Pakistan & Kashmir Militancy – A Reality Check
BY: H. Iftikhar
There is a wide spread feeling among the people of Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) that Pakistan establishment has started distancing from militancy in Kashmir. Though the country may have various reasons to do so, Balakot air strike by Indian Air Force is seen by locals as major factor.
Though Pakistan government has been bit successful in convincing people that there were no fatal casualties during the air strikes, the very fact that Indian fighters could cross LoC and then enter Pakistan’s own territory, is baffling for all. Wing Commander Abhinandan’s capture and subsequent release may have given some people something to cheer about, the strike in itself proved a point beyond any doubt – India has the capacity to strike not only in PaK but even in Pakistan.
Though most of the people in PaK have all along been staunch supporters of Kashmir’s freedom struggle, many people now, particularly young and educated, who understand geo-politics, have started questioning the very basic concept of militancy in Kashmir.
They argue that challenging a big power like India with a few hundred Kalashinkovs was, in the first place, an illogical and unreasonable decision. Those who launched the militancy in Kashmir were proponents of ‘death by thousand cuts’ theory, but failed to realize that it could go either way. Almost three decades, and the militancy’s achievement is BIG 0. In fact it is in minus.
If militancy has given anything, it is hundreds of new graveyards in Kashmir; armies of widows, orphans, and wailing parents; destruction of all institutions including economy, tourism, education, health etc.
Militancy in Kashmir has contributed one more thing – it has disempowered Kashmiris politically. Separatist leaders, on the behest of Pakistan made people to stay away from elections and militants enforced the dictate. As majority stayed away from the democratic process, genuine voices could not reach the state’s legislature and thus politically the majority was reduced to nothingness.
Also its unapologetic support to militancy in Kashmir has almost isolated Pakistan internationally. Domestically, Pakistan’s economy is going down the drain. Gun culture has encouraged several groups to prop up who now have been eating into the very vitals of Pakistan’s own society. This has forced Pakistan to rethink over its Kashmir policy.
If reports making rounds in and around Muzaffarabad are to be believed, Pakistan has started closing down militant launch pads and training camps. Camps at Athumuqam, Kundal Shai, Shakaila and Chakma have been closed while such camps at Mandakuli Bela, Chenaniyan, Nowkot, have been shifted. Similarly militant training camps from Balakote, Manshera, Jungle-Mangal, Pir Chinasi, Muzaffarabad, Balapir, Muzaffarabad and Sharif Camp have been shifted.
Reports also suggest that there is a strong voice within Pakistan establishment that has realized the futility of supporting militancy in Kashmir. According to these voices, Pakistan is facing an existential crisis and cannot risk its sovereignty and its own people by pumping in more guns and militants into Indian administered Kashmir.
From quite some time, Pakistan’s writers and intelligentsia too have been voicing such concerns and have been suggesting that Pakistan should not risk its own existence by supporting a proxy war that seems leading nowhere. Balakote strikes have strengthened such arguments.
However, there still is a powerful lobby within Pakistan establishment that wants to keep the pot boiling without giving a damn to outcome. Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri’s latest message is being viewed in this backdrop. Though in his message Zawahiri has ridiculed Pakistan government and its intelligence agencies, it goes without saying that unless there is some strong lobby within Pakistan backing Zawahiri, he can’t dream of arming or training Kashmiri youth inclined towards his version of Jihad.
While by and large Pakistan seems to have understood the futility of supporting militancy in Kashmir, Hurriyat leadership and Kashmiri militant leadership based in Muzaffarabad and Kashmir seem yet to reconcile with the realities. For the good of Kashmir and for the good of Kashmiris, it is better that this leadership does some reality check and tries to make efforts to create a reconciliatory and peaceful atmosphere in Indian side of Kashmir. Pakistan has started dragging its heels and international community will never be supportive of guns and arms. In this back drop, the leadership needs to wake up and try to save Kashmiri lives.
The author, a student of humanities, is based in PaK