Unholy warriors

The Statesman | Jan 28, 2001

Syed Salahuddin, wants India to recognise that Pakistan is a party to the Kashmir dispute, to agree to engage in tripartite talks with Pakistan and Kashmiri representatives and to reduce the number of troops deployed in Kashmir to 1989 levels. Violent acts of terrorism in J&K and elsewhere in India are a manifestation of Pakistan's declared agenda of annexing Kashmir at any' cost and it would be unrealistic to expect the Pakistan government to harm its cause by diluting its support to the jehadis.

A FANATIC is said to be one who redoubles his effort when he loses sight of his goal. Nothing in recent history has brought so much ignominy to Pakistan as the wanton acts of its Jehadi fanatics who are waging a war against India in Allah’s name. Having been taken by surprise by the Kashmiri people’s warm response to Prime Minister Vajpayee’s peace overtures and the Indian security forces steadfast adherence to the ongoing ceasefire in the face of grave provocation, Pakistan’s Islamist fundamentalists have redoubled their efforts to strike terror in the hearts and minds of the people of J&K.

Any analysis of the challenge to India’s position in Kashmir must focus on the external and the internal dimensions of the issue and the complex linkage between the two. The management of the militancy in J&K is firmly in the hands of Pakistan’s ISIS sponsored and controlled fundamentalist Islamist organisations that are employing mercenary fanatics as their tools of terror. The virulence of their campaign of hatred and intolerance has no parallel in the long history of religious bigotry. The moot point is, how much leverage does the ISJ still have with its progeny, or is it another case of having produced a Frankenstein’s monster?

The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen chief, Maulana Farooq Kashmiri, has been shouting from the rooftops and thundering during Friday prayers that Kashmir can be liberated only through jehad and those who believe in dialogue with India are deluding themselves. Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) that masterminded the Red Fort attack, said at an iftaar gathering in Islamabad, “Had the Pakistan government preferred jehad to talks, there would be no Kashmir problem.” He described the ceasefire along the LoC as ridiculous. The terror tactics of Maulana Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammad continue unabated. In league with the LeT, the Maulana’s zealots have vowed to launch more fidayeen attacks on the security forces and have even threatened the Indian Prime Minister.

General Musharraf himself is under attack from the mullahs who run Pakistan’s jehad factories and continues to face serious internal threats to his legitimacy. In an unprecedented Statement, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, has made bold to describe Musharraf as a security risk to Pakistan and called upon other Pakistan: Generals to sack him for his soft line on Kashmir. Akram Awan’s Tanzeem-ul-Ikhwan is a far right Islamic group comprising mainly retired Pakistani army officers with its tentacles spreading rapidly in the increasingly Talibanised Pakistan Army. Awan has ordered Musharraf to establish the Shariah system in Pakistan by 7 March 2001 or it will be imposed by force. Akram has also demanded that Musharraf should extend full support to the jehad in Kashmir.

Musharraf has no option but to tread warily. He is acutely conscious that pursuing a holy war against India is all that is keeping the fundamentalist hardliners from fomenting jehad at home. Thousands of armed, impoverished zealots are being trained in numerous madrasas that dot the moffussil areas. These jehad factories are turning out more recruits than can be absorbed by all the pan-Islamic movements from Bosnia and Chechnya through Afghanistan to Kashmir and Xinjiang. To add to Musharraf’s woes, the Taliban, Pakistan’s proteges in Afghanistan. have trained over 50,000 foot soldiers of Islam from 55 countries in recent years. Having bankrolled and armed the jehadi organisations to recruit holy warriors for Afghanistan and internal linkage spans the ebb and flow of the relationship between the political and militant organisations in J&K and their handlers, supporters and critics in Pakistan. The All Party Hurriyat Conference is split between its pro-Pakistan, pro-azadi and, the relatively fewer, pro-autonomy elements and is unable to agree on even nominating a team to proceed to Pakistan for talks. Its chairman, Abdul Ghani Bhat, has been condemned by Pakistan’s Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen for stating that the people of Kashmir cannot afford more sacrifices. The present ceasefire has been unequivocally welcomed by Yaseen Malik of the JKLF Abdul Ghani Lone, Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and chairman Bhat. The ailing Ali Shah Geelani who now remains the solitary supporter of a merger with Pakistan, does not support the ceasefire.

The fissures between the India and Pakistan-based groups of Hizbul Mujahideen are also evident. The Hizbul is pro-Pakistan, as is its parent organisation, the Jamaat-e-Islami in Kashmir its Muzaffarabad-Islamabad based chief. Syed Salahuddin, wants India to recognise that Pakistan is a party to the Kashmir dispute, to agree to engage in tripartite talks with Pakistan and Kashmiri representatives and to reduce the number of troops deployed in Kashmir to 1989 levels. He said in a recent interview to The Dawn that the Hurriyat leaders had no mandate for asking the militants to respect the ceasefire. However, despite periodic denials to the contrary, his views are quite obviously not fully reciprocated by Abdul Majid Dar, the Hizbul’s field commander in Kashmir. In an interview with The Henry L Stimson Centre, Washington, Dar has expressed his support for a political solution through a negotiated settlement of the Kashmir dispute. He wants free and fair elections in J&K overseen by international observers.

Within India public opinion on the Prime Minister’s peace initiative and on allowing a Hurriyat team to proceed to Pakistan for negotiations is divided. However, there is almost complete agreement that, in deference to the Kashmiri people’s desire and overwhelming support for peace, the ceasefire should be extended further despite the ruthless incidents of violence perpetrated recently by Pakistan based terrorist organisations.

The political leadership is rightly convinced that unless Pakistan stops supporting trans-border and trans-LoC terrorism, it would not be prudent to resume a direct dialogue with it even if it is a composite dialogue and the Kashmir issue is just one item on the agenda. Abdul Sattar, Pakistan’s foreign minister has indicated that Pakistan may be willing to join a tripartite negotiation process at a later stage.

While Pakistan has de-escalated the situation on the LoC by reducing the number of daily incidents and claims to have pulled back some troops, it has not simultaneously reined in and stopped supporting the jehadi organisations. The Pakistani leaders’ penchant for running with the hare and hunting with the hounds is well known and what is more likely is that by temporarily reducing the level of violence on the LoC, Pakistan is giving its troops some respite while seeking to earn international goodwill that it had lost completely in the wake of its strategic blunder in Kargil.

Violent acts of terrorism in J&K and elsewhere in India are a manifestation of Pakistan’s declared agenda of annexing Kashmir at any’ cost and it would be unrealistic to expect the Pakistan government to harm its cause by diluting its support to the jehadis. Hence, Pakistan’s limited reciprocation of India’s peace overtures should be seen for what it is — rhetorical posturing. As was to be expected, Pakistan’s gestures are elaborate in style but deficient in substance.

No government in Pakistan military or elected, is likely to commit political hara-kiri by giving up its claim on Kashmir. Even the acceptance of the LoC as a permanent border is unlikely to be the least common denominator in Pakistan’s approach to the issue of a final settlement.
Then, should India extend an unequal ceasefire that is disadvantageous to its own security forces and allows the predominantly foreign militants to rest, recoup, regroup and refit? The answer is deceptively simple. India must continue to persist with its ceasefire as it is in its national interest to give peace a chance in Kashmir. The verdict in the panchayat elections has wholeheartedly endorsed the ceasefire and the corresponding reduction in violence.

It is only when the people of Kashmir take it upon themselves to root out militancy that it will be finally eliminated. The ceasefire will enhance the realisation that the lives of Kashmiris and their Sufi culture are being ruined by Pakistan’s mercenary marauders and strengthen their resolve to compel the jehadis to relent.