Contrary to traditional wisdom, the brutal suicide attack on J&K Assembly in which 38 people were killed seems to be more a warning shot for Pakistan Government than a sensational strike at the highest seat of governance in Kashmir.
The attack has been the first of its kind in the history of Kashmir militancy when India and Pakistan reacted in a similar way to a violent incident in the Valley. A Pakistani foreign office spokesman not only condemned the incident but also termed it an act of terrorism.
Jaish-e-Mohammad, the pan-Islamic outfit led by Moulana Masood Azhar, claimed the responsibility hours after the attack and in fact a spokesman of the outfit even named suicide bomber as Wajahat Hussain of North West Frontier Province. Although the outfit had to eat its words soon and a denial was also issued later under pressure from the Pakistan military government, Jaish's distancing from the act too did not last long.
Azhar told Pakistan's leading Urdu daily Jung that it was ``historical success and was a matter related to Kashmir's freedom struggle''. Jung quoted him as saying that the outfit has ``replied terrorism of Indian Government with terrorism'' and ``it has no relation to the developments regarding Afghanistan''.
However, the attack is believed to have been carried out at a time when Gen Pervez Musharraf is geared up to provide all out support to the US-led international coalition to tighten noose around Taliban. What can be the possible reasons to orchestrate such a brutal attack in which around 38 civilians lost their lives at this juncture? It is a well known fact that Jaish and Taliban share the umbilical cord with Jamiat-e-Ulemai Islam, Pakistan, and thus Jaish represents the sentiments of anger witnessed on the streets of Pakistan against Musharraf's alliance with American.
Musharraf's logic to join the international coalition in its campaign to dislodge Taliban was to safeguard the issue of the very existence of Pakistan -- the Kashmir cause. In a way Musharraf agreed to sacrifice its own baby in Afghanistan to ensure Kashmir cause is not jeopardised. Despite Azhar's clarification, his pan-Islamic Jehadi supporters within Pakistan are outraged because they hardly see any difference between the ``future of Kashmir's freedom struggle and the survival of Taliban''.
Even this view is shared by many a hardliners in Kashmir too. "Pakistan's ties with Taliban are based on Islamic brotherhood and it is this relation that binds them with Kashmir too. If Musharraf is ready to sacrifice Taliban to ensure nothing goes wrong on Kashmir cause front, what is the guarantee that he doesn't get ready to sacrifice even our struggle on some more important issue related to Pakistan's national interests," said a separatist leader belonging to a religious party.
Professor Sheikh Showkat Hussain of Kashmir University, however, makes another point. ``Pakistan has a military rule and it is really difficult to organise such massive protests when Army is in control,'' he said. ``There is every likelihood that Pakistani establishment is allowing these demonstrations with a purpose. They use it as a bargaining chip with the Americans and the west because it shows how difficult a decision Musharraf has taken by aligning with the West,'' he said.
It is, however, interesting to note that unlike Jaish, Lashkar-e-Toiba which is much more powerful in Kashmir, has taken a low profile. Lashkar that introduced suicide attacks by sending its squads to storm army and security force camps across J&K has not conducted a single such attack since September, 11. ``Lashkar does not enjoy a strong relation with the Taliban. In fact, they have a better understanding with the Pakistan military regime,'' a senior security force officer said. ``And unlike Jaish, they (Lashkar) seems to be co-operating with the Pak Government at this point time''.
Jaish's relations with Taliban go even beyond to the days of its launch in May, 2000. Moulana Masood Azhar, the founder leader of Jaish, was the general secretary of Harkat-ul-Ansar (the armed wing of Jamiat-e-Ulemai Islam Pakistan) when he was arrested on April, 13, 1994 from south Kashmir.
Azhar was released in exchange of the crew and passengers of the hijacked Indian Airliner at Kandahar in December, 1999. As Azhar and the Taliban leadership shared the same ideological base, he soon traveled back to Kandahar and received support for his newly launched group.
Published in Kashmir Live, of Indian Express