On Monday, four civilians were killed and 10 others were injured in different sectors along the de facto border while six Indian soldiers were also confirmed dead in retaliatory fire.
India has clearly failed to understand the gravity of the situation, and cannot be expected to take the high road. Pakistan Army has demonstrated both the willingness and ability to give a befitting reply to all Indian aggression, but in order to protect the lives of innocents, we need to take a new approach.
The solution will not be easy, and it will take strength and courage to succeed. In order to save innocent lives, we must find a way to reduce the tension in Kashmir and return some normality to the lives of the Kashmiri people.
It’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago there was political unity as all parties, both civil and military, had come together to bring the world’s attention to the Kashmiri cause. Today, unity has reverted back to fighting, and the world’s attention is focused not on the chaos in Kashmir, but the chaos in Islamabad. If our political leaders failed to get any media attention during the diplomatic missions earlier this month, they have succeeded in getting the world’s attention now.
Nawaz Sharif has taken a page from Modi’s book by heavily cracking down on opposition protestors. The images on TV are similar with crowds of unarmed people fleeing clouds of tear gas and facing walls of armed security forces. The result has been the same, too. Next time our diplomats mention statements against Indian oppression in Kashmir from international human rights groups like Kashmir, how will they answer when India’s diplomats note that the same human rights groups are condemning our own reactions to protestors?
Nawaz Sharif is not the only one to blame for this disaster, though. Equal blame is shared by Imran Khan for inciting the entire situation. This is not an excuse for corruption or defence of Panama Papers accusations. If Nawaz had broken the law, let him be held accountable. Imran Khan had many choices for how to handle this issue and he chose the one that he knew would provoke the government to overreact. It was a strategic choice made by PTI’s top leadership to cause chaos. The government was stupid for falling for this trick, but there is no doubt that it has not worked out exactly as Imran Khan hoped.
ISPR has reported that cross border firing from India continues along the LoC, but our ability to make this case in the international forums is quickly becoming moot. The world is finally paying attention, but it’s the insecurity in Islamabad that is making headlines, not Kashmir.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should be commended for attempting to use diplomacy to highlight the plight of Kashmiri people. However, it is time to face the fact that the hypernationalist narrative that our officials have been promoting has completely failed. This does not mean that the Kashmiri cause is failed, it just means that the way we have been trying to help has actually being hurting. If we truly want to help the Kashmiri people, we need to try something different.
First let us discuss why our current efforts have failed. It is easy to blame the Indian lobby for all of our failures, but we should be honest enough to look in the mirror. Here is one that Jibran Nasir has held up for us.
During the recent diplomatic mission to Washington, Senator Mushahid Hussain found himself facing the usual questions about how Pakistan can be taken seriously on Kashmir when our diplomats are singing the praises of Hizbul Mujahideen commanders at the United Nations. Senator Hussain gave the correct answer, which is that ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’. As much as that may make sense to us, though, we need to think about what the rest of the world is hearing which is that ‘your terrorists are our freedom fighters’. We are not convincing anyone that Hizbul Mujahideen are not terrorists. All we are doing is confirming India’s claim that Pakistan is the ‘mothership of terrorism‘.
We can blame whoever we want, but it cannot be denied that our efforts have achieved nothing till date but maintaining the status quo. We can compare Kashmir to Palestine, but in the words of one Pakistani scholar, “In case of Jammu & Kashmir there is not even that level of international support and interest that exists in the Palestinian question.” That scholar is none other than Husain Haqqani, and hate him however much you want, but you cannot deny that he is correct on this point.
That quote was taken from an interview Haqqani gave a few months ago in which he makes several very good points about the Kashmir crisis and how the war between right wing ideologies in both India and Pakistan make this crisis and all other regional crises worse.
Haqqani says that he considers himself a ‘pragmatic moderate’ and notes that ‘solving disputes first and then becoming friends is always more difficult than becoming friends first and then solving disputes’. However we continue to demand that relations can only improve once all disputes are solved. We are putting the cart before the horse.
Despite the failure of our strategy till date, we still have so-called ‘experts’ saying that the way forward is just doing more of the same. As we debate and discuss about enemy narratives and diplomatic offensives, something Haqqani said about his own pragmatic moderation: ‘This is not about winning the argument, this is about winning the peace’. We should ask ourselves whether we are more interested in winning the argument.
After finding little interest in Pakistan’s position on Kashmir, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sent a group of special envoys on a diplomatic mission to Washington, DC. The timing seemed to be ideal. India was swirling in a mess of confusion and contradictions. Was Baramulla a terrorist attack or a case of ‘friendly fire’? ‘Surgical strikes’ were being declared and denied, and it was obvious that Indian officials were neither on the same page nor even in agreement on which script they were using. Islamabad, on the other hand, was taking things in stride. Yes, the Defence Minister was making unfortunate statements about nuclear war, but compared to what was being uttered on Indian TV this was hardly a footnote. While Indian talking heads were debating surgical strikes in Pakistani territory, Islamabad was carrying out a diplomatic surgical strike in Washington. It was a strategic stroke of brilliance. At least, that was the plan. What really happened though caught the PM’s emissaries completely off guard.
Expecting to find an audience receptive to Pakistan’s position, or at least willing to listen, Senator Mushahid Hussain and his entourage found themselves facing an audience uninterested and unwilling to listen. The entire trip can be summed up in a 30 second clip from another diplomatic theatre.
Expecting to find an opportunity for a good soundbite on Kashmir, our journalist was shut down before his question ever even finished. “I don’t want to go there…The security council has not been discussing it.” The journalist’s surprise was clear from his shocked response. How could the UN Security Council not be discussing Kashmir?!?
Meanwhile, in Washington, Pakistan’s envoys had arranged a busy schedule, the jewel of which was a public event at the prestigious Atlantic Council think tank which turned from a Pakistan policy press conference to a frustrating and humiliating slap when the microphone was turned over to the audience.
This was not the way things were expected to go. Senator Mushahid did his best, but he once again found himself on the back foot, repeating talking points about national sacrifices and defending instead of advancing Pakistan’s narrative.
If Nawaz Sharif was expecting to find sympathetic, or at least receptive ears, it was his envoys themselves who found themselves being lectured. The entire trip appears to have been completely ignored by the international media. Washington’s influential journalists seem to have taken no interest in any of the events. Even domestic media has given the results of the trip very little attention, and perhaps there is good reason.
militancy, particularly cross-border attacks, was an issue that the delegation had to confront at almost each of more than a dozen meetings it attended in Washington.
Everywhere that the diplomatic envoys went, they were met with questions and demands about Pakistan’s support for militancy. Rather than pointing to any success, Senator Mushahid Hussain was resigned to hoping that Pakistan’s chances will be better under the next American government.
Senator Mushahid Hussain hoped that the new US administration would be different from the Obama administration, “which hopefully would have more balanced, strategic, sustained and consistent policy”.
At the end of this high profile diplomatic mission, PM’s envoys left with Pakistan in no better position than when they arrived. Worse, this outcome seems to have come as a complete surprise. Our own media, largely stage managed to promote narratives rather than news, is largely responsible for this state of affairs. We mismanage our own expectations by constantly telling ourselves what we want to hear instead of what we need to hear. As a result, we are like the friend who never gets the message, who even when his friend says with exasperation, “I’m sorry, but it’s so late, shouldn’t you be going now”, replies with a smile, “it’s no problem, I’m not tired at all!” What will it take for us to understand the message that the entire world is trying to give?
Despite our best efforts to elevate Kashmir to the center of the world’s attention, the world has clearly shown no interest. Not just the UN and the US, the Gulf states too have been silent and unwilling to take a strong stand in support of Pakistan’s position. The only statements that come from the world’s power centres show sympathy to India for suffering terrorist attacks and call on Pakistan to stop supporting militants. The question now is whether the powers that be are able to get the message.
Nadeem F Paracha, or ‘NFP’ as he’s also known, has one of the sharpest wits in the country. For a long time I have looked forward to his writings and TV appearances because he has always had a way of cutting through the BS to show the absurdity of so much that was taken too seriously. He was never mean spirited, but always pointed out the ridiculousness of ‘serious’ topics, giving a necessary injection of humour and helping break up the tension. However, something in his satire has changed since the past few years, and the old NFP seems to be missing right when we need him most.
Let me give you an example. This video produced by some Indians is exactly the sort of satire that I would have expected from NFP a few years ago. It’s not point scoring, it’s showing the absurdity of the situation we find ourselves in.
Don’t get me wrong. India’s bizarre paranoia about spying pigeons is funny, but you’ve done that joke to death, man! This is the problem, I think. The satire, it has become…well…lazy.
NFP, I understand that you love Gen Raheel. We ALL do. He is the best thing we’ve had in my lifetime. And Modi is an easy target. TOO easy, almost. But we need the old NFP back. The guy who wasn’t going after easy targets, and wasn’t worshiping holy cows. If blind patriotism was going to save this country, WE’D be the world’s biggest superpower. What our country needs is someone with wits sharp enough to cut through the fog of war and show us the way out of this mess.
I know you love this country. We all do. And I know these are tense times. But look: the civilians are finally making their move. NFP, we need you to come back now.