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Thu. February 02, 2023
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Misadventure Will be Disastrous
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By Kashi N Pandita

Video footage is in circulation showing Al Qaeda gunmen directing their cronies to head towards Kashmir.  Kashmir Valley secessionists, Hurriyatis and ambivalent politicians, readying for reception of “guests mujahideen”, are in high spirits.

Recent occupation of parts of Northern Iraq by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) crusaders has bolstered ambitious Sunni-Wahhabi adventurisms all over the Muslim world and reverberations are being heard in the Valley of Kashmir.

Bringing about secession of Kashmir from Indian Union is at the top of the agenda of Pakistan-based Theo-fascist organizations, that have tacit backing of the army.  Actually that is ISI’s goal.  But secession has not come about in last two decades.  

This summer, jihadis, internal or external, launched several attacks on military and civilian targets. Of course, their elimination was a foregone conclusion. In some cases, sections of local population poured out on streets in protest against the elimination of jihadi commanders. No local political leader, especially of the mainstream groups, denounced terrorist attacks and the protests.

The rhetoric surrounding a resolution of the Kashmir issue to Indo-Pak talks or to project it as the critical question before Modi government is taken by ordinary Kashmiris as cheap gimmick for public consumption. Significantly, Kashmir leadership evades asking jihadis to shun arms and violence before any meaningful talks would begin. Is Gilgit-Baltistan entanglement less critical and embarrassing for Mian Nawaz Sharif than what Kashmir is to Narendra Modi?

Afghan Taliban are deeply engrossed in a battle raging in their homeland. There are only two options before the Afghan Taliban, negotiating a settlement or reconciling to a status quo. In either case, Afghan Taliban interests do not spill over to the region, east or west.

Among the jihadis directly or indirectly aligned to Al Qaeda remnants, are Pakistani Punjab-based Theo-fascist organizations, TTP, LeT, JM and some second rung entities. Of these, the last two have directly, and indirectly through cells, been active in Kashmir for quite some time. Indian security forces are dealing with them. Their headquarters in Muridke near Lahore regularly publish the list of their jihadis liquidated in Kashmir operations.  

LeT mentors in Muridke and their field commanders, whether in PoK or in Kashmir, know very well that they can no more enjoy the secrecy of their mission and strategy in Kashmir for the reason that innumerable local contacts volunteer to disclose their movements to the security forces in Kashmir. The waning trust of Kashmiris in their jihadi activities has emerged as a new and highly discouraging factor for LeT gunmen.

Regarding TTP, Kashmir may be on their agenda but currently their publicly declared agenda is to bring down the elected government in Pakistan and replace country’s political arrangement with a caliphate type where sharia replaces the existing penal code. A close study of their literature shows that they are mulling for the Islamic Caliphate across the Badakhshan – Pamirs-Hindu Kush and Karakorum ranges ending up with the Chinese western province of Xingjian (medieval Turkistan) close to Altai Mountains. This is predominantly Sunni Muslim region, and, by and large, in a state of unrest.  Kashmir is integral to this scheme of things.

TTP’s mission has strong funding from the Saudis, who want to build a formidable Wahhabi bulwark against rising Shiite state of Iran on international plane.  This explains intensified anti-Shia pogroms in parts of Pakistan. This also explains why Theo-fascism is surging with intensity in Xingjian through the instrumentality of Sunni Uighurs. Beijing has provided Pakistan with evidence of Uighur Wahhabis receiving training in terrorist activities in the camps of Pakistani jihadi organizations.

The interesting development in this scenario is that while TTP’s main target is ouster of democratic dispensation in Pakistan, in the process, it has stumbled on deadly confrontation with Pakistan Army. Why is it so and how did it come about?

Rejection of democratic dispensation and its replacement by Islamic Caliphate resting on sharia law is tantamount to reducing importance and influence of the Pakistan army to nothing. In the opinion of proponents of Caliphate theory, when the entire Pakistani ummah assumes the role of Islamic armed legions, against whom no power in or outside the region can stand, where is the need to maintain the “pro-American” Pakistani army?

The Generals who control Pakistani army are also the most powerful social entity in that country. It is actually the triumvirate of Generals, feudal chiefs and the bureaucrats who control power in Pakistan. They are interlinked through matrimonial, commercial and ideological bonds. Therefore, challenging the civilian dispensation in practice means challenging the authority of the triumvirate.

Soon after 9/11, the US goaded Pakistan to act against Theo-fascists, particularly in the Waziristan, where they were concentrating under the banner of Osama. General Musharraf, feigning to be on the side of US, gave them nothing more than lip service. But with TTP unfolding its long range agenda, the Pakistani triumvirate became apprehensive of its vulnerability. Hence we find the Pakistan army and air force jointly launching “comprehensive assault” on the TTP in North Waziristan, an action in which hundreds of TTP activists including many commanders have been decimated.

Who then would be the components of Al Qaeda structure readying to head towards Kashmir? This question has to be answered by the secessionists, separatists and ambivalent political leadership of different hues in Kashmir since they presume themselves to be the hosts in waiting.

It is true that Pakistan army is outright supportive of such Theo-fascist organizations that are committed to fighting the Indians in Kashmir. Combined support of Pakistan army and ISI to these terrorists reflects the resilience factor of Pakistan army. As long as organizations like LeT, JN or HUM etc. do not challenge the triumvirate, they will continue to receive army’s patronage. It is a different question how far they will succeed in their designs against Kashmir. Thus we find the secessionist, separatist and ambivalent elements in Kashmir confused and befuddled about whether to endorse or condemn Pakistan army for its contradictory role

Within the Pakistan army as well, there is a chasm between the defenders of feudal interests and the sympathizers of Theo-fascist ideology which is reflected in various attacks on army and air force installations in that country. Observers are left debating whether the Pakistan army in the throes of purge and persecution.

Therefore the narrative of Al Qaeda heading towards Kashmir needs to be analyzed in the totality of current situation in Pakistan, a country that is standing on the crossroads of survival and extinction. India’s interests will be best served if she is able to lend support to democratic, rational and far-sighted elements in Pakistan to turn the tide.  India should not dither if Pakistan needs her military intervention in controlling the fascists.

While we need to keep close watch of the situation developing in Pakistan, we must make it clear to the Pakistan army that if it advertently or inadvertently fails to check the inflow of Theo-fascists into Kashmir, it will mean opening a new chapter not only in its history but also the geography of the sub-continent. Misadventure will be disastrous.   

Dr. Kashi N. Pandiata is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies Kashmir University.

 

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.  IA Forum is an non-partisan publication that publishes across the spectrum of mainstream views while supporting none.

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