Niloofar Qureshi

Pulwama Attack and its Aftermath

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It is an undeniable fact that even the noblest and most legitimate causes lose their ideological aura the moment its proponents resort to use of violence to achieve their aim, even if it’s against oppression. Unfortunately, though this is exactly what has happened to the ‘self determination’ movement in Kashmir ever since ‘armed struggle’ erupted three decades ago, it surprisingly doesn’t seem to worry our leaders. However, developments after the February 14 Pulwama suicide attack have once again proved that militancy related incidents only end up giving a fresh lease of life to New Delhi’s stance that “talks and terror can’t go together.” And due to this the Kashmir issue has yet again been pushed into the backburner by none others than those who claim to be fighting for our rights!

Let us recall what unfolded after the February 14 suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama. One of the first things that happened was imposition of curbs on the move of civil vehicles which has greatly inconvenienced commuters. However, to hope that the global community will agree that this has been done only to ‘break the will’ of Kashmiris would be expecting far too much because this restriction is not because of any imagined danger but due to an actual attack that claimed 40 lives. Similarly, claims that the increased frequency of search operations by security forces is designed to ‘punish’ civilians for cooperating with militants is not likely to find many takers as nearly each and every such operation is resulting in gunfights which vindicates the government forces’ contention that they are conducting anti-militancy operations based on extremely reliable intelligence inputs regarding the presence of militants.

The Pulwama attack also gave New Delhi the much awaited excuse to flex its muscles by carrying out air strikes against suspected Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) assets inside Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) and even on Pakistani soil. Some say that if Washington had any inkling then it would have never allowed New Delhi to violate Pakistani airspace as this was an ‘irresponsible overreaction’ to the Pulwama attack that could have triggered off a war between two nuclear powers. However, US President Donald Trump post Pulwama attack comments that “India is looking at something very strong” made three days before the air strikes indicate something that’s entirely different. And isn’t Trump’s rejoinder that “India just lost almost 50 people in the attack; I can understand that too,” a clear indication that Washington was not only sympathising with New Delhi but had also given its tacit approval for a “very strong” reaction!

Thus, it was solely because of the Pulwama attack that New Delhi was not only able to flagrantly violate Pakistani air space but also attack targets in both Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) region of Pakistan without attracting international condemnation. While Turkey did raise concerns, but then Ankara’s words don’t carry much weight in the international arena. And though the international community has asked both New Delhi and Islamabad to exercise restraint, it has singled out Pakistan by demanding action against militant groups that are based on its soil. And while Islamabad has cracked down on 70 organisations declared proscribed by the Ministry of Interior under Schedule 1 of ATA, 1997 and made 40 arrests, but taking the brother and son of JeM chief Masood Azhar into “preventive detention” indicates that this development is much more than just a routine action concerning implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP).

It is Schedule 1 of ATA, 1997, which lists out organisations banned by the Government of Pakistan for terrorism related activities that should be a cause of serious concern our leaders because it includes JeM and Lashkar-e-eToiba (LeT), which are waging ‘freedom struggle’ in Kashmir. When Islamabad tells us that it fully supports the ‘freedom struggle’ in Kashmir because it cannot be equated with terrorism, then why has its National Counter Terrorism Authority proscribed the JeM and LeT? If one goes by Islamabad’s logic then JeM and LeT cadres are ‘freedom fighters’ as long as they remain in Indian administered Kashmir (IaK) but become terrorists the moment they step foot in PaK or Pakistan! Those who support ‘armed struggle’ assure us that though Islamabad has been forced to proscribe these groups due to international pressure, it doesn’t affect the ground situation in any way.

However, this explanation isn’t reassuring at all because by banning JeM and LeT, Islamabad has only reinforced New Delhi’s claim that Kashmir is a victim of terrorism from groups who have been provided safe sanctuaries in Pakistan. And since Islamabad has accepted that JeM and Let are terrorist groups, no amount of diplomacy, persuasion or lobbying can change the views of the international community on what it believes to be terrorism. And this is evident from the fact that even though the Pulwama suicide bomber was a Kashmiri, yet the US, UK and France are still moving the UN for declaring Pakistan based Masood Azhar a ‘global terrorist’ as they believe New Delhi’s allegation that this attack was masterminded by the JeM chief who executed this bombing through a local cadre!

Tailpiece: The most worrying thing is that while the ‘armed struggle’ has achieved nothing, it has definitely given the ‘self determination’ movement a negative image. However, whether the JRL would consider pondering over and addressing this crucial issue which is harming the overall interests of Kashmiris remains to be seen!

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