Pakistan Navy
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Tuesday, Dec 13. Pakistan Navy today officially launched its ‘Task Force-88’ (TF-88) to enhance maritime security of Gwadar port and protection of CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) associated sea lanes against both conventional and non-traditional threats. Army had already established, a 13000 strong, Special Security Division (SSD) several months ago to protect overland route of CPEC from Kashgar unto Gawadar.

An International Maritime Conference on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was held at Gwadar today to commission the TF-88 force. It was attended by delegates, naval experts and academics from around the world. PM Nawaz Sharif was scheduled to kick start the conference but his flight could not take off in time due to unusual fog around Lahore.

The creation of this special maritime force, by Pakistan Navy, was becoming necessary due to the operational impact and demands of the CPEC, of which Gawadar port has emerged as the focal point. Maritime suscpetibilites have increased given increased potential traffic. Pakistani analysts often describe potential hostility from India and many point out that Commander Kulbhasan Yadav, senior Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) officer who was arrested by Pakistani agencies in the beginning of 2016, in Baluchistan, not far from Gawadar port, was a naval officer. Though Indian and international media have referred to Commander Kulbhashan as a ‘spy’ but Pakistani agencies insist that he was a ‘saboteur’ managing a network of sabotage across Pakistan – with deep interest in Gawadar.

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Task Force, TF-88 will consist of frigates, Fast Attack Naval boats, aircraft, drones (unmanned aerial vehicles), and surveillance assets. Additio­nally, marines would be deployed at sea and around Gwadar for security operations, according to a senior Navy official. On Friday, Dec 9th, former Vice Admiral Rao Iftikhar,and Senator Mushahid Hussain appeared in a Dunya News TV program, “Tonight with Moeed Pirzada” to explain the significance of this maritime conference and new naval task force. (TF-88). Admiral Rao Iftikhar had extensively served in the area and was responsible for raising the first coastal defense force several years ago. Senator Mushahid is head of the parliamentary committee on CPEC.

Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Zakaullah and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Zubair Hayat, Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri attended the maritime conference on Tuesday.

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