From Afghanistan to Anantnag via Abbotabad – III
On May 2, 2011 Pakistani military cadets at the Kakul Academy in Abbotabad, Pakistan woke up to an approaching juddering sound. 100 yards away it also brought someone else’s sleep to an abrupt end. This person was Osama bin Laden. As we now know, on that fateful night, four U.S. military helicopters swooped down on his residence and killed him.
This particular live action snuff movie, different from yet not a world away from the boy-next-door flicks put out by Al Qaeda in Iraq-cum-IS, was watched by a coterie of high priests. First, of course, the First Man, The US President who, one cannot help but observe, looked distinctly awed, hunched forwards and in spite of the RFK brand rolled-up white shirtsleeves, a lawyer profoundly out of his depth. He was flanked by straight-backed, ‘Kills R Us’ senior Pentagon officials and by a not-in-the-slightest awed (perhaps, along with many in her social class, she imbibed with mother’s milk the ability “to smile as you kill”), Hillary Clinton. They all sat in front of the screens in the apparently cramped White House Situation Room and watched the live execution of this CIA covert operation.
Kakul Academy is built on the site of an old POW camp for prisoners from the Boer War (1899-1902) which later became the Royal Indian Army Services Corps training school. After the Partition of the Sub-continent, it was transformed into the Pakistan Military Academy.
The revelation that the world’s most wanted terrorist was hiding just one hundred yards away from the Pakistan Military Academy shocked almost everyone. One would have to believe in the Tooth Fairy, Father Christmas and Donald Trump’s essential Aquinan goodness to swallow the narrative that this was mere coincidence rather than a cruel manifestation of the criminal involvement of the Pakistani military establishment in the manufacture of not only the Afghan Jihad but also the Taliban and the militant insurgency that rocked the Valley of Kashmir.
During the early part of the 1990s, Pakistan was at loggerheads with India as “the conflict escalated as the army supported Jihadi groups to fight in Indian (held) Kashmir.” (Rashid: 2013). As the Pakistan Army was unable to start a direct military confrontation with India, the ISI operated through its trained Jihadists, the euphemistically named Mehman Mujahideen (‘Guest Mujahideen’) to cause disturbances in Indian-controlled Kashmir. This was not the first time that the Pakistan Army had employed such tactics to gain a foothold in the disputed Himalayan state.
In 2007, sections of the Pakistani military establishment allegedly supported the Taliban in their capture of the valley of Swat in Northern Pakistan. In his book, Pakistan on the Brink (Penguin, 2013), Ahmed Rashid, an expert on Central Asia and the Taliban insurgency, explains the strategic importance of the capture of Swat, thus: “To the east, it opens into Indian (held) Kashmir, and to the west, into Afghanistan. And more importantly, “it is conveniently out of range of U.S. drone strikes”. (Rashid: 2013). It was designed to establish “a new route to the battlefields of (Indian held) Kashmir”. (Rashid: 2013). However, this endeavour was too bitter a pill to swallow by the Parliament in Islamabad, which has been striving to establish working trade relations with India. It also caused alarm in the White House and on April 28, U.S. President Barack Obama summoned his Cabinet to discuss the new development, issuing a statement in which, he said he was “gravely concerned” and that “the civilian government (in Pakistan) right now is very fragile”.’”(New York Times, April 30, 2009).
As India was faced with yet another adventurous military showdown in Kashmir, it was Obama who saved the day. A massive evacuation of the population (1.5 million) was undertaken, after which, on May 7, a disgruntled Pakistan Army “launched a major air and ground offensive in Swat, dropping bombs and firing artillery around Mingora, where an estimated 4,000 Taliban fighters had dug in.”.(Rashid: 2013). This, notes Rashid, was “the first time (Pakistani) troops were drawn from the Indian border, after India pledged not to heighten tensions with Pakistan”. (Rashid: 2013). While bombing Swat, the Pakistan Army granted the Taliban an escape route and allowed them to retreat to FATA (the Federally Administered Tribal Area) and Afghanistan!
The encounter that the Indian Army faced on April 1, 2018 with a group of Hizb ul Mujahedin (‘HM’) militants has caused alarm since they were not of Pakistani origin and came from different districts of Shopian in Southern Kashmir. This raises two questions. Firstly, what is the motivation behind these local separatist insurgents and secondly, how to deal with the continuous state of standstill between the insurgency and the Indian state?
In order to examine the elements that motivate the Islamist jihadists, we have to look at the supremacist (read racist) mindset that has its roots in the concept of being part of a ‘puritan’ religion. This kind of mindset can be traced back through many periods in human history. The most recent example is that of German fascism, which advocated the supremacy of the ‘Aryan race’. A similar mindset can also be found among the White Supremacists of the American Klu Klux Klan (‘KKK’). A supremacist mindset can only be developed with the help of a racist narrative based on, a) a false narrative of history, b) a victim psychology, and c) a scapegoat.
The false historical indoctrination in many madrassas in Pakistan is the root of the spread of this religious Wahhabi Supremacist narrative. As mentioned in my pervious article, it was designed to produce a die-hard contingent of Mujahedin for consumption during the Afghan War and has been used ever since to cause individual terrorist activism across the Valley of Kashmir.
A report published by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism (2016) suggests that supremacist ideologies are born out a need to satisfy one’s desire of belonging. In our case, the growth of popular jihadism in the Valley of Kashmir helps the Kashmiri Muslim feel a sense of belonging against a “Hindu” occupation army. The sense of belonging is reinforced by the collective deprivation of the Kashmiri Muslim population in the Valley who then conveniently associate themselves with the radical religious supremacist narrative and militant insurgency.
The second element that helps to create a culture of victimhood is caused by the psychological impact of the omnipresence of Indian troops in the Valley. In its 2016 Human Rights report, the Kashmir Institute of International Relations, a Islamabad-based NGO, notes that “nearly 79% of educational institutions in Kashmir valley are at a distance of less than one kilometre from the nearest military camp/bunker…some of the schools share a common border with the camps”. (Human Rights: 2016). This is enough to cause resentment among the young children who then can be targeted by Jihadi outfits for the purpose of indoctrination in the Wahhabi religious supremacist narrative and to turn them into a new generation of indigenous Wahhabi supremacist insurgents.
The alleged disappearance of 10,000 people and the 9,000 cases of rape occurring in the Valley of Kashmir, widely reported by the human right organisations (Human Rights: 2016) is another cause for the population to see themselves as victims of an unjust political discourse – they are.
This brings me to the third element. Under the aforementioned circumstances, the Hindu community, residing side-by-side with the Muslim population, becomes the scapegoat. The forced expulsion of the (Hindu) Pundits in 1990 is a living example of the supremacist tactics of ethnic cleansing. This has facilitated communalism as the dominant political narrative of every General Election in the Valley since 1990.
The degeneration of a secular separatist movement into a supremacist religious fascist one also has gained encouragement due to the sense of denial among the Indian establishment of an unresolved historical conundrum. Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, or Act 1974 of the Pakistani Constitution, which gives controlled and conditional autonomy to both divided parts of the state cannot resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. The will of the people of Jammu and Kashmir must be taken into account and the matter must be settled before we witness another enormous communal massacre.
The sight of the black flags emblazoned with Islamic verses along with the Pakistani national flags that flutter during Kashmiri protest rallies in the Valley is a stark indication of the influence of a supremacist religious (puritan) mindset which cannot be ignored. The hegemony of a new democratic secular narrative will have to be established to counter the prevailing one. To expect that the existing political parties in the Valley will undertake such an endeavour is naïve at best. There is need for a new political movement to be initiated in the Valley that can decisively and uncompromisingly challenge the supremacist Wahhabi narrative along with that of the complacent secular traditional parties in Kashmir.
As India embarks on a massive economic drive, it is the insurgency in the Valley and the burden on the national treasury caused by the deployment of hundreds of thousands of troops that poses the greatest threat to its rise a regional economic superpower. Lessons have to be learned in this respect from the Soviet experience in Afghanistan – the USSR’s involvement in that benighted land during the 1980s helped to bring down a whole empire.
The demon of the Supremacist Wahhabi religious narrative which reared its venomous head in Afghanistan with the help of the military establishment trained in Abbotabad must be crushed in Kashmir before the encounter in Anantnag is seen repeating itself in other parts of the Valley and beyond. (Concluded)
- The writer is from Mirpur. He is the Chairman of Tehreek e Itefaq e Rai (Movement for Consensus) and can be reached at [email protected]