Millennium Post

Beyond Border Disputes

Why the Pakistan army whipped up tension on the LOC in Kashmir and indulged in such a gruesome act as beheading an Indian soldier? The reason could be the current state of affairs in India’s neighbourhood. A lot is happening in Pakistan, the main being that the moderates in the army have revised their India-specific security threat to declare domestically bred terrorism a bigger danger than India. Also, the country is in election mode; general elections are due in the first half of 2013.

The Indo-Pak peace process was making steady progress when the dastardly act took place on the LOC. Precisely at that time the 8th South Asian Media Conference was being held in the historic city of Lahore, which this correspondent attended as a delegate representing India. Delegates from all South Asian countries attended the conclave. It was addressed by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

The three leaders and all those who addressed the conference swore by peace in the two countries, lauding the theme of the conference—opening minds, opening borders. They had no idea that on the LOC the peace process was being reversed. Obviously, the militants and hardliners in the army did not like the peace process to succeed and they struck.

Within days the election process came under threat from Pakistan’s own version of Anna Hazare—a bearded preacher named Tahirul Qadri. The difference between the two is that while Hazare is a Gandhian, Qadri is a fundamentalist and said to be a stooge of the army. A religious preacher of Canadian nationality, Qadri has dislodged Imran Khan’s Tehrik-e-Pakistan as a major challenger to the established political order. His seize of Islamabad has drawn out people in thousands to protest against rampant corruption, unemployment and lack of basic service. His movement got a boost with the Supreme Court ordering Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf’s arrest.

Established parties like PPP and PML-Nawaz rubbished Qadri as a pawn in the hands of forces bent upon derailing elections or manipulating results. Qadri is a Canadian passport holder and his frontline supporter, the MQM leader, Altaf Hussain a British national. Could it be that the LoC was violated in a blatant manner to internationalise the Kashmir issue, derail elections and weaken the anti-terror offensive on Pakistan’s western borders with Afghanistan? This shift in the army’s approach is attributed to internal security threat from Tehrik-e-Taliban, Pakistan (TTP), and other violent groups with ethnic, sectarian and sub-nationalist motivations.

The TTP abhors democracy and advocates Islamic Sharia. It has threatened to send fighters to J&K to counter army’s internal threat theory. The ideological argument is an extension of the struggle for Sharia is Kashmir where the Pakistan-sponsored Jihad had not yielded results. Tactically, they want to stall troop movement to the west in pursuance of the internal security threat the army has front loaded in its revised doctrine. Renewed border tensions with India will pin the troops down in the east, complicating Pakistan’s internal security beyond redemption.

There is plenty of evidence that jihadis in Pakistan have been growing more powerful— and that organisations like Tehreek-e-Taliban are seriously considering expanding their operations eastward. Tehreek’s deputy chief, Maulana Wali-ur-Rahman, has reportedly said ‘the practical struggle for Sharia system that we are carrying out in Pakistan, we will undertake in Kashmir and the same way we will implement it in India’. It is self-evident that preventing a rapprochement between Jihadis and the generals is in India’s best interest.

What Pakistan army has to endure is many thousands more of their soldiers being massacred by their own homegrown terrorists than in all Indo-Pak wars and near-wars put together. Sixty-five years of independence have shown Pakistanis that military dictatorship cannot be justified on any ‘doctrine of necessity’, any appeal to theology or any crying of wolf over an external enemy.

The Pakistan establishment knows that its armed forces are capable of conquering only one country—their own. Moreover, the Pakistan establishment and, particularly its armed forces, and intelligence agencies, have become the biggest victim of the very same forces of terror they thought they could unleash on others.

The need of the hour is ‘uninterrupted and uninterruptible’ dialogue as the only way for India and Pakistan to resolve their issues and normalize their relations. We need most to talk when we are on edge of war. The opposition to dialogue has little to do with individual incidents, howsoever horrific. There is huge mindset change occurring in Pakistan, indeed, has been evolving with increasing acceleration over the last three decades. Tragically, this changing Pakistani mindset is escaping far too large a section if public opinion in India. (IPA)
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