Niloofar Qureshi

Of ‘Global Terrorists’ and ‘Freedom Fighters’

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Beijing has finally withdrawn its decade old ‘technical hold’ on the proposal to get Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar declared a UN designated ‘global terrorist’. This development has once again proved that the even a superpower can’t afford to take the risk of annoying the global community for the fear of being internationally isolated. Azhar’s supporters are unlikely to be unduly perturbed because in practical terms being designated a ‘global terrorist’ means little as is evident in the case of Lashkar-e-Toiba founder Hafiz Saeed.  Thus, just like the LeT, it would be business as usual for the JeM for continuing its ‘jihad’ in Kashmir. However, this development once again brings up the more important question of whether ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir is actually helping or harming the ‘self determination’ movement.

Surprisingly, not one amongst those who support the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir and talk glibly about taking it to its “logical conclusion” has ever mentioned even a single contribution that the gun has made towards the ‘self determination’ movement. This is most unfortunate because even after three decades of unabated bloodshed and untold miseries, if proponents of ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir haven’t been able to cite any advantage that the gun has achieved, then there is something seriously wrong somewhere. There have to be some very convincing reasons to justify an option that takes a heavy toll of human lives and puts the public through immense hardships and misery but the tragedy is that those who support ‘armed struggle’ have never shared reasons for having so much faith in the gun!

Beijing’s climb-down on Azhar is a stark reminder of the fact that today the international community doesn’t approve of violence as a means to achieve a political objective and that no nation can go against global consensus. Thus, no realist would ever hope even in his wildest dreams that the world would accept the justification that New Delhi’s refusal to resolve the Kashmir issue as per United Nations (UN) resolutions legitimises ‘armed struggle’ as its obduracy has forced Kashmiris to pickup guns. If a powerful country like Beijing was helpless and had to ultimately yield to international opinion, how can the Hurriyat even imagine that militant groups can continue to disregard global sentiments indefinitely? And with the US, France and UK jointly presenting the proposal before the 1267 Sanctions Committee of the UN to get Azhar declared a global terrorist the outlook of these three permanent members of UN Security Council on the issue of what it considers to be terrorism is crystal clear.

Pakistan is the only country in the world that officially approves of the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. Unfortunately, Islamabad wields negligible influence within the international community and by its stoic silence against Beijing’s extreme religious persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang region of China, it has lost its own predominance within the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC). In any case Islamabad’s attempts to gain international legitimacy for the ‘armed struggle’ has not only failed but even backfired. In 2016, in his speech at UN General Assembly (UNGA), Nawaz Sharif, who was the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, spoke about Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) commander Burhan Wani. Eulogising him a “young leader” who was “murdered by Indian forces,” Sharif sought to give ‘armed struggle’ a cloak of legitimacy by calling it part of “Kashmiri Intifada” and defining it as “a popular and peaceful freedom movement.”

Unfortunately, Sharif’s gamble backfired even though Islamabad had handed over a dossier that supposedly contained specific details of “Indian atrocities” in Kashmir to the UN Secretary General and Washington. While the UN took no action on this dossier, Washington acted firmly, not against New Delhi but against HM. Within a year the US State Department declared HM a “foreign terrorist organisation.” Thus, the only truly indigenous militant group in Kashmir is now seen by the international community as a ‘terrorist organisation’ and a potential global threat! How long will Islamabad be able to support militant groups cannot be accurately predicted but surely it can’t do so indefinitely. Already facing sanctions by the Financial Action Task Force (FAFT) for not doing enough against terrorist groups based on its soil, Islamabad is in a tight spot and the very presence of nearly half of the designated ‘global terrorists’ in Pakistan could someday serve as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s neck!

The negative way in which the world is looking at the ‘self determination’ movement just because of the ongoing ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir requires introspection and needs to be remedied at the earliest. The gun may not have given us any benefits but it has certainly helped New Delhi in getting support from the international community on Kashmir. Yet, even though Kashmiri youth are dying almost every day, our leaders still refuse to introspect and debate the desirability of continuing the three decade long ‘armed struggle’ that (in Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farook’s words) has ‘achieved nothing but only created more grave yards’!

The writer is a Delhi based columnist and can be reached at [email protected]



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