “We have been trying to get in touch with Pakistani authorities through all available channels. Their Prime Minister’s office says that it’s Pakistan’s internal matter and that they’re in control. He himself refuses to talk to us claiming that it’s to comply with safety regulations. Lt General Hafiz of  I Corps and the 2nd in command of Pak army virtually threatened that he couldn’t control his subordinates if we even considered taking military action. His General refused to even take our call and has made three calls to China already. Even the US defence secretary couldn’t get him to comply with his demands..  

So we have two options now. Either we wait and trust that Pakistanis will sort out this problem themselves or we take some action ourselves.”

Our intelligence sources on the ground reported sounds of more gunfire just 20 minutes back. So I don’t think that they are in control and it’s highly unlikely that they’d allow us to do anything in their territory.” 

“So it means that they’re trying to take back control of the nuclear weapons, right?” PM asked in a hopeful tone. 

“After what Hafiz said on the phone, I am not sure about what is going on in their minds. Maybe they’re sincerely trying to neutralise Rizvi, but going by their mentality I can’t help but fear that they can use this confusion to launch a few missiles at us and claim that it was done by non state actors.”

Chief of the Army Staff General Gopal Gurunath spoke next, “Our intelligence suggests that Pakistani military is rushing a large number of soldiers to Pano Aqil and has enforced a no fly zone over the whole country. Also the statements through their official channels are very confusing. They don’t want any intervention by any foreign power and are claiming that they can handle the situation themselves. If we can get them to cooperate, then neutralising this Maj Gen Rizvi and his bunch of lunatics shouldn’t be that difficult. But this high level of alert, their opposition to foreign intervention and  involvement of Americans and conditions on Chinese border complicates the situation.“   

PM nodded and asked, “Any update from AFSOD yet? Do they have everything for the mission?”

CDS Rajinder Singh spoke from his station at AF2, “Special Operations teams are on standby and ready to move in as soon as an assault plan is approved. Air Force is almost done preparing flights for air cover and Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD). Pakistanis seem adamant on keeping us out at all costs. So the first phase will involve SEAD and precision air and missile strikes using conventional warheads. Then the ground assault troops will do a High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) insertion right in Paro Aqil to destroy the remaining missiles and personnel.“

SEAD operations in a full scale war involve destruction or atleast temporary disabling of enemy air defense systems like Surface To Air Missiles (SAMs), radars, AWACS, air defence guns, command, communications and control facilities. Most common types of SEAD operations involve destruction of enemy radars, communication facilities  and other systems using Anti Radiation Missiles (ARM). These missiles can track electromagnetic emissions from a wide variety of sources and guide themselves to the target.

Dedicated Electronic Warfare (EW) aircraft or normal aircraft equipped with EW pods can temporarily disable enemy defence systems by  jamming and spoofing their communications, radars and targeting systems.  There are a few other ways of SEAD too like laying out a relatively safe corridor for the strike force by use of large chaff clouds, dedicated missions against AD systems using conventional bombs and so on. 

HALO is a way to deploy paratroopers in enemy territory by having them jump out of the airplane at high altitude and opening their parachutes at low altitudes, usually around 1000 m. This type of approach is accurate, stealthy and  helps evade visual detection or by radar. Another approach is High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) which is less stealthy but the personnel can travel for nearly 60 km after the jump. 

“What about extraction of our ground units?” PM asked.

“There is an airstrip within 2 km of our main target area which can be used by our C-130s. If we are unable to secure that, we have some Dhruv and Mi-17 helicopters standing by as the back up plan.” 

“Will it work?”

“It’ll have to, one way or another.” 

Air Chief Marshal Laxman Maadhav spoke next, “We have made battle plans for situations like this before. We can destroy most of that base within 6-7 hours.”

“What will be the guarantee that the nuclear weapons stored there will be destroyed by your strikes?” 

“In a joint air and ground mission, chances of success are fairly good. Our air and missile strikes can make sure that everything related to missile launch infrastructure will either be destroyed or made unusable for a few days atleast.  We’ll need boots on ground to be doubly sure.”

“What about casualties on our side?”

“We are expecting a few losses..” ACM Maadhav answered simply. 

There was a momentary pause as people in the meeting pondered over the odds of ground troops and pilots surviving the mission. Traveling over a 100 km over the heavily fortified region back to the safety of Indian border would be as difficult a task as getting in.

“If we do this, then what stops Pakistanis to use it as an excuse for declaring a war? We can’t really hope to inform them before assault asking for cooperation. They’ll most likely inform the terrorists themselves even if they’re not doing anything themselves.” DM asked no one in particular. 

ACM answered, “We can’t really wait for or trust their word that the nukes are safe. Although they’ve never made it public, it’s common knowledge that even division commanders have nuclear authorisation in Pakistan. We have to assume that Rizvi and perhaps one or more officers working with him have the launch codes.  Our country is under imminent threat of nuclear attack and we have to take every possible action to defend ourselves. There is no need to ask for permission from any other external party. This incident has shown that Pakistani military and political leadership is incapable of even basic nuclear safety measures. Ideally this room should have been discussing the full neutralisation of all Pakistani nuclear assets all over the country. Not just this one small site.”

“You’re right, ideally we should be considering full denuclearisation of Pakistan. Home Minister spoke in support of ACM.  “But there’s a lot going on including tension with Chinese. All this could also be a ploy to divert our attention from some other mischief or even provoke us into an attack and cry victim.”

NSA shook his head, “Pardon me for interrupting, I am not disagreeing with you. But I need to point out that all available evidence makes it seem that it’s a real crisis. There has been a bloody combat, our operatives have seen injured and dead Pakistanis and there are eye witness accounts of Pakistani PM and 2-3 other ministers rushing out of their houses escorted by military. Then you saw the video of Major General Qasim yourself. Chances of it being a false flag operation are very low. Apart from that, there is a bigger risk of loss if we treat it as one.”

“And it doesn’t need saying that Rizvi managed to take control of Pano Akil with full support of many serving personnel of Pakistani army. There has been a mutiny and there’s no way to know which faction of their army is fighting for what purpose. For all that we know, all are hostile to us.“ DM added his input.

“Will we need to divert any resources deployed in any other sector to Pano Aqil? Anything about Chinese?” PM interrupted the increasingly hypothetical discussion. 

CDS shook his head, “Presently we don’t need to do anything like that. I have a gut feeling that Chinese will try to take advantage of this situation. We should not divert attention from them  no matter what happens in Pakistan.”

DM got a notification on his secure tablet. He read it and whispered something to the PM. They talked in hushed voices for a minute and  then PM addressed the participants, “We have an incoming call from American Defence Secretary. We’ll resume this meeting again in 20 minutes.”

22:45 Hours

PM looked slightly relaxed as the meeting reconvened. He streamed a list of American military assets on the shared screen and spoke, “We had detailed talk with US President and Defence Secretary. They are proposing a joint military operation to take care of this threat. This list I’ve shared is the military hardware that they can deploy in the next 2 hours. They’ll be providing air support and help with precision attacks in a few places. They want our help with ground assault and air support in certain sectors. 

General Singh, I need you to assign a high ranking team to work with Americans right now and prepare an attack plan accordingly.I am assuming that it will free up some of our resources to finish  some of our other objectives related to current situation, right? “

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