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Tag Archives | Kashmir

Urdunama: Hafiz Mian

Roznama Ummat carried this uniquely interesting narration by Jamaat ud-Dawwa’s amir, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed on the birth of his organization, its association with the Lashkar-e-Taiba and his thoughts on Kashmir.  Excerpts follow (اردو):

Jamaat ud-Dawwa (JuD) was formed in 1985 by five or six of us friends.  The initial group included the likes of Zafar Iqbal, who was at university with me, and Yahya Mujahid.  Our goal was to write “tableeghi” literature and circulate it to the public.  Later, we founded a magazine called the “ud-Dawwa,” which eventually gained popularity.  When a ban on the magazine was enforced during the Musharraf regime, our circulation was about 150,000 per month.

Very soon, the JuD was being supported by leading scholars in the land, including my uncle Hafiz Abdullah Bahawalpuri.  Other early supporters included Sheikh Badiuddin Rashidi, Hafiz Abdul Mannan Noorpuri, and Hafiz Abdul Islam bin Muhammad.

We have always supported the rights of the Kashmiris to self-determination, and have labeled India an occupying force.  1990-91 saw the birth of organized “armed resistance” against India’s occupation.  Among the organizations fighting India’s occupation was a group called Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).  This organization and its setup was based exclusively in Kashmir.  There was never any relationship between the JuD and the LeT, nor was any leader of the JuD ever the head of the LeT.  But a section of India’s media has consistently spread propaganda alleging that I am the leader of the LeT.

When Musharraf banned the LeT, it was alleged that the Jamaat ud-Dawwa was created as a cover organization for the LeT. However, the JuD was created decades ago in 1985.  There is no doubt that the JuD, like the LeT, supports the achievement of “azaadi” in Kashmir via jihad; but we are not associated with the LeT. [روزنامہ امّت]

Hafiz Saeed is back in the news, leading a rag-tag outfit of far-right groups and former heads the ISI, under the banner of Difa-e-Pakistan Council (Defense of Pakistan Council).  News reports also suggest that Mr. Saeed is considering joining mainstream politics and transforming the identity of the JuD from being a “charitable organization” to a political party.  Mr. Saeed also recently shared a dais with SM Qureshi, former Pakistani foreign minister and now a member of Imran Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaf party, which has a conveniently vague association with the Difa-e-Pakistan Council.

Renouncing the LeT, which many in India, the U.S. and perhaps even in Pakistan, associate with the horrors of 26/11, may be the first of many steps in the transformation of a mass murderer into mainstream politician.  Or perhaps it is meant to disassociate himself from any future acts of terror imposed on the people of India.  Clearly, for all its demagoguery,  the Difa-e-Pakistan Council is yet to demonstrate proof of concept.  None of this augurs very well for India.

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Don’t feed the Cookie Monster

Forget Pakistan and move on.

I came across this article in Foreign Policy by Teresita and Howard Schaffer entitled “Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir: A grand bargain?”  Ambassadors Teresita and Howard Schaffer are true paragons of the U.S. foreign policy community and have extensive experience in the subcontinent (indeed, Mrs. Schaffer is fluent in Hindi and Urdu).  However, and as someone with tremendous respect for their contributions, I found some of  the recommendations in the article surprising.

The article calls for a review of U.S. strategic options with Pakistan and postulates a “grand bargain,” which essentially involves “giving” Pakistan what it wants in Afghanistan, but on two pre-conditions: first, making Pakistan responsible for preventing terrorism emanating from Afghanistan (yes, only Afghanistan), and second, getting Pakistan to agree on a settlement on Kashmir on the present geopolitical lines.  In all fairness, the article both recognizes the challenges inherent in such a plan, and accepts that the likelihood  of such a bargain coming to fruition is rather low.  However, there are elements in this “grand bargain” that I find either disturbing or infeasible.

The first element of this “grand bargain” involves accepting Pakistani hegemony in Afghanistan. Pakistan, not the civil administration in Afghanistan, will be empowered to undertake negotiations between Kabul and “whatever elements of the Taliban” to work towards a post-war settlement.  The article also envisages the U.S. accepting Pakistan’s demand of eliminating Indian involvement in Afghanistan.  Such logic should greatly concern New Delhi, which recently signed a “strategic partnership” with Afghanistan involving an enhancement of bilateral ties in education, economics and security. This article fails to explain why Afghanistan or India would ever entertain this, and how the U.S. and Pakistan feel they are in a position to transact such an arrangement without resistance from India and Afghanistan.

Next, in return for this “grand bargain,” the article recommends that the U.S. warn Pakistan that it would be held responsible for any act of terror originating from Afghanistan or Pakistan. The article doesn’t delve any further into how this fete is to be accomplished.  The Pakistanis have acted with an ascending sense of impunity in conducting sub-conventional operations in a region already dominated by U.S. forces.  If the U.S.’s strategy with respect to Pakistan’s proclivity for terror has failed to yield tangible results thus far, what other tools does the U.S. suppose it has to force Rawalpindi into compliance? And by the way, has the U.S. held anyone responsible for the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan this past May?

The third component of this bargain pertains to Kashmir. According to the article, the U.S. would “tell” Pakistan that it would publicly call for a settlement on Kashmir based on existing demarcations along the LoC and “give India advance notice” of the announcement.

Advance notice! One wonders if the U.S. thinks that it is in a position to orchestrate such a grand settlement especially at a time when its own power is fading relative to other actors on the global stage.  The U.S. would do well to  imbibe an espresso shot of reality here.  Where is the appetite for such an arrangement in a rabidly anti-India Pakistan?  Pakistan’s political parties created an uproar just last week in  response to the inconsequential issue of granting India the status of “Most Favored Nation.”  For a nation bred on the notion that Kashmir is rightfully theirs, any compromise on the issue will elicit a response that Rawalpindi and Islamabad will be incapable of dealing with.

And while India in very broad terms would like a settlement based on turning the LoC into a permanent border, it is in no particular hurry to make the move.  India today is focused on restoring relative peace to Jammu & Kashmir; to that end, it has encouraged dialog between the Centre and political parties of all hues in the Valley.  However, an external reconciliation of Jammu & Kashmir is just not a priority.

The weak coalition in New Delhi does not have the political capital necessary to conclude on such a significant transaction, even if it wanted to.  Simply, Kashmir is a “core issue” for India, and as the U.S. has already realized, is one where India is demonstratively inflexible. If an impoverished India of the past managed to stave off U.S. pressure on Kashmir, what makes the U.S. think that an ascending India will do otherwise?  Any expectation that India will march to the U.S.’s tune merely on being told to do so, is very far removed from reality indeed.

In the end, if the U.S. hopes to move on from its engagement in Afghanistan and ensure that the country does not return to a pre-9/11 jihadi haven, it must stop encouraging Pakistan’s institutional irrationality.  This involves recognizing that U.S. and Pakistan’s interests are divergent, and that Pakistan isn’t the solution, but the problem.  Further, it must realize that even assuming Kashmir is resolved  by some miracle, this will not necessarily mean an end to Pakistan’s obsession with India.

Pakistan’s problem is not Kashmir, it is India and India’s existence.  Pakistan’s quest for “strategic depth” in Afghanistan — an agenda duly entertained in the article — is directly tied to its preoccupation with India. If there were no India, there would be no need for “strategic depth” in Afghanistan.  Therefore, how does India attain peace with Pakistan, when Pakistan’s definition of peace involves India’s dismemberment?  Questions for the Schaffers and the U.S. to ponder over.

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Ghulam Nabi Fai’s arrest

Indian agencies have known Mr. Fai was up to no-good for ages.

We’re just being made aware of the arrest in the U.S. of Ghulam Nabi Fai, Executive Director of the Kashmiri-American Council (KAC) for allegedly being on the payroll of the ISI and hiding millions of dollars for illegal lobbying.  A second individual, Zaheer Ahmed, has also been charged.  The FBI affidavit cites that Mr. Fai conspired “to act as an agent of a foreign principal…to falsify, conceal, and cover up materials by tricks, schemes, and devices…” (FBI affidavit, LT @Colinfreeze).

As it turns out, Mr. Fai is no stranger to the FBI.  When questioned in 2007, he contented that he had “never met anyone who identified himself as being affiliated with the ISI.”  Mr. Fai has long been at the forefront of the “Kashmir movement” in the U.S., portraying himself as a Kashmiri-American champion of “the Cause,” independent of any affiliation of Pakistan or its agencies.  In fact, CBS-affiliate KNX 1070’s news report this morning on the arrest identified Mr. Fai as a “Virginia man.”

But Indian security agencies have long confirmed Mr. Fai’s nexus with Pakistan’s ISI.  A 2004 Times of India report on the mysterious death of Hasimuddin, former aide to Syed Ali Shah Geelani, revealed the relationship between Mr. Fai, the Tehrik-e-Hurriyat and the ISI (emphasis added):

This is part of Islamabad’s plan to secure a place for Tehriq-e-Hurriyat in the talks to decide the fate of J&K on the ground that the secessionist outfit was the true representative of ‘Kashmiris’.

Those behind the plan have gone about its execution with clinical precision. Hasimuddin had been managing the funds of Tehriq-e-Hurriyat after he was ousted from the All Party Hurriyat Conference, as its secretary. But Geelani had replaced him recently.  The outfit was getting funds from the ISI and also from Saudi Arabia. Most of the funds were routed through the US-based Kashmir American Council of Ghulam Nabi Fai or the UK-based Ayub Thakar who died recently, sources said. [Times of India]

The arrest of Mr. Fai only confirms what India knows about how the ISI plays the game on Kashmir; with a mixture of subterfuge, political grandstanding, and of course, sub-conventional warfare against India, through a network of carefully cultivated intermediaries and proxies.

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After Salmaan Taseer

Five questions for us to answer on liberalism in Pakistan.

The assassination of Salmaan Taseer has rightly triggered introspection and discourse in Pakistan on identity — social, religious and national.  Of these, articles written by the likes of Raza Rumi, Huma Yusuf, Ayesha Siddiqa, Yaseer Latif Hamdani and Shehryar Taseer deserve special mention and commendation.  There is, however, no dearth for the alternative narrative in Pakistan.  PML-N’s spokesperson claimed (اردو) that Mr. Taseer would have been assassinated by someone else had Mumtaz Qadri not done so. Irfan Siddiqui suggests (اردو) that while Mr. Taseer’s assassination cannot be condoned, it was expected, given the governor’s “liberal extremist” views.

A parallel discourse is also occurring in the West and in India.  Declan Walsh laments on the fate of the liberal Pakistani; Shekhar Gupta qualifies and clarifies; Seema Mustafa foretells of further doom and gloom. An overarching theme in many commentaries is that a liberal Pakistan is in India’s interests; that a “liberal” Pakistani civilian government would (not to say “could”) radically alter its worldview, foreign policy objectives and how it seeks to achieve them.  The trouble with this argument of course, is that a liberal Pakistani civilian government has never existed.   Even so, some commentaries point to Benazir Bhutto and her administrations of the late ’80s and ’90s as  approximate models.

However, liberal though Ms. Bhutto may have been, Pakistan’s worldview did not undergo material change during her leadership. Bilateral relations with India did not improve. If anything, Ms. Bhutto’s reign coincided with the height of the Jammu & Kashmir insurgency fomented by Pakistan, and proliferation of nuclear technology.  Indeed, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and the motivation to match India to the detriment of all else took shape  under the leadership of her charismatic father, the wine-drinking, UC Berkeley-educated Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (“We will eat grass…”).

It would therefore be a worthy exercise to ponder over these five questions on what a model for a liberal Pakistan would look like, and whether a liberal dispensation in Pakistan is a sufficient condition to alter the trajectory of its relationship with India.  For us in India, would the ascendancy of a liberal narrative in Pakistan’s internal discourse  lessen our own threat perception of our neighbor?

  • Could a liberal government in Islamabad effectively end the hold that the military-jihadi complex has on Pakistan’s formulation and implementation of foreign policy objectives?
  • Would it still maintain that India poses an existential threat to Pakistan?
  • What will its position be towards Kashmir? Specifically, towards the insurgency and state-sponsored sub-conventional warfare?
  • What will its position be on terrorism?  If another Mumbai were to occur, would this liberal regime disavow these groups? Actively confront them? Prosecute them? Extradite them, where permissible, to India? Cooperate with India’s own investigation?
  • Would it continue to maintain, by extension of #2, that Pakistan’s conduct in Afghanistan is just and only expected, given India’s commercial and political ties to Kabul?

Tough questions no doubt, but ones that need to be answered in India, as an internal battle for identity rages on in Pakistan.

UPDATE: My op-ed in The Pioneer has a more complete analysis of liberalism in Pakistan.


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