Pakistan’s Jihad is Hurting Kashmiris

Every Pakistani is taught from childhood that Kashmir should have been a part of Pakistan and that we need to fight for the ‘unfinished business of partition’ i.e. to ensure that we wrest Kashmir from Indian control. The Pakistani state has over the decades made jihad into a lever of its foreign policy. But have we ever paused to think how that has hurt the Kashmiris who live in India?

According to Dr Mohammad Taqi, well known analyst and commentator “From fielding a tribal militia in Kashmir in 1947-48, to deploying irregular infiltrators in the 1965 Operation Gibraltar, to a massive jihadist incursion in Kargil, to the Pulwama attack, Pakistan has used proxies to prosecute its foreign policy goals. While it has failed to fuel its objectives, it has precipitated tremendous regional instability and a massive jihadist blowback inside Pakistan.”

Further, Taqi points out, “The Pakistani army justifies its existence and the massive budget allocations to it by perpetuating conflicts beyond the country’s borders. And in doing so, it severely weakens the Kashmiri cause. The first casualty of the current hostilities was the plight of the Kashmiris. While the Indian excesses in Kashmir draw sporadic attention, concern and condemnation, the JeM-type terror undermines and delegitimises the genuine grievances of the Kashmiri people.”

As former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States and well-known author Husain Haqqani notes perceptively: “It might be a bitter pill to swallow for some Pakistanis, but Pakistan’s 30-year strategy of supporting insurgents and militants in Kashmir has failed. Pakistan’s policy has made life more difficult for the Kashmiri Muslims it claims to support. Violence supported from across the border has resulted in an Indian clampdown and obscured international concern about human rights in Kashmir.”

Further, according to Haqqani, “Moreover, most countries, including some of Pakistan’s few remaining friends abroad, failed to even mention Kashmir as an issue during the current imbroglio. China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — all of whom have recently promised significant amounts of loans and investment to help bail out Pakistan’s troubled economy — spoke of the need for de-escalation but said nothing that could be construed as support for Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir.”

Haqqani’s prescription, “Pakistan can no longer link its tolerance or support for terrorist groups with the grievances of the people of Kashmir in hope of securing international attention or support. That — along with Indian attention to Kashmiri human rights concerns — might be the most effective means of avoiding recurrent India-Pakistan conflagrations in the future.”

Restraint urged for India and Pakistan

We at New Pakistan urge the governments of India and Pakistan to de-escalate and exercise restraint. The current environment in the subcontinent is alarming.

We echo the statement issued by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) “urged restraint on both sides. The ongoing verbal duel between representatives of the Indian and Pakistani governments must cease and give way to sensible, mature diplomacy. There is nothing to be gained from military action for either country. ‘Both India and Pakistan have a long way to go towards improving their human rights records. Regional peace is a prerequisite for doing so. HRCP supports civil society activists on both sides of the border who are calling for better sense to prevail, and cautions against provocative statements made ostensibly in the “national” interest. Neither state has the right to play so lightly with the lives of its people.’”

Another Ban that will only be a ban in name

As we at New Pakistan said the other day, simply announcing a ban on a terror group isn’t enough if no action is taken. And the state of Pakistan has repeatedly in the past promised to take action against terror groups, supposedly banned groups but nothing happens in reality.

According to an investigate report in the Daily Times, “Despite the ban imposed on Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) by the government, the same are operating throughout Pakistan using new names. These two organisations have recently been banned again, as a part of the government’s other initiatives to accelerate anti-terrorism operations and re-establish the writ of the state. JuD and FIF have existed in Pakistan with other names before, most prominently Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Even today, they continue to operate merely by changing names. Very few, publically visible offices of the FIF, which are mostly built as encroachments on footpaths and other public places, have actually been shut. At most locations, these ‘outlets’ have been rebranded and repackaged; the banners outside have changed but the faces inside are the same.”

Further, the team “visited the newly renamed kiosks, offices and fund collection centres and spoke to the management running these banned ‘outlets’. The management of these illegally constructed ‘outlets’ had no qualms that they were all, indeed, working for Hafiz Saeed and only changed the name due to the government’s weakness against foreign pressure. Some of the names that the proscribed organisation has now started using includes ‘Al Madina’ and ‘Aisar Foundation’. As these ‘outlets’ were observed during the last two days, many common people were seen visiting and donating money by putting cash in donation boxes built outside. The donations were collected in the name of helping, feeding or providing ambulance service to the poor and other ‘good things’. However, this blatant continuation of FIF operations despite a ban two days ago appears to show the weak resolve of the regime to practically crack down on extremist forces and strangle their funding. Meanwhile, the Financial Action Task Force is not completely satisfied and demands Pakistan to do more.”

Finally, “It is yet to be seen whether authorities will practically shut down all operations of FIF and if this will include closure of the renamed ‘outlets’ of the banned outfit. For now, they are operating with complete impunity. The ground realities are not on the same page as the claims by the current government that previously banned extremist factions (JuD and FIF) remain re-banned in Pakistan. However, central spokesperson of JuD Yahya Mujahid appear to be on the same page of the government’s narrative about the imposition of ban. He told Daily Times correspondent that all the operations of FIF are at standstill after the ban imposed by the government. “We condemn the ban imposed by the government on JuD and FIF as the ban was imposed only due to the external pressure”.”

The Daily Times story ends with this perceptive comment: “mere eyewash and optics will never be enough to tackle the dangerous elephant in the room: banned extremist outfits. Half-witted action against banned extremist factions also undermines the sacrifice rendered by the security forces’ personnel and the common people of Pakistan.”

Taking over Jaish seminary is not enough

Most reasonable people agree that Pakistan needs to act against all terrorist groups and individuals. Right now, the state of Pakistan must act against Jaish e Mohammad and its chief Masood Azhar.

The Pulwama attack was claimed by Jaish and the international community has accepted India’s demands that action be taken against Jaish and its leadership. Even the UN Security Council statement asked for action by Pakistan.

After initially denying that any group in Pakistan had anything to do with the Pulwama attack, it looks like the government is repeating its past policies of taking cosmetic steps simply to buy time and assuage the global community.

As an editorial in Dawn points out it was “unwise” of Pakistan to “allow” terror outfits “to operate in the past and efforts are needed to shut them down permanently.” There is a need to understand that “taking half-baked steps against violent actors is dangerous for Pakistan’s internal security, as well as its external relations. Now the elected leadership and the military establishment must take this campaign — as envisaged under NAP — to its logical conclusion by ensuring that non-state actors are not able to raise armed militias, and that those spewing hatred against other countries or spreading sectarian views are prosecuted.”

The announcement that action will be taken against Jamaat ud Dawa and that the madressah associated with Jaish-e-Mohammad in Bahawalpur has been taken over by the Punjab government is, however, not enough. “If the state has evidence of the outfit’s involvement in militancy it should present the facts and pursue the legal course so that JuD’s leadership can face justice. As has been witnessed for nearly two decades now, the state moves to ban militant outfits, but, in very little time they are back, up and running, with new names and the entire structure of violence intact. For example, in 2002 the Musharraf regime banned a host of jihadi and sectarian groups, yet this effort had little practical effect because with a mere change of nomenclature, the groups continued to peddle hate and violence, making a mockery of the proscription.”

Further, the state has also continued to “mainstream’ violent actors” and continues to “present them as legitimate religious scholars or relaunch the jihadi lashkars as political parties — have also failed to steer these groups away from violence and hate. For example, a sectarian party has been repeatedly allowed to take part in general elections, but its senior leaders have failed to cease spewing venom.”

Will Pakistan be staging ground for War Against Iran?

Pakistan’s establishment and the elite that supports it have long had a history of short-sighted action.

During the Cold War, Pakistan chose not to be nonaligned and instead provided an intelligence base to the United States for spying on the Soviet Union. So instead of building our economy and educating our people and staying out of wars and conflicts we preferred to rent our geo-strategic location and use that money to keep fighting against India.

Then the powers that be decided that they should involve themselves in the anti-Soviet Afghan jihad and in return obtain money and equipment from the Western bloc. Military dictator General Zia ul Haq thought this would help solve Pakistan’s Pashtun problem. Instead it created a refugee crisis, radicalized our society and built this hydra headed jihadi monster that we have been unable to get rid of. We have also not been able to educate our people or build an economy.

Now it seems that there is a similar short sightedness where people believe that Pakistan can obtain money from Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration by playing a role in Iran similar to what Pakistan did against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

As the former editor of Dawn Abbas Nasir wrote, ‘Sanity demands neutrality.’ Nasir argues that for its own sake Pakistan should remain neutral. “On more occasions than one, Prime Minister Imran Khan has been absolutely unambiguous in saying that Pakistan will not take sides in any Saudi-Iran tension and, if at all, it has a role to play that would be mediatory in nature. This situation places huge challenges on the civil-military leadership of Pakistan as it will have to steer a clear path away from trouble, while also not rubbing up the wrong way its old allies, and generous current funders, Saudi Arabia and UAE, both of whom are close to the US-Israeli position on the matter.”

Nasir notes, “existence in a region which more often than not resembles a tinderbox is fraught with perils and there can never be a justification for taking on more.” Thus Pakistan “will have to chart an independent course and ensure that as possibilities, no matter how remote, are now emerging of a possible peace deal in Afghanistan, some foreign powers’ desire to play games in Iran does not destabilise us again. This is easier said than done, but not impossible. Our policy needs to be informed by the huge price we have paid in blood for not pondering over the repercussions of some of our decisions in the past and making sure that we are not repeating our follies.”

This is a dangerous game and it will only cause us more harm.

We hope this is not happening.