Pakistan plays Agent Provocateur
As Kashmir valley remained on the edge with the neutralisation of the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, the various stakeholders played to the familiar script to ensure their respective relevance and positions. As expected, the moribund separatists led by the Hurriyat Conference called for a de rigueur strike, with the ostensibly moderate Mirwaiz Umar Farooq stating, “I think his death will definitely inspire many people to go that way. There is no denying that people feel a sense of desperation. People feel the government of India is just not ready to engage or even acknowledge the sentiments in Kashmir”. Unfortunately, the state government dithered and slithered with a meek promise to investigate any disproportionate use of force in the action against a militant carrying a reward of Rs 10 Lakh on his head – one, that was described by the security forces as “the biggest-ever success” in recent times.
While there are enough regressive elements within the country to stoke fires, overtly or covertly – Pakistan broke the unwritten code of sobriety and pacifism that usually accompanies any act of violence and bloodshed in a neighbouring country. With tempers flying high and over twenty deaths following the clashes between the protesters and the security forces, Pakistan had the opportunity to truly rewrite the standard narrative and usher in the much-needed succour from terrorism. It had three choices – one, ideally to contribute to the much-needed efforts to denounce terrorism in the sub-continent by taking a firm stand against the terror antics of the likes of Burhan Wani; second, to avoid making any statements that could vitiate the sensitive environment and remain aloof and practice non-interference in a neighbouring country; and lastly, to jump into the fray and ignite further passions with statements that reek of blatant interference and act as an agent provocateur of more bloodshed. Unfortunately, irrespective of its own tryst with terrorism and the bloody price that its citizenry pays for having supported the apparatus of terrorism – Pakistan openly baited India with provocative statements and chose to remain oblivious to a missed opportunity to truly stand against terrorism, if not for India, then for its own sake.
Ignoring the dignity to be prudent and non-judgmental at such times, without knowing the facts fully, they have already decided that the action in Anantnag district tantamount to “extra-judicial-killings”. This in the backdrop of multiple pending enquiries pertaining to 26/11, Pathankot etc. wherein, countless dossiers of proofs submitted have never sufficed for nailing the complicity of the perpetrators of such hate crimes, by the Pakistani authorities. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the Jama'at-ud-Da'wah (JuD) Chief, and the 26/11 attack mastermind Hafiz Muhammad Saeed who cocked a snook at Muzzafarabad (in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) by holding a prayer meeting in honour of Burhan Wani – but, in an unprecedented brazenness, even the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s office felt it necessary to state, “It is deplorable that excessive and unlawful force was used against the civilians who were protesting against the killing of Burhan Wani. Oppressive measures cannot deter the valiant people of Jammu and Kashmir from their demand of exercising their right to self-determination in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions”.
Pakistan’s jihadi Frankenstein has spawned its own malignancy that is eating into Pakistan’s societal equilibrium and structure. The old strategy of treating only the Pakistan-facing terror groups like the TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) as terrorists, whilst supporting and abetting the neighbour-facing terror groups as “Strategic Assets”, has run its course. Afghanistan, Iran, and India are seething with rage over the duplicity of the Pakistani establishment, while the Americans are also doing some rare plain-speak about the Pakistani actions, however, stopping short of pulling the support plug, owing to their own geo-strategic compulsions and necessities in Afghanistan.
The likes of Hizbul Mujahedin, Jud, Lashkar-e-Taiba etc. are the more well-known recipients of the Pakistani support for the anti-India terror activities, whereas the Haqqani Network (described by the former Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US, Mike Mullen as the “veritable arm of the Pakistani ISI”) and the Afghan Taliban are routinely blamed as Pakistani stooges by the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and even the Iranians blame the Pakistani government of being complicit with the anti-Iran Jundallah or the sectarian Sepah-i-Sahaba. Now, signs of the monster acting beyond the master’s control manifest with the nurseries in Pakistan accounting for 12 out of the 19 people arrested for the three bomb attacks in Saudi Arabia, including in the holy city of Medina. However, even more damning castigation of the Pakistani role came from the Information Minister of Bangladesh, Hasanul Huq Inu who said that the Pakistani ISI had trained up to 8000 Bangladeshi jihadis in the last two years and sent them back to launch violent attacks – this was following the Dhaka Café attack.
On a trip to Kabul, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed the sub-continental frustration in a veiled reference to Pakistan’s terror infrastructure by saying that Afghanistan will succeed only when terrorism stops flowing from across the border and when nurseries and sanctuaries of terrorism are shut down. The Americans too, have used the drone-strategy of hitting targets without necessarily involving the “leaky” Pakistani establishment – the “taking out” of Osama Bin Laden was reflective of the trust deficit between the Pakistanis and the US government.
Terrorism has cost Pakistan over $ 75 billion and nearly 50,000 lives for itself, in the last 15 years – in many ways, it finds itself as a pariah nation with a dubious history of nurturing much of the foot soldiers and ideologues who have struck in the sub-continent, as indeed with traceable footprints in the US, Europe, and the Middle East. Yet, the lessons in Islamabad remain unlearnt and the instinct of pandering to its age-old politics of abetting terror and stoking fires in the neighbourhood go unchecked. By the day, the hold of self-combusting forces thrive in Pakistan and the stranglehold on its own society tightens, still Islamabad is content to partake tactical interference in the Kashmir valley. But the times are changing, terror is no longer an Asian or a Middle Eastern curse – it has reached the doorsteps of the West and the bestiality is unravelling itself across the capitals of the world. The global patience is running woefully short, already the presumptive Republican nominee of the US, Donald Trump has called Pakistan “unstable”, while the presumptive Democrat nominee, Hillary Clinton is known to have presciently warned the Pakistani establishment in 2011 that, “you can't keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours. Eventually, those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard”. Sadly, the recent events in Kashmir show that Pakistan is still acting otherwise.
Lt Gen Bhopinder Singh (Retd) is Former Lt Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Puducherry. The views expressed are strictly personal.