The Reasi terror attack and the Pakistani deep state's failed stratagems

Despite Pakistan’s repeated deniability of its proxy wars it conducts against India, it is a known fact that the State’s idea of counter terrorism is to selectively crack down on some terror outfits while overlooking the actions of the ones it nurtures and aligns with on similar strategic objectives. In an effort to mollify its "iron brother" China, Pakistan has carried out heavy-handed operations against its citizens who are not supportive of China and its growing presence in Pakistani affairs.

Aparna Rawal Jun 23, 2024
Reasi terror attack

On June 9 2024, a 53-seater bus from Shiv Kotra in Rajasthan to Mata Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu and Kashmir came under an attack from a group of terrorists. The attack resulted in the deaths of nine pilgrims and at least 41 were injured. The attack happened curiously just as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was about to take his oath of office for a third consecutive term. 

The responsibility for the dastardly act in Reasi, in Jammu division, was claimed by The Resistance Force (TRF), which is an offshoot of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). The ambush was primarily done reportedly by three foreign militants with the aid of a local accomplice. It was reported that the gunmen were furnished with the US-made M4 carbine assault rifles. These rifles are commonly used by the Pakistani Special Forces. Given that "Gazwa-i-Hind" (bleed India with thousand cuts) remains a central element of Pakistan’s defence doctrine, it is a no-brainer to link Pakistani spy agency ISI’s involvement with the terror group which orchestrated the attack. The investigation into the June 9 terror attack has been handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) after the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir was reviewed by Home Minister Amit Shah. 

It may be observed that the timing of the attack was crucial. Firstly, the attack was orchestrated an hour before the PM Modi took an oath for his third term, suggesting the attack as an act of defiance against the new Indian government.  Secondly, the attack preceded Modi's scheduled visit to Kashmir June 20-21; and lastly, it also came on the eve of the  Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath shrine on June 29.  Due to the Reasi attack, strict security measures and protocols have been put in place to boost surveillance and counter any possible threats.

Trifecta: TRF, LeT and Pakistan 

In 2023, the Indian Ministry of Home affairs proscribed and banned TRF along with three other outfits which were involved in terror activities against India specifically in the areas of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab. The TRF sprouted as an offshoot of Lashkar-e-Taiba post the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019. The outfit has carried attacks on civilians and Indian security forces.  

Trained by the LeT, the cadre of TRF has close ties with Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) as well. The group projects secular form of constitution using nonreligious motifs or symbols in its activities. Perhaps it is being done to give the Kashmiri terrorism an autochthonous face, while diverting the attention away from Pakistan, especially that of the anti-terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF), who had been monitoring Islamabad’s activities. It is understood that the TRF is a shadow group of LeT. Since Pakistan cannot afford to be linked with the LeT and its chief Hafiz Saeed, the placement of an indigenous shadow group such as the TRF provides a plausible clause for deniability of any terror activities on the Indian territory.

Lashkar-e-Taiba is a Pakistan-based Islamist Salafi jihadist organisation whose main aim is to merge Kashmir with Pakistan. It considers the United States, Israel and India as its primary enemies and has spoken of the elimination of these states by waging jihad. Founded by Hafiz Saeed with the support of the mujahideen, the LeT is said to have received funding from Al Qaeda during the Soviet–Afghan war and also enjoyed close connection with Taliban, and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Majority of its funding comes from the ISI, communities in the Gulf, and Islamic NGOs.

 LeT has various branches and networks in Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom and Bangladesh and it also maintains a close network with several religious and militia groups in the Philippines, Middle East and Chechnya. Most of its connections are derived from al Qaeda's fraternal network. 

Additionally, LeT has managed to build connections with many outfits such as Ikhwan-ul-Musalmeen of Egypt as well. Its unit in Germany is also known to receive aid from the Al Muhajiraun, a supporter of the Sharia Group.

In 2010, Interpol issued warrants against two serving officers in the Pakistan military for their involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. On the basis of their reports, the LeT was given directives by the ISI to expand its outreach in the Jammu region where there was a large population of the Punjabi community. This was done to influence and recruit the cadre from the Punjabi community so the outfit could easily infiltrate into Jammu area.

On 13 December 2001, a news report quoted a LeT spokesperson stating that LeT was keen to avoid any form of discordance with the Pakistani government with regard to Jammu and Kashmir. Due to the symbiosis between the LeT and ISI, the establishment of offshoot splinter groups of the LeT becomes a necessity for easy deniability. 

Growth of TRF

Unlike the independent or lone wolf terror outfits which try to prove their acts of terror for donorship and whose operations depend heavily on raising funds and acquiring the required inventory to commence attacks, TRF not only receives the required intelligence and arms but also the funding and training from Pakistani agencies to keep up frequencies of its attacks.

In a report produced in 2022, the Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP) stated that 172 terrorists, including 42 foreign nationals, were killed in 90 operations by security forces in Kashmir in 2022 alone. Amongst the killed terrorists in the Valley, 108 terrorists belonged to The Resistance Front or Lashkar-e-Taiba. Amongst the 100 reported recruits in having joined various terror groups, 74 were recruited by TRF. It was evident at the time that the TRF had left no stone turned to attract new recruits in the area. Like LeT and several other outfits, use of social media was largely employed along with the use of over ground workers. Since then, TRF has only grown in its presence on social media and also been seen deploying psy-ops propaganda against the Indian state. TRF has used its platform in the past to issue threats against the government employees, local journalists and editors of various newspapers.

The outfit had carried monthly attacks in 2020, with a short interval between the frequency of attacks and since, has become a nuisance in the UT of J&K.

The TRF has orchestrated attacks on Indian security personnel from the military, paramilitary and police forces. It has carried targeted assassinations of a Kashmiri Pandit village head, Makhan Lal Bindro (a businessman), Satpal Nischal, (a jeweller) and some local politicians specifically belonging to Hindu and Sikh communities. Kashmiri Pandits are a common target of the TRF.

The narrative that flopped

Despite Pakistan’s repeated deniability of its proxy wars it conducts against India, it is a known fact that the State’s idea of counter terrorism is to selectively crack down on some terror outfits while overlooking the actions of the ones it nurtures and aligns with on similar strategic objectives. In an effort to mollify its "iron brother" China, Pakistan has carried out heavy-handed operations against its citizens who are not supportive of China and its growing presence in Pakistani affairs.  Crackdown against such dissenters has also led to numerous protests and shutter-down movements in several areas such as Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Sind and Balochistan.

In a stark comparison of the protests and rebellions breaking out in Gilgit Baltistan and the Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir this year, India’s Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir had not only conducted successful elections but had made rapid developmental strides. This situation ran counter to Pakistan’s narrative of Indian "repression" and absence of democratic rights in Jammu and Kashmir. Hence the recent TRF attack to buttress Pakistan’s narrative of portraying an unstable India.

Since the nullification of Jammu and Kashmir's special status, India had successfully hosted the G20 Tourism Working Group meeting which was held from 22-24  May 2023 in Srinagar. This provided assurance to the visiting nations of the development and progress India had made in the Union territory since the the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution nearly five years ago. This event without a doubt punctured the anti-India narrative of a politically unstable Kashmir struggling to survive under a “Hindu-driven fascist” government. Pakistan’s modus operandi was visible even at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting on 5 May 2023, hosted by India. Then Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari took the opportunity to take a swipe at India urging the SCO member nations to refrain from supporting “terrorism” by India. The same day reports of five Indian Army personnel being killed in a blast, triggered by terrorists in Kandi forest of Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri district surfaced.  In response, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, at a briefing which followed the SCO meeting, riposted that despite “Pakistan’s credibility is depleting faster than its forex, its channel of finances for terrorist activities must be blocked without any distinction and terrorism in all its forms, including cross-border terrorism, must be stopped”. 

It is apparent that the timing of the terror attack was orchestrated as before to coincide with important events in India. This was done possibly to show up the weaknesses in India’s security capabilities. The attacks have exposed the ties of these smaller groups with bigger groups such as the Haqqani network or ISIS Khorasan (ISK), which equally enjoy the backing of the Pakistani government. 

(The writer is an Indian research analyst specializing in AF/Pak region and counter-terrorism. Views are personal. She can be contacted at

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