When people talk about Kashmir and Pakistan’s role in fermenting militancy, and now terrorism in the Valley, they have a peculiar habit of jumping decades. They discuss the 1947-48 Kashmir War and the UN plebiscite issue, which is effectively all that there is to Pakistan’s foreign policy. Cut to 1989, and we have a full-blown insurgency, duly sponsored by the grandmasters of strategy and protectors of the ideological frontiers of Pakistan, at Rawalpindi.
What happened between 1948 and 1989?
Pakistan was declared a nation state on 14 August 1947. On 11 September 1948, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan died. On 16 October 1951, Nawabzada Liaqat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan was assassinated. Those two bullets, which killed Liaqat Ali Khan, were in effect the last two nails in the coffin of the democratic story of the fledgling nation state.
Ever since, a non-elected leader/military dictator has initiated each war that Pakistan has fought with India. The 1947-48 war was launched on the instructions of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. It was Ayub Khan in 1965. Yahya Khan presided over Pakistan’s 1971 debacle, and the subsequent creation of Bangladesh by the Indian Army. The Kashmir insurgency in the late eighties was the brainchild of Zia-ul-Haq. Pervez Musharraf laid the Kargil egg.
Kashmir has always been politically volatile, the popular sentiment mostly against India. Before Zia, it was politically charged but benign. There were no overt displays of Pakistani flags; no stone throwing rent-a-crowd politics and Shammi Kapoor built a career romancing Sharmila Tagore on the picturesque Dal Lake.
On 24 December 1979 the USSR invaded Afghanistan. It was that day that the groundwork for the Kashmir Jihad was laid, except that no one knew about it; neither the Indians nor the Pakistanis.
Eight months before Soviet tanks crossed the Amu River into Afghanistan, Zia had hanged his own Prime Minister. It did not help that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was a democratically elected mass base leader and was wildly popular in Pakistan. As the Chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party, his core support lay in the semi-arid Sufi influenced Sindh province. But the Punjabis loved him, too. Bhutto had received 60.1% of the popular vote in the 1977 General Elections, defeating Khan Abdul Wali Khan, the Pashtun leader of the National Alliance.
Bhutto was unapologetically confrontationist. He loved whipping an adoring crowd into absolute frenzy, hubris his favorite sin. Gen. Zia was uncomfortable with his Prime Minister and so, in the finest parliamentary traditions of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, he set up a kangaroo court, accused Bhutto of murdering a political opponent Ahmad Raza Khan Kasuri, and hanged him.
For 8 months, Zia faced international censure quietly, waiting for his chance. When the Soviet tanks rolled into Kabul, Zia made the Americans an offer they could not refuse. It was done in a manner that would have made Don Vito Corleone proud. “Give me the money and weapons, and I will turn Afghanistan into Russia’s Vietnam”, he said. Well, he didn’t say exactly this but he did exactly that.
Ill equipped insurgents in Vietnam had humiliated America. Soviet arms, money and training had a large role to play in America’s most forgettable war. Zia’s offer was tempting. After initial hesitation, the US was in on the deal. Operation Cyclone was launched, with billions of dollars of slush funds. It was the height of the Cold War. Money was of no consequence.
Thus started the Jihad and Kalashnikov culture in Pakistan. Afghan fighters had to be reinforced by additional manpower, so Madrasas (Islamic seminaries/ schools) in Pakistan were pressed into service, to produce ideologically sound warriors. “Taleem” is the Arabic word for education and a student is called a Talib. Taliban refers to a group of students. While the Taliban was formally created by Pakistan’s ISI in the early and mid nineties, the core was active a decade earlier.
The Afghan struggle became Jihad, and the fighters became Mujahideen (holy warriors). Large belts of Deobandi* influenced North West Frontier Provinces (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Pakistani Punjab were soon injected with the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. Wahhabi Islam is exactly like the place of its birth, the deserts of Saudi Arabia – stark, arid and merciless. The cocktail was explosive.
*Deoband is 156 km North of Delhi, in the Saharanpur District of Uttar Pradesh. It is one of the largest seats of Islamic learning in the world.
Jamia Binoria Karachi, a self-admittedly liberal Sunni Deobandi Islamic learning center had a unique guest for some time, a secretive man by the name of Osama bin Laden.
Osama was a terrorist in his mind long before became one in deed, and had money to fuel his ambition to become a Ghazi, a Muslim faith warrior. But he needed training. Enter the CIA. No teacher knows what kind of a monster his student will become, and during those times, there could be no evil bigger than Communism. So the CIA took this innocuous “maybe” civil engineer under its wing.
Since Pakistan and the US were working very closely to defeat the Soviets, it was natural for Osama bin Laden to develop a close working relationship with Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, Director General ISI. This relationship endured even after the Soviets left Afghanistan on 15 February 1989. Many say that Hamid Gul knew of the 9/11 attacks, though Gul had vociferously denied any such knowledge.
Hamid Gul was a Zia acolyte and he was the man responsible for shifting the center of gravity of the Afghan Jihad from Kabul to Srinagar.
Gul used the same stratagem in Kashmir that he had inherited from his predecessor in the ISI, Lt. Gen. Akhtar Abdur Rehman. Jihad, Kalashnikovs and dollars had worked wonders in Afghanistan and there was no reason why the model could not be replicated in the Kashmir Valley.
Zia-ul-Haq died in 1988. In 1989, the Kashmir Valley exploded. Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), with its pro-Independence ideology started terror attacks on Indian security forces. In 1990, the Government of India retaliated by creating the Rashtriya Rifles, a crack counter insurgency/counter terror force dedicated to the Kashmir Valley. Suddenly, there was a dip in the graph; the terrorists were running for cover. Afraid that its plan would come apart at the seams, the Pakistan Army decided that if the Kashmir insurgency were to be given the façade of a political struggle, it would lend legitimacy to the cause. Also, the struggle was unstructured, with many political parties agitating and giving statements, which served no purpose. Like any good corporate would do, the Pakistan Army decided that this was as good a time as any for business aggregation.
In 1993, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq received funding from Pakistan’s ISI to create the All Party Hurriyat Conference. The APHC was meant to be an umbrella organization for 26 political, social and religious bodies, all dedicated to “azaadi”.
Why did Pakistan sponsor terrorism in Kashmir? And why specifically in 1989?
The Maharaja of Kashmir wanted to be independent, and refused to sign the Instrument of Accession with India. India did not act. Pakistan did. Within 9 weeks of becoming a nation state, Pakistan launched tribesmen from Waziristan and its North West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) into Kashmir, led by serving officers of the Pakistan Army. The aim was to capture Kashmir by force. The Maharaja panicked and called Delhi, agreeing to sign the Instrument of Accession, which would make Kashmir a part of India. And sign he did.
The rest is history. Indian troops were airlifted and on 3 November 1947, Major Somnath Sharma of 4 Kumaon Regiment was martyred defending Badgam, Srinagar. He was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra. Four other brave hearts were awarded PVCs – Naik Jadunath Singh of the Rajput Regiment, Second Lieutenant RR Rane of the Bombay Sappers, CHM Piru Singh Shekhawat of the Rajputana Rifles and Lance Naik Karam Singh of the Sikh Regiment.
The UN brokered ceasefire resulted in Pakistan controlling a third of Kashmir. India controlled two-thirds of the state. 1500 Indian brave hearts were martyred and 3500 were injured. We counted 6000 Pakistanis dead on the battlefield, along with about 14000 injured.
This 740 km line separating India and Pakistan was called the cease-fire line. After the 1972 Shimla Accord, this was re-designated as the Line of Control.
Since, 1948 Pakistan has tried every strategy to take Kashmir from India. From wars in 1947-48 and 1965 to ill-planned diplomatic offensives worldwide, there is absolutely nothing that Pakistan has not done to make its Kashmir case stronger.
In 1999, Pakistan tried to take Kashmir by force again, this time in Kargil. The immediate operational aim was to cut of lines of communication and supply through Highway A1, and isolate Kashmir. It would also put pressure on Siachen glacier. The larger objective was to internationalize the Kashmir issue.
We all know how the Kargil War went for Pakistan.
Pakistan’s last great hope is fuelling terror in Kashmir. Terrorism is the preferred strategy because it gives Pakistan three advantages – terrorism is economically viable (no army involved), it offers plausible deniability (we are giving only moral support) and it can be passed of as a people’s revolt (UN Resolutions/ plebiscite not happening so people are angry).
This was Zia-ul-Haq’s favorite strategy of ‘death by a thousand cuts’. It had humbled a mighty superpower in Afghanistan. It is this very legacy of Zia that is orchestrating the implosion of Pakistan. The story of Pakistan, the Qila (fortress) of Islam, is unraveling at great speed.
While no one disputes the geo-strategic importance of Pakistan, one may have overstated the case a little too much. Being geographically narrow does fuel a sense of insecurity. No country wants to fight a war on its own soil. Enter Pakistan’s proclivity for creating “strategic depth”. Zones of direct influence (and indirect control through fifth columnists) ensure that when an enemy attacks (India in this case), it has to pass though its own areas, which are under Pakistan influence. Khalistan movement in Punjab, terrorism in Kashmir, Taliban in Afghanistan and Jundullah on the Iran border are markers on how Pakistan conducts foreign policy through other means.
However in Kashmir, Pakistan has faced two major problems. One, Kashmir is an integral part of India and hence, India is on a higher moral ground. Two, Pakistan lacks international credibility. Such is the lack of international credibility that Pakistan has been called “double-faced” on three different occasions on the floor of the US Senate. This is, admittedly, amongst the nicer adjectives used for Pakistan.
Pakistan has consistently failed in all its Kashmir endeavors, diplomatic and military.
Every year on 5 February Pakistan celebrates Kashmir Solidarity Day. It’s a national holiday when half the nation sleeps and the other half burns government property.
For 70 years, successive Pakistani governments, both military and democratic, have been riding the Kashmir tiger. Each election, political parties promise “azaadi” for Kashmir. No promise of electricity, jobs, roads or water holds such allure. Kashmir is peddled as the panacea for all of Pakistan’s ills. They truly believe that once Kashmir is part of Pakistan, the roads will be wider, the cities safer and the cricket team victorious.
And this is why Kashmir continues to burn.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
“Pakistan – The Jihad Factory” is a two-part article. Part-1 deals with the history and genesis of Pakistan’s obsession with Kashmir, and why Kashmir is so important for Pakistan. Part-2 (next week) will deal with how Pakistan’s ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) recruits young terrorists both from Pakistan and Indian Kashmir, how indoctrination and brainwashing is done, how and where training is given, and how money is funneled into India to fuel terrorism. It will also speak about the role of Hafiz Saeed and the importance of Lashkar-e-Toiba for the Pakistan Army and the ISI.