Millennium Post

Complacency in Jammu and Kashmir

A sense of complacency is a danger signal not only for rulers but also for the state. The atmosphere of near normality and the relative peace created in Jammu and Kashmir by the positive developments of the past more than three years seems to have induced a sense of complacency among the leaders of the ruling coalition and the mainstream political parties. It does not augur well for the state.

There are no signs of political parties making meaningful efforts to connect with the masses. Even chief minister Omar Abdullah’s initiative to establish closer contacts with the people by going to a remote village to hold a cabinet meeting in June has proved to be a one-time event. He has not expanded his favourite message posting on the micro-blogging site Twitter to reach to broader sections of the people. Failure to connect with the masses by him and the mainstream parties will leave the ground open for the separatists who, though in disarray at the moment, can use even a minor incident for igniting a law and order flare-up. A sense of alienation still persists in a notable section of the Valley’s population.

Pakistan events usually have their implications for Jammu and Kashmir. Before dwelling on the likely impact of Pakistan’s escalating turmoil on Kashmir, one has to recall the 1988-1989 Af-Pak events which had a serious fallout on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the state, which, like Punjab, also became the victim of separatist-terrorist violence.

The US-Pakistan-backed mujahideen forced the Soviet forces to withdraw from Afghanistan in 1988 and installed the Taliban government in Afghanistan. In my weekly political column published in the Chandigarh edition of Indian Express, I wrote that the mujahideens next target would be Jammu and Kashmir. Punjab was already facing CIA-ISI-backed terrorist-violence. Both the states were vital for Pakistan and US strategic interests in the region.

Indian Express’s Delhi edition, which had never used my column earlier, displayed the latest one as its front page bottom spread. A couple of days later, the late Prem Kumar, resident editor of Chandigarh Indian Express told me that Indian Express chief editor phoned him to express his displeasure at my write-up. The chief editor’s annoyance, though the reasons were never explained to me, perhaps was over the Chandigarh reporter encroaching upon the right of the newspaper’s Delhi-based senior staffers to comment on national affairs. I told Prem Kumar I would be happy if my prediction was proved wrong. But it was not.

Subsequent events in Jammu and Kashmir showed that after the formation of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, mujahideen elements started infiltrating into Jammu and Kashmir. With the help of the Pakistan-backed J&K militant outfits, they were able to politically destabilise the state and create serious security problems. Thereafter, the Pakistani establishment started using the Kashmir issue to divert their people’s attention from the country’s internal problems caused by the deteriorating economic and political situation.

From 2004 onwards, Pakistani rulers were forced to slow down support for the Kashmiri terrorists even though terrorist training camps operating on Pakistani soil were not disbanded and the ISI continued to train terror groups and provide logistic support to them.

The main factors for Pakistan’s slowed-down support included: Indian security forces intensified anti-terrorist and anti-infiltration campaigns; mounting Indian and international pressure on the internationally admitted ‘global terrorism hub’ Pakistan to suppress the terrorists; growing longing for peace among the Valley’s people whose economy had been badly hit by the unabated terror violence and separatists frequent bandh calls; and, the escalating terrorist activities within Pakistan. These factors, coupled with the US pressure, also forced Pakistani rulers to seek normalisation of relations with India.

To add more worries to the Pakistani establishment now is the confrontation between the executive and judiciary, which had already cost the Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani his prime ministerial chair for committing contempt of court by refusing the Supreme Court’s directive to write to the Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against President Asaf Ali Zardari. To prevent the new prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf from meeting the fate of his predecessor if he also refused, as already indicated by him, to write to the Swiss authorities, a new law has been hurriedly enacted. The law exempts prime minister, president, chief ministers, governors, federal and provincial ministers from contempt of court proceedings.

Coupled with the executive-judiciary confrontation are the Pakistani terrorists mounting attacks targeting the country’s security personnel. Recent reports said that the presidential camp planned to tame the country’s premier intelligence agency ISI by bringing its operations under  parliamentary scrutiny. The move needs to be seen in the background of Zardari’s statement made on 11 April 2009 in Washington admitting that ‘Pakistan is at war with the Taliban, a monster created by the ISI and CIA’. But given the history of Pakistani rulers going back from their commitments, it is doubtful if they will be able to rein in the ISI. A latest Islamabad report says ‘a bill aimed at making the ISI more accountable to parliament and government has been withdrawn from the senate by the presidential spokesman who had submitted it in his private capacity’. It indicates the pressures that have already started mounting against taking any action to rein in the rogue intelligence agency.

All the above factors make it imperative for J&K politicians, particularly Omar Abdullah, in whose sincerity and credibility large sections of the people still have faith, to overcome their complacency and establish closer contacts with the people. IPA
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