Pakistan: No time or cause to fight - By Kunwar Idris Back   Home  
In 1965 when India and Pakistan went to war, Indonesia, Iran and Turkey opened their armouries to us, and the Saudis, it was then believed, their treasury. Today, as Pakistan faces the Indian troops three times as many as its own on the Line of Control in Kashmir, there is not a word of sympathy from these four or any other Muslim country.

That is the net result of Pakistan's politics of madrassahs and jihad practiced during the intervening years. To avert war President Musharraf is banking only on "good sense to prevail in India" and on American intervention. It is as if our orthodox religious leaders and neo-religious political parties have remorselessly used Islam to isolate Pakistan from the rest of the Muslim world. While President Musharraf reaps the whirlwind of the wind they had sown, he must add to that his own three dithering years.

Afghanistan, implacably hostile to Pakistan in 1965 and a close ally of India, did not provoke trouble on the western border which it could easily have through many surrogates it then had in Pakistan's tribal area. That was a remarkable display of Muslim solidarity despite political differences and a rare occasion when King Zahir Shah overruled his powerful "uncles" and friends of India.

To the world, Pakistan has become a jihadi, or militant, power only because of the long campaign its intelligence agents and armed volunteers waged to liberate and unite Afghanistan. It is doubtful whether the brutalized Afghan society Pakistan's jihad has spawned has made this country's western frontier any securer than it was in 1965. Its eastern frontier with India and the Line of Control in Kashmir undoubtedly has become more vulnerable ever since some jihadi elements, their job in Afghanistan over with its warlords and tribes at each other's throat, went into Kashmir to subvert the freedom struggle so bravely and yet so unpretentiously launched by the people of the Valley.

Two decades of jihad thus has given Pakistan a militant image without bringing peace or liberty either to Afghanistan or to Kashmir. Instead, it has inflicted enormous death and privations on both with no end in sight. For Pakistan it has been an all-round costly bargain, for its own internal cohesion stands shattered by free flow of arms and a violent schism. How well and long Pakistan can fight and hold back an invading India which admittedly has three to one superiority men and arms, conventional and nuclear, is for the commanders and war experts to say. The obvious feeling the common people without authority (called "civil society" in the World Bank jargon) have is that it is no time to fight and there is no reason to fight.

A war, howsoever limited or short, would mean a severe setback for the economy at a time when it is barely put on the course of recovery and a severer setback to the Kashmir freedom movement when it is close to extracting substantial concessions from the Indians.

The world opinion holds that President Musharraf's effort to deal firmly with the armed fundamentalists is tempered by political expediency. The general impression is that he does not want to drive them too hard at a time when the political forces opposed to him are further emboldened by the result of an unnecessary and inconsequential referendum. The world view was bluntly articulated by UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan last Thursday when he called upon Musharraf to fulfil the commitment he made on January 12.

The statements by some political leaders and stories in Pakistan's own press about the guerilla training camps in Azad Kashmir and elsewhere fly in the face of the now trite official contention that Pakistan's support to popular uprising in Kashmir is no more than political, moral and diplomatic. When our own people do not believe it, how would the rest of the world? The UN, EU and all the rest are justified in demanding a sterner control over the religious groups who train the Kashmiri or foreign fighters and a greater vigilance along the Line of Control to check their entry into occupied Kashmir.

President Musharraf should have no delusions about the religious groups supporting him if he connived at their militancy or acted soft against them. His views and lifestyle are too well known to them to trust him as their patron or partisan. He should also realize that the armed infiltrators going into Kashmir at this stage would hurt and not help the indigenous insurgency. The struggle of the people has reached a stage where India cannot but hold early and fair elections in Kashmir, and the Hurriyat Conference must win them whenever they are held. The observers and pressmen from all over the world will be watching them.

Once the Hurriyat has won the elections the moral force of the awakened world opinion will back the forgotten right of the people of Kashmir to self-determination. Continued armed support originating in Pakistan, or passing through it, would give India an excuse not to hold elections and yet have the world opinion on its side.

In the current situation if India attacks Pakistan the world powers may not back India, yet they would blame Pakistan for it. The people of Pakistan are averse to war not for their safety and well-being alone but also because it would squash a freedom movement which the people of Kashmir have sustained at a heavy cost for 13 years.

At the moment the people are too preoccupied with earning their livelihood to feel inspired to fight and die. No Noorjahan is left to arouse their patriotic emotions either. Musharraf will find the people, the silent majority, on his side in fighting terrorism rather than India.
Published in Pakistan daily Dawn on 26 May, 2002