India's air strike in Pakistan took place in Balakot area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan, which is just a four-hour drive from the country's capital city, Islamabad.
Balakot, which was ravaged by the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), has been in the news for housing terrorist training camps of Hizbul Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammad. The Narendra Modi government has also claimed that the strike led to the killing of Maulana Yusuf Azhar, who was the chief trainer in many JeM camps.
IAF Mirage 2000 jets have reportedly caused major destruction of many such camps and killed nearly 250-300 Jaish terrorists.
The pre-dawn air strikes also led to a string of queries on which side of LoC did the IAF jets hit as there is a region by the name of Balakot in the Indian side as well in Poonch district.
So it is Balakote in KPK. That's a strike deep inside Pakistan & is hugely embarrassing for them. Regardless of what the other side may claim was or wasn't hit the planes crossed over, dropped their payload & flew back completely unscathed.
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) February 26, 2019
Unless we know which Balakote is being talked about by the Pakistani generals it's pointless speculating about what we may have hit & what fallout the airstrike will have. — Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) February 26, 2019
However, the confusion was cleared by none other than Pakistan's Director General Inter-Services Public Relations Major General Asif Ghafoor who referred to Balakot as a region near Muzaffarabad.
Indian aircrafts intruded from Muzafarabad sector. Facing timely and effective response from Pakistan Air Force released payload in haste while escaping which fell near Balakot. No casualties or damage.
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) February 26, 2019
The debate about which Balakot the DG ISPR mentions in his tweet needs to be resolved by him, through a clarification. But if you look at the map, the "other" Bala Kote, in Poonch, is nowhere near Muzaffarabad, which he mentions. Maybe there is a better explanation out there. pic.twitter.com/ry920BwTFr — Mosharraf Zaidi (@mosharrafzaidi) February 26, 2019
Just to be clear: #Balakot is not in Azad Kashmir.
If Indian Air Force planes dropped payload in Balakot, they crossed across the LOC, and then across the entirety of Azad Kashmir, and then into Khyber Pakhtukhwa.
India didn't "cross the LOC".
It has attacked Pakistan.
— Mosharraf Zaidi (@mosharrafzaidi) February 26, 2019
How is Balakot strategically significant?
Not only is Balakot region of Northwest Pakistan infamous for hosting Jaish terror camps, it is also believed to be one of the areas where Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Saeed launches his scathing attacks on India.
Being just a four-hour drive from Pakistan's capital Islamabad also has strategic significance. The area is just 50 kilometres away from the Line of Control and nearly 81 kilometres away from Uri sector of Baramulla district in J&K.
However, Balakot is not new to hostilities and has a history of many wars being fought on its territory as early as the 19th century when it was ruled by the Sikhs against whom war was waged by Islamic leaders (Khalifah). The Sikhs sent their armies from Kashmir to Balakot and established their rule which was ended when the British government took over.