Net restoration brings Pak drones back in Punjab


Starting March 23 — the evening cellular internet services were restored in Punjab after almost six days — security personnel at the border have intercepted drones carrying drugs and weapons flown from Pakistan every day (sometimes even twice a day).

A drone found on March 27 along the Punjab border. (ANI)

In contrast, there was not a single case of drones entering Indian airspace when cellular internet services were suspended in the backdrop of Punjab Police launching a crackdown to arrest separatist Amritpal Singh, who continues to be on the run.

But after cellular internet services were restored on the afternoon of March 23, Border Security Force (BSF) officials have come across at least 11 cases of Pakistan smugglers using drones to send drugs and ammunition into India (till March 28). To be sure, these are only the cases detected by the security forces. The actual number of consignments sent during this period could be more.

Officials aware of the matter said the receivers of consignments in Punjab may have been unable to send geographical coordinates of the drop zone as they usually use WhatsApp and Telegram messaging services from burner phones. The officials said they suspect the drug consignments were stuck with the smugglers in Pakistan during the ban .

On the night of March 27, within 15 minutes, BSF’s Punjab frontier personnel fired at two drones in two separate incidents. Smugglers from across the border fence flew the first drone carrying 2 kg heroin, which entered Indian air space at 8.20 pm in Attari. About 10 km away, and just 15 minutes later, another drone flew in carrying nearly 2.5 kg of heroin. Both drones were seized.

While at least 11 cases were detected in 6 days, the number of such cases during the whole year in 2022 was 22. The number cases in those six days, is higher than the 4 cases in January and 7 in February.

“The analysis of drones we shot and sent for analysis in the past shows that the senders in Pakistan have the the exact geo-location of the drop zone. For almost a week, when cell and dongle internet services were suspended, people here may have been unable to send location,” said a senior BSF officer, who asked not to be named.

On Friday morning (March 31) between 6.30 and 7.30, BSF personnel found 3 kg heroin at the fields of two border villages — Daoke in Amritsar and Kalash Havelia in Tarn Taran. It isn’t clear when the consignments were dropped.

Instances of smuggling outfits and terror groups from Pakistan using drones for smuggling drugs, weapons, explosives, and cash into India has been increasing over the last year. On March 2, Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Maan apprised union home minister Amit Shah about the use of drones in sending drugs and weapons from Pakistan into India.

The first such case was detected in mid-2019. In 2021, there was only 1 such case, none in 2020 while in 2019 there were 2 throughout the year. On the intervening night of March 23/24, just hours after cell services were restored in Punjab, the first drone that entered Indian space , at the Metla border, dropped 5 pistols, 10 magazines, and 90 bullets before returning. The weapons and ammunition were seized by BSF.

The Punjab government had on March 17 ordered the suspension of all mobile internet and mobile dongle services from March 18 at the request of the Punjab police. While services in some parts of Punjab were restored on March 21, it remained suspended in many districts including those near the border until March 23. The border villages of Ferozpur and Amritsar were also the places where most drones carrying drugs were shot down by BSF in 2022.

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