Reversal of Kashmir strategy and its aftermath ...
15 March 2002
The Friday TImes
Lahore: Daniel Pearl, and the involvement of banned militant organisation Jaish-e-Mohammad in Pearl's kidnapping have raised some
significant questions about Pakistan's Kashmir policy and the organisations entrusted with running it.
Why did the establishment allow Masoud Azhar to set up Jaish? What was Sheikh Omar Saeed doing in Pakistan? Omar
Saeed is known to have had connections with Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organisation as also with Masoud Azhar. Was the
establishment ignorant of these connections? If yes, why was that? If no, why did no one realize the implications of such
connections for Pakistan's security policies?
Add to this a recent statement by General Pervez Musharraf that Masoud Azhar may be an Indian plant and the mystery, as
also the significance of these questions, is enhanced manifold. Whatever the truth, the fact is that while guest militants may have
hurt the Indian army successfully they also did much to harm Pakistan's Kashmir policy (see TFT editorial, "Strengths and
weaknesses" for an analysis of that policy).
"Everyone in the establishment seemed convinced that the introduction of these elements had infused a new vigour in the
Kashmiris' fight for independence." a senior Kashmiri leader from Indian held Kashmir told TFT at a recent meeting in
Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Kashmir, The man, who hails from the Valley, is one of the top leaders of a group fighting
Indian security forces in Kashmir.
He recalled that until 1993-1994. Hezb-ul Mujahideen, Tehrik-ul Mujahideen, Al-Fatah Force, Jammu-Kashmir Peoples
League, and the JKLF had effectively fought Indian security forces. But the experience also allowed the Indian army to develop
better counter-insurgency tactics. By the mid-nineties, the Indians had figured out the insurgents' tactics and their logistics,
penetrated some of the groups and introduced their own Kashmiri groups to counter the insurgents. They stepped up the
counter-insurgency operations and successfully began wiping out Kashmiri groups.
Short on manpower, the Kashmiri insurgents soon began receiving highly trained and motivated guest fighters. "They were
better trained, enjoyed better logistics and had the ability to take on Indian security forces much more effectively. They were
succcssful in hurting the Indians, but also hurt our cause," the Kashmiri leader told TFT.
Also, while this was going on, no one seemed to have appreciated the changes taking place in the outside world. "The
increasing connection between Kashmir and Afghanistan was over-looked. Now everyone within the United Jihad Council - an
alliance of more than a dozen Kashmiri outfits battling the Indians - as also within the establishment repents having promoted
these elements. They have damaged our cause and also landed Pakistan in trouble," he said.
Even some senior Pakistan army officers, especially retired officers, admit the induction of guest militants was a fatal mistake. A
former DG-ISI, now a federal minister, has been openly accusing these groups of pushing their agenda at the expense of
Meanwhile, all the bigwigs of the indigenous Kashmiri outfits - including Syed Sallahuddin of Hezb-ul Mujahideen - have gone
underground. Phone contacts to these organisations are gone and many have even moved residences and offices in the last
month or so.
The famous Hezb-ul Mujahideen house in the G-9 sector of Islamabad has got new occupants, and the communication
antennas atop the house are gone. None of the outfits is issuing any statements, nor are they willing to entertain interview
Jaish-e Mohammad was probably the last nail in the coffin. Another insider says the hijacking in fact led to the establishment of
a US-lndian "strategic dialogue on terrorism". And the focus was on groups operating from Pakistan. "We had be warning
against the irreparable damage to I Kashmir cause but no one heard us," Amanull Khan, chief of the JKLF told TFT.
"The Kargil conflict had made it abundantly clear that 'military solution' was a non-starter," Khan told TFT in Rawalpindi. He
argued that I "wishful policies" pursued by the jihadis with I approval of the establishment had now forced Pakistan to take
measures like the creation of impotent Kashmir committee headed by the controversial Sardar Qayyum Khan.
Khan indicated the contradictions Sardar Qayyum has lived though since the 1972 Shimla Agreement. Sardar Qayyum had
then praised Mr Bhutto for "salvaging Kashmir and Pakistan through the Shimla Accord". "But now he is heaping scorn on Mr
Bhutto for having signed the accord," Khan said.
JKLF had then opposed the Agreement. "We opposed it because it excluded the Kashmiris as a party to the dispute and by
doing so denied then the right of self-determination," he recalled.
Interestingly, Sardar Qayyum was once more Nawaz Sharifs mentor. But at a recent seminar in Lahore, he was critical of Mr
Sharif and said that the exiled premier had let the Kashmiris down. Yet, in February 1992, during his Teheran visit, Sharif told
Lyse Ducet of the BBC that "we are ready to consider all options to resolve the Kashmir issue, including the third option." The
statement so upset the establishment in Rawalpindi that Sharif s media managers denied he had ever said so and begged the
BBC to not replay the tape recorded statement.