Pakistan's Unstoppable Killing Machine

The Pakistan Army must keep its terrorist warriors gainfully employed to prevent its Islamist cauldron from solidifying and becoming dysfunctional. Thus, the killings in Kashmir must continue.

7 May 2020

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan last month in a television interview lamented that Pakistan, a country capable of making nuclear weapons, could not make ventilators or test kits so desperately needed by thousands of his countrymen during the Coronavirus pandemic. He might have added that Pakistan might not be able to help its own citizens deal with the pandemic but it was fully equipped to keep running the killing machine in India's Kashmir.

Prime Minister Khan's comments were really directed at the country's army that continues to guzzle most of the finances the Pakistani state generates. The military machine is paramount and must go on. Just as a factory must keep its assembly lines working to avoid a complete shutdown, the Pakistan Army must keep its terrorist warriors gainfully employed to prevent its Islamist cauldron from solidifying and becoming dysfunctional. Thus, the killings in Kashmir must continue.

The sentiment expressed by former Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Akhtar that India should donate 10,000 ventilators to his country was clearly not shared by the country's military bosses. Akhtar had said: “In India can make 10,000 ventilators for us, Pakistan will remember this gesture forever.” The Pakistani state never made a formal request nor did the Indian government respond.

Instead, reports emanating from the borders of Jammu & Kashmir spoke of massive infiltration attempts from across the border. Artillery gunfire began resounding daily in the mountains around Poonch and Kupwara. Terrorists within the Kashmir Valley increasingly began clashing with Indian security forces. It was almost as if someone had signalled the beginning of another round of conflict in Kashmir. Sadly, this was at a time when hospitals in Pakistan were filling up with Coronavirus cases and hundreds were dead or dying.

India too was bleeding, both in its hospitals across the country where Coronavirus cases were gasping for life and in the Kashmir Valley and its borders. In a particularly bloody encounter in early May this year, terrorists took two Kashmiri civilians as hostage in Handwara. The Indian Army ultimately succeeded in rescuing the hostages and killing the terrorists but at the cost of an Army Colonel, Major, a decorated J&K police officer and two other security forces personnel.

The incident provoked Indian Army chief General MM Naravane threatened Pakistan, saying that the Indian Army would respond proportionately to attacks on its personnel and the borders. A few days later, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan warned that India could use the current tension to launch a 'false flag operation' against his country on the pretext of infiltration. Prime Minister Khan said India's allegations against Pakistan regarding infiltration of terrorists was baseless. However, the fact on the ground was that militants from across the borders were being pushed in almost daily by the Pakistan Army; some where being detected at the border while the rest were melting in to carry out operations later.

The influential BJP general secretary Ram Madhav subsequently remarked that Pakistan had not relented on its anti-India and pro-militancy campaigns even when the entire world is focusing on the coronavirus crisis. “It shows that somewhere something is hugely amiss in Pakistan's leadership. It doesn't want to improve relations with India”, he said. Madhav was echoing the official Indian view, which suggested that the sentiments the like of which cricketer Shoaib Akhtar expressed would never resonate in the Subcontinent.

During this April when most of India, including the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir, was under complete lockdown, Pakistan's killing machine was slowly being cranked up. More and more Pakistan trained terrorists were being pushed in at a time when the whole world's attention was on fighting the Coronavirus pandemic complained J&K police chief Dilbagh Singh. He said the attempt was to disrupt the measures being taken by the administration to cope with the pandemic. Encounters between security forces and militants also began rising in April, reflecting the changes on the ground brought about by the Pakistan Army.

Meanwhile, back in Pakistan every sign suggests that the Army is consolidating its hold on the government and constantly and steadily marginalising Prime Minister Khan, whose overall aim is to make his country a better and more prosperous place while the military aim is self-aggrandisement.

Already, the country's financial affairs are being controlled by the Army which has recently successfully secured a US $ 1.38 billion debt relief package from the International Monetary Fund. Pakistan's GDP might plummet to new lows but the Army citing the continued Kashmir crisis will insist of maintaining its share of government finances. The Pakistan Army has tightened its grip over the civilian government by appointing former DG ISPR Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa as the civilian government's media manager and head of the China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC).

Given the dynamics of power in Pakistan it should be clear that any increase in violence and bloodshed in the Kashmir Valley will ultimately only help Pakistan's powerful generals and their unstoppable killing machine. The common Kashmiri will suffer further hardship, more young men will die and the dream of independence will remain forever elusive.

Syed Hasnain Imam

7 May 2020