It was in 1988, a Pakistani sponsored militancy started in the Valley of Kashmir, apparently to ‘liberate Kashmir’. However, later events and evidence proved that those who sponsored the militancy had other agenda and ‘liberation of Kashmir’ was only used as a ploy to woo Kashmiri youths to pick up guns against India. In this militant struggle tens of thousands of Kashmiri people have lost their lives, women have lost their dignity and honour; and thousands of people are still unaccounted for. Sad thing is that despite so much destruction and human suffering we are nowhere near the goal of independence; if anything, people are more divided, leaderless and frustrated.
Some Kashmiri people have understood that they were used to protect and promote sovereign interests of Pakistan; and people of Jammu and Kashmir were used as a raw material in the competing interests of India and Pakistan. However, there are many Kashmiris who are mentally not prepared to acknowledge this bitter truth, mainly because of their political and commercial interests; and it is these people who are major hurdle in the path of our independence. Designs of the Pakistani establishment were in an article by Pakistan’s famous journalist Hamid Mir like this:
‘Pakistan introduced militancy in this movement; but contained the militancy to certain areas. When militants protested against this, they were bluntly told by ISI senior officer, Major General Iftikhar Hussain Shah that we don’t want freedom of Kashmir, we only wanted to wound India….From Kargil adventure of 1999 to division of Hurriyat Conference in 2002, there is a long list of betrayal of Pakistan’s political and military leadership to the people of Kashmir. A request to this leadership is, please stop now, if you cannot do anything good for the people of Kashmir then, at least stop dividing them and making them fight each other.’ 1
Pakistani sponsored militancy has not only brought havoc to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and divided them on communal, regional and ethnic lines; but it also brought India and Pakistan to the brink of a nuclear clash. Over the decades, the militancy and Pakistani establishment’s selfish attitude and blunders have transformed fundamental character of the Kashmiri struggle for right of self determination.
India gradually got upper hand and militancy showed signs of decline; and it was at that time ‘guest militants’ (Jihadis from other countries) were introduced by those who were calling shots in the Kashmiri struggle. The Pakistani establishment continued to support militancy but after 9/11 and ‘War on Terrorism’ it was no longer possible to overtly support the militants; and they ditched Kashmiris just like they ditched the Afghans.
Many experts on Indo Pakistan assert that the Pakistani policy was to bleed India with many wounds, and bring its foe to knees. Reality is that India, despite these ‘wounds’, has made tremendous advancement in many fields; and it is Pakistan that seems to be in serious trouble as a nation state. Pakistani academic and thinker Dr Pervaiz Hoodbhoy, while analysing the Pakistani policy asserted: ‘Pakistan bleeds from a thousand cuts. If things had gone according to plan it is India that should have been hurting now, not Pakistan. The army’s 25 years-old low-cost, high-impact strategy of covert warfare would have liberated Kashmir and secured Afghanistan from Indian influence. Instead, a fierce blowback has led to a daily pileup of shaheeds, the casualties of a plan that went awry. The morale of a fine fighting force plummets still further when its soldiers are ordered to fight those coreligionists who claim to be fighting for Islam. The reported refusal of some military units to confront the Taliban during last year’s South Waziristan operation is said to have shocked senior officers and severely limited their battle options in North Waziristan.’ 2
However, anger against India is still strong, especially in the Valley because of human rights abuses, humiliation and suffering; but militancy has considerably declined. People of Jammu and Kashmir are increasingly realising that they were used as a raw material to protect and advance Pakistani interests. With militancy considerably under control, some kind of normalcy is returning to the Valley; and that does not suit people with vested interests, and those who have made the ‘struggle’ in to a lucrative business.
Normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir and peace between India and Pakistan does not suit some powerful forces, as their interests only flourish when there is instability, violence and hatred. In view of this, my fear is that these powerful forces will ensure that the Kashmir pot boils again. People with vested interest could be secretly planning their next move which could again engulf the Valley in the coming months and destabilise the peace process and the entire region. I feel once again they will use religious card to generate hatred and start a new phase of the struggle.
It must be noted that there are millions of young men in Pakistan who have ‘graduated’ from religious schools and there are no employment opportunities there for them other than to promote ‘jihad’, their brand of Islam and religious hatred. Furthermore, after withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan tens of thousands of young men will become ‘jobless’; and they would need a new war theatre to pursue their ambitions to promote jihad and pursuit of Heaven and Hoors (Heavenly virgin women). ‘Jihad in Kashmir’ is still an attractive slogan, and will attract many jihadi warriors; but it will surely add to suffering and miseries of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Over the year Pakistani establishment’s resolve to interfere in matters of Jammu and Kashmir have weakened; and they with help of their Kashmiri supporters are trying to make China part of the Kashmir dispute. China was never part of the Kashmir dispute even though there is considerable area of the State of Jammu and Kashmir under their illegal occupation. This move is not designed to help the Kashmir cause or the people of Jammu and Kashmir; but to further complicate the Kashmir dispute. In view of loyal sons of soil this move is very dangerous and detrimental to unification and independence of Jammu and Kashmir.
However, it is good to note that majority of Kashmiri parties now believe that the struggle for independence should be peaceful one; and that militancy is not the way forward. However, it must be pointed out that my colleagues and I advocated peaceful struggle more than a decade ago. I wrote a number of articles in support of political and diplomatic struggle; and sad thing is at that time I was accused of being, ‘anti jihad’, ‘anti Islam’ and ‘anti movement’. I wish those in position of power had listened to this at that time then we could have saved many valuable lives.
With the above background we enter the New Year 2013, which will be very important for politics of South Asia. Pakistan is getting deeper in to their internal problems and there are very serious threats to body politics of the country. It is an established tradition of the Pakistani rulers that when they find it difficult to control internal troubles they like to divert attention by starting some external adventures. I hope that they don’t start another direct or indirect adventure in Kashmir or in India – Mumbai 2, as it would get Pakistan deeper in the mud.
APHC is still in two factions and both factions claim to represent people of Jammu and Kashmir; and are more ‘loyal’ to Pakistan than to State of Jammu and Kashmir. Their opposition to each other and point scoring does not help the Kashmir cause or help to relieve miseries of the suffering people. Other pro freedom parties are also in tatters. The much talked unity of two groups of JKLF (Amanullah Khan Group and Yasin Malik Group) still leave many JKLF groups working independently; and as predicted, even this ‘unity’ has produced a split in the form of Sardar Saghir Khan and his colleagues. Sardar Saghir Khan, former Chairman of JKLF openly defied this ‘unity’ and called it handiwork of Pakistani secret agencies.
Without going in to details who caused these splits, fact is that all nationalist Kashmiri parties have suffered splits and their meagre resources, time and talent is utilised either fighting each other or proving that so and so are agents of forces of occupation. This is not to suggest that there are no agents of forces of occupation among the nationalists. Reality is that senior leaders of some nationalist groups are there only to protect and promote interests of either India or Pakistan; and their role is to confuse nationalists in name of religion or by spreading communalism, regionalism and hatred.
True nationalists need to acknowledge this bitter fact that hold of India and Pakistan on both side of the divide is firmer than ever before. It is also fact that pro Pakistan and pro Indian parties in their respective parts of Jammu and Kashmir are stronger than ever before. In view of this prevailing situation, we must formulate our policies and alliances otherwise both India and Pakistan will enforce some kind of solution to divide the State of Jammu and Kashmir. And if they do that, are we in a position to resist it?
In conclusion, year 2013 is going to be very important, not only for people of Jammu and Kashmir, but also for the entire region of South Asia. However, we people of Jammu and Kashmir need to keep our eyes and ears open that, once again, we don’t become tools and victims of our neighbours quest for resources and territory.
Nicholson wrote about me:
‘Dr Shabir Choudhry has worked tirelessly for nearly thirty years promoting peace, stability, human rights and democracy in the region. He has become a leading authority on the Kashmiri struggle. I found his thinking to be balanced, fair and logical.’ Baroness Emma Nicholson
Readers can reach him at :
http://www.facebook.com/shabir.choudhry?fref=ts [email protected]
Note: this is the personal opinion of the writer