Almost 22 years ago, when the Soviet troops entered Afghanistan, Pakistan became the frontline state backed by the Western world. It spearheaded the fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The task of Pakistan was to organise a "jihadi" movement against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
On September 11, with the crash of United Airlines aircraft into the World Trade Centre in New York and another aircraft on the Pentagon, Pakistan has again emerged as a frontline state. The fight this time is against the terrorists the world over, and the specific target is Osama bin Laden, the Saudi billionaire - believed to be the mastermind behind the WTC and Pentagon blasts. The task entrusted to Pakistan is to dismantle the structure of jihad built by it painstakingly during the last two decades.
While the first task entrusted to Pakistan two decades ago had few risks, the present one is not that easy. Pakistan got a lot of money and material, and all it had to do was to establish religious seminaries or madarsas, both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan, to motivate young men to fight a jihad, the target being the Soviets in Afghanistan. Today, the madarsas in Pakistan serve many countries other than Afghanistan.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 extended the period of rule of President Zia. The WTC disaster and the decision of the United States to capture Osama bin Laden and fight terrorism will certainly help extend the military rule of General Musharraf, if he does what he is expected of him by the US. What would the Americans do? President Bush has been very clear. The short term aim is to capture bin Laden and the long term aim is to eliminate the terrorists wherever they may be. Will that include the jihadis, the men who belong to the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Harkat-ul-Mujahiddeen and the Jaish-e-Mohammad? President Bush has pledged that battle against terrorism will be a long drawn one. The Kashmiri militant is receiving training in the madarsas in POK, in Pakistan and also in the areas bordering Afghanistan.
More important, the violence in Kashmir is the handiwork of Pakistan mercenaries - or jihadis. What will they do? Will they carry on their activities or return to Pakistan? And why should they return to Pakistan? The Afghan jihadis have very little to look forward to back home.
When the Soviets left Afghanistan, the jihadis from Pakistan did not return to Pakistan. They stayed back in that country, and worked together with the Taliban to take over. They almost succeeded. The task would have been accomplished earlier, except for the tenacity of Commander Masood, the head of the Northern Alliance.
Pakistan has not been able to make jihadis out of people of Kashmir. Kashmiris took the help of Pakistan for their Azadi movement, but when the jihadis took over, they became helpless spectators. The Hurriyat Conference took over the articulation of the aims and objectives of the jihadis- - that is to ensure that Kashmir becomes a part of Pakistan.
Last two weeks, the people of Kashmir are again helpless spectators when the jihadis are forcing the womenfolk to wear the burqa. The Hurriyat leaders are only saying that the burqa should not be forced on the womenfolk, but are appreciative of the dress. There is a slow Talibanisation of the society in Kashmir.
As far as Pakistan is concerned, there is no doubt that it would follow the dictates of the US. It is clear now that there would be less money flowing into Pakistan from the narcotics trade from Afghanistan, and that there would be little or no money coming from the Islamic fundamentalist organizations in the Arab world. The money that would flow would be from the Western world for winding down the jihad movement. The first reaction from Pakistan has been to tell the Kashmiri militants to leave the militant training organization in POK and melt into the society - preferably move back into Kashmir and trust their luck.
It is also not unlikely that during the next few days, the Pakistani officers who have been "advising" the Taliban will move back into Pakistan - and leave the Afghans to their fate. But one cannot under-estimate the tenacity of the Afghan fundamentalist - or the determination of Osama bin Laden.
Writing in the News (12/9) Imtiaz Alam said: "Although Pakistan has agreed to observe UN Security Council sanctions against the Taliban, its pleas to engage the Omer regime is going to backfire and may cost Pakistan too heavily if Islamabad does not now amend its Afghan policy drastically. To avoid a worst case scenario, Islamabad needs to leave the Taliban on their own if they don't mend themselves; they are unlikely to since they refuse to listen to Pakistan's good advice under the influence of the rogue Arab fanatics in Afghanistan."
President Bush has stated that the US will not stop at capturing Osama bin Laden, "dead or alive". That is only the first step. The objective of the first war of the millennium is to root out terrorism from the world. Pakistan will have to close down its madarsas too. It is unlikely that the groups promoting violence in Kashmir will be allowed to continue their activities, or able to marshal the resources that they are able to do now. It is not for nothing that the official representatives sent a discreet advice to the militant groups - after Syed Salahuddin welcomed the WTC crash - that they should not show joy at the disaster in the United States.
This article was published in DailyPioneer