The Cost of Fighting ‘Pakistan’s War’ in Kashmir

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The names of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) finding a mention in the BRICS declaration denouncing terror may not mean much in practical terms. However, it does have some very serious diplomatic implications for the ongoing struggle for ‘self determination’ in Kashmir. The first is that though the Hurriyat considers the LeT and JeM as armed groups engaged in a ‘freedom struggle’, these two outfits have been put in the same category as the dreaded Taliban, ISIL, Al Qaeda and the Haqqani network. Secondly, Pakistan’s “all weather ally” Beijing having had to bow to the concerns of other BRICS member states indicates the international community’s  outright rejection of violence to achieve any objective, no matter how justified it is.

Except for Islamabad, no other nation supports what our leaders refer to as the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. Even the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which wholeheartedly backs the ‘self determination’ movement univocally underlines the need for a “peaceful settlement” of the Kashmir issue. And because of our refusal to reject violence as a means to resolve the Kashmir issue, we are gradually being isolated globally and the proof of this is that the international community no longer wants to get involved in resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio.

Except for Islamabad, no other nation supports what our leaders refer to as the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. Even the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which wholeheartedly backs the ‘self determination’ movement univocally underlines the need for a “peaceful settlement” of the Kashmir issue. And because of our refusal to reject violence as a means to resolve the Kashmir issue, we are gradually being isolated globally and the proof of this is that the international community no longer wants to get involved in resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio. While our leaders will most certainly not agree and instead cite political and commercial interests as the reasons for international apathy towards the Kashmir issue, but this claim is debatable. 

There is a definite connection between the Hurriyat officially accepting violence as a ‘legitimate’ part of the Kashmir struggle and the international community distancing itself from this issue and here is proof of this. There was a time when foreign diplomats and international delegations regularly met Hurriyat leaders and conferred with them even though the same irked New Delhi  no end. However, such meeting abruptly ended in 2011 when Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani decided to offer funeral prayers in absentia for Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden due to which a delegation of the EU called off its scheduled meeting. And by stating, “a meeting was initially planned for May 14 with Syed Ali Shah Geelani, but given the latest events, the EU delegation considers it inopportune to hold the meeting,” it left nothing to imagination.

Geelani sahib’s decision to hold the funeral prayer for Laden could still be defended had it been restricted to only a religious ritual. However, by calling the Al Qaeda chief a “martyr” on account of “his standing up to (the) US singlehandedly,” the Hurriyat (G) chairman conveyed an impression that the separatists fully approve of violence for achieving their ends. Moreover, when the United Jihad Council (UJC) chief Syed Salahuddin who heads the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir has himself admitted that “we are fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir,” it is but natural for the international community to believe New Delhi’s contention that the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir is actually a ‘proxy war’ being masterminded by Islamabad.

And when Pakistan’s former President and ex army General Pervez Musharraf proudly boasts of how Pakistan can fight the Indian army in Kashmir “from both the front and back” by using its army and as well as a “source” (in Kashmir) that just needs to be incited, the UJC chief’s admission of fighting Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir is further strengthened. Thus, it is not apathy but the worries of getting involved in a situation arising out of  Islamabad’s  hidden agenda that deters the international community from getting involved in the resolution of the Kashmir issue.

The Pakistan army’s Kargil misadventure of 1999 made it clear to the world that while Islamabad may talk glibly about resolving the Kashmir issue peacefully in accordance with UN resolutions, it has no inhibitions in exploring military options. The terror attack on the Pathankot airbase was another such attempt that proved to be the last nail on the ‘armed struggle’s’ battered coffin. The Indian Air Force is in no way involved in anti-militancy operations and so for the ‘freedom fighters’ to make it a target makes no sense. However, this attack which was obviously aimed at destroying combat aircrafts does fit into the Pakistan army’s overall military designs.

It is not intended to belittle the enormous sacrifices made by our ‘freedom fighters’ in any way whatsoever, but at the same time it would be criminal to ignore this issue as thousands of our youth have laid down their lives and continue doing so. While I have no objections to our leaders talking about carrying on the “armed struggle to its logical conclusion,” I have some questions to ask- what is this “logical conclusion” that they are talking about? Is it that our leaders honestly believe that the ‘freedom fighters’ can defeat India’s military might? I cannot understand why we consider it sacrilegious to honestly discuss whether the ‘armed struggle’ is actually helping the Kashmir cause or are we merely being used as pawns for “fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir”!

Today we may justify militancy in Kashmir but how can we ever forget that many of our leaders were put to death by “our own people” as former Hurriyat chairman Prof Abdul Gani Bhat himself disclosed. Leading lights of the ‘self determination’ movement like Mirwaiz Maulvi Mohammad Farook, Prof Abdul Ahad Wani and several others were assassinated. Why? The answer is simple- while each one of them was working incessantly for taking the ‘self determination’ forward, they were brutally done to death only because of their common reservation regarding the desirability of an ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir which would lead to bloodshed of Kashmiris. After nearly three decades, their apprehensions have proved to be right!

Today the peaceful movement for the ‘right to self determination’ has taken the backseat and violence has unfortunately become the new face of our struggle. Our leaders may be doing their best to take the ‘self determination’ movement forward, but all they can do is to make emotional appeals to the international community. Unfortunately, these don’t have the same impact that personal interaction has, but then the Hurriyat has only itself to blame for having permanently closed the doors of face to face meetings with diplomats and international delegations. As long as this state of affairs continues, the chances of making any progress regarding the Kashmir issue are extremely remote.

On being goaded by the international community to resume dialogue with Islamabad, New Delhi has refused to do so by saying “the voice of talks gets lost in the sound of bomb blasts. That is why bomb blasts should stop so that we can talk and our voices can be heard.” While Islamabad considers this an excuse to “divert international attention” and the Hurriyat denounces it as a sign of India’s “arrogance,” the international community’s seems to be in complete agreement with New Delhi’s views. Because of this Kashmir continues to remain in the backburner while ‘freedom fighters’ continue to kill and be killed. So it’s time that our leaders did something to arrest this unproductive trend so that unnecessary bloodshed stops.

Tailpiece: The ‘self determination’ movement can only succeed if we can garner international support and thus it is imperative that our leaders review the effectiveness of the ‘armed struggle’ as it is alienating the global community. Though a tough call it’s the only recourse and the time has come for the Hurriyat to finally ‘bite the bullet’.  

 

 

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