Pakistan's Kashmir Strategy - by Yossef Bodansky Back   Home  
Kashmir is unique among all the crisis points along the Indo-Pakistani border in that a marked escalation of the fighting -- both insurgency and regular -- is virtually inevitable before any effort for a peaceful solution can succeed. The primary reasons is the extent of the ideological commitment and self- interests of several of the key players involved. For Islamabad, the liberation of Kashmir is a sacred mission, the only task unfulfilled since Muhammad Ali Jinnah's days. Moreover, a crisis in Kashmir constitutes an excellent outlet for the frustration at home, an instrument for the mobilization of the masses, as well as gaining the support of the Islamist parties and primarily their loyalists in the military and the ISI.

The ISI has a major interest to continue the crisis. Back in the 1970s, Pakistan started to train Sikhs and other Indian separatist movements as part of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's strategy for forward strategic depth. Pakistan adopted the sponsorship of terrorism and subversion as an instrument to substitute for the lack of strategic depth and early warning capabilities. The Pakistani sponsored terrorists and the Pakistani intelligence operatives in their ranks would be able to warn Pakistan of any impending Indian invasion, and then launch a guerrilla warfare against the Indian Army even before it reached the border with Pakistan. Therefore, sponsoring separatist subversion has become a crucial component of Islamabad's national military strategy.

During the 1980s, the ISI completed a vast training and support infrastructure for the Afghan resistance that was also used for the training and support of other regional groups. There was a corresponding ideological development in Indian Kashmir. Since 1984, virtually suddenly, the prevailing popular sentiments in Indian Kashmir was that "Islam is in Danger," and that sentiment, rather than nationalism, began mobilizing the youth.

The timing of the change was not spontaneous. Hashim Qureshi, the founder of the nationalist JKLF [Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front] recently recalled how "in 1984 ISI Generals and Brigadiers approached me with the offer: 'get us young people for training from the Valley so that they could fight India on return."' When he refused, Qureshi explained, his struggle was taken over by the ISI who installed Amanullah Khan. "It is tragic that so-called nationalist Amanullah Khan and some of his supporters started the present struggle in Kashmir in league with the ISI. A man with common intelligence can understand that any movement started in a Muslim majority area with the help of Pakistani military intelligence will eventually mean religious struggle. " Qureshi stressed that by 1993 "Amanullah proved that he was an agent of the ISI" having sacrificed the nationalist liberation struggle in Kashmir on the altar of Islamist politics. Qureshi himself had to flee Pakistan and seek political asylum in Western Europe.

Meanwhile, by the late-1980s, with the war in Afghanistan slowing down, the vast network of training camps for Afghan Mujahideen was transformed by the ISI into a center of Islamist terrorism throughout South Asia, as well as the melting pot of the world wide Islamist Jihad. This transformation concurred with an active ISI program "to initiate full-fledged subversion in Kashmir Valley" that is still escalating. At first, the ISI's assistance to the Kashmiri Islamists was funnelled through Gulbaddin Hekmatiyar's Hizb-i Islami, thus providing Islamabad with deniability.

Islamabad increases its support for Islamist terrorism in Kashmir because there is a genuine whole hearted commitment to Jihad among the Kashmiri terrorists and their international volunteers. Moreover, the ISI transformed its major paramilitary command into a major political force as a direct result of their increase of support for terrorism in India. Presently, there is a need for a mission use for the ISI's numerous paramilitary and Afghan forces, as well as an institutional interest in preserving the political clout that comes with these operations. Islamabad finds a task for the ISI's vast Pakistani and Afghan cadres previously involved in sponsoring the Jihad in Afghanistan but who are now no longer needed, that would keep them away from domestic politics and power struggles. Indeed, the escalation of terrorism and subversion since the early 1990s is considered a part of the ISI's implementation of a long-term program.

Iran considers an escalation in the Jihad for the liberation of Kashmir a key for the assertion of strategic prominence of the Tehran-led Islamic Bloc, as well as a demonstration of its regional power position. In order to expedite the implementation, the Iranians are utilizing a sacred mission, that is, liberating the area of Ayatollah Khomeyni's roots, as a rallying point. The extent of agitation and indoctrination of Iranian, Afghan, Kashmiri, Indian, Pakistani and other volunteers in the special forces and terrorist training camps in Iran makes it impossible to call off such a Jihad for any reason.

Similarly, the Armed Islamic Movement, as well as several Saudis, Gulf Arabs, and other supporters of Islamist causes, put Kashmir high on their list of jihads to be fought. Indeed, Kashmir is mentioned in lists of sacred goals recovered in Israel (MAMAS), Algeria (FIS), Sudan, Egypt, to name but a few examples. Kashmir is a high priority objective because of the firm belief in the possibility of success. It is an easy campaign to wage for logistical considerations because of the presence of numerous cadres and large weapon stockpiles in Afghanistan and Pakistan. AIM's operations are closely coordinated in Tehran and Khartoum.

All of these states and organizations have large, highly trained and well equipped forces. Virtually all of these forces have not yet been committed to the Kashmiri Jihad. The sole attempt for mass mobilization, in 1992, was stopped by the Pakistani authorities for fear of Indian retaliation. However, Islamabad desperately needs an external challenge for its own domestic political reasons, ranging from diversion of popular attention away from the domestic collapse to finding " something to do" for the ISI and the military other than meddling in politics. Islamabad would receive massive financial assistance from Iran, Saudis and Gulf Arabs, as was the case during the Afghan war, if there is a jihad to be waged. Kashmir is the only viable option. Moreover, even if Islamabad is reluctant to move, many of the irregulars -- Pakistanis, Afghans, Kashmiris and Arab 'Afghans' -- will eventually start the escalations on their own with a nod and a wink from the ISI and the military, thus dragging the supporting powers -- themselves already bound by their declaratory commitments -- into the rapidly escalating crisis.

Presently, Pakistani officials repeatedly vow to "liberate" Kashmir, or enforce the recognition of "Muslims' rights" in the Valley, even at a risk of a major crisis. This rising militancy of Pakistani officials is far from being empty rhetoric. Islamabad uses the escalation in Kashmir as a cover for the overall expansion of the terrorist training and support system for operations in Central Asia and elsewhere in the world.

In order to escalate their Islamist Jihad, the ISI established in the early 1990s the Markaz-Dawar, a center for world wide Islamist activities. Mulavi Zaki, the center's spiritual leader, told the trainees that their destiny was to fight and liberate "the land of Allah from infidels" wherever they might be. The commanders and instructors are AIM members, primarily Ikhwan from Algeria, Sudan and Egypt. Most of them had fought for more than a decade in Afghanistan.

In early 1992, with world attention paid to their presence in Peshawar area, some of these 'Afghans' were transferred to Azad Kashmir where new camps were being built for them by the Pakistani Army. By early 1993, there were over 1,000 'Afghan' Mujahideen in the Markaz-Dawar alone. Following the completion of advance training, they are being sent to Kashmir, Algeria and Egypt.

Since mid 1993, despite Islamabad's claims to the contrary, the main offices of the Islamist terrorist organizations remained functioning in Peshawar. The series of "raids" by police since October 1992 had resulted in the transfer of some of the 200 hard core terrorists specifically wanted by the West to facilities near Jalalabad, just across the Afghan border. In principle, the reports of mass deportation of 'Afghans' from Peshawar by the Pakistani government were baseless. In the fall of 1993, an Arab 'Afghan' with first hand knowledge confirmed that "Pakistan pushed them out of the door only to open a window for them to return and they come and go as they wish in Peshawar."

In the summer of 1993, the ISI had in the Markaz-Dawar another force of some 200 Afghans -mainly Jallalluddin Haqqani's people from the Khowst area -- that operated under direct ISI command and were earmarked for special operations in Kashmir. According to Muhammad Fazal al-Hajj, a PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine] terrorist captured in southern Kashmir in the summer of 1993, additional 'Afghans' and Afghans were being prepared by the ISI for the forthcoming escalation. At least 400 'Afghans' and Afghans were known to being organized in one camp, where they were trained by the ISI to augment and provide quality core of leadership for the Kashmiri Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. There was a corresponding expansion of advance preparations of Islamist terrorists for operations in forward bases in Kashmir. Some 600 terrorists, about half of them veteran 'Afghans' and Afghans, were already at the final phase of their training.

Ultimately, many Arab volunteers continue to arrive in Peshawar almost every day. The main Ikhwan facility is the Maktaba-i-Khidmat originally established by the late Shaykh Abd Allah Azzam and now run by his successor Shaykh Muhammad Yussaf Abbes. It still processes the volunteers for AIM. At present, however, many ofthe volunteers are then dispatched to the numerous training camps run by Arab 'Afghan' militants inside Afghanistan. The ISI continues to provide the weapons and expertise. In July 1994, Sardar Abdul Qayum Khan, the prime minister of Pakistani Azad Kashmir, acknowledged that "there are a number of elements from various nationalities who participate in the Jihad." He identified most ofthem as "Arab 'Afghans'."

Meanwhile, the Government of Afghanistan also increased its support for terrorist training and preparations. This growing direct involvement is important because the main operating bases for the ISI's operations in Central Asia are in northern Afghanistan. In the aftermath of the fall of Kabul, many Arab 'Afghans' returned to Peshawar where they were organized by the Pakistani government to support various Islamist causes in concert with Iran and Sudan. Many of them returned to Afghanistan as quality forces and personal guard details. For example, Ahmad Shah Massud maintains some 70-80 Arab 'Afghans' in southern Kabul for special tasks, from "help" in political purges to fighting Gulbaddin Hekmatiyar.

In early December 1993, during a state visit to Pakistan, the Deputy Prime Minister of Afghanistan, Maulana Arsalan Rahmani, elaborated on Kabul's perception of the Islamist struggles world wide, and especially in south and central Asia. He hailed Afghanistan's active support for Islamist armed causes world wide and stressed that "we don't consider this support as intervention in any country's internal affairs." Maulana Arsalan Rahmani admitted that Afghanistan was providing military assistance to various insurgencies because "we cannot remain aloof from what is happening to the Muslims in occupied Kashmir, Tajikistan, Bosnia, Somalia, Burma, Palestine and elsewhere.... We are not terrorists but Mujahideen fighting for restoring peace and preserving honor."

He acknowledged that Afghanistan also played a major role in a recent major development among the Islamist organizations fighting in Indian Kashmir, namely, the merger of the Harakat ul-Jihad Islami and Harakat ul-Mujahideen into the potent Harakat ul-Ansar. This support for the unity was but part of the active support given by Afghanistan to the Islamist fighters in Kashmir, Tajikistan, and Bosnia. "There are about 8,000 members of Harakat ul-Ansar who are supporting the Kashmiri struggle against Indian occupation," Maulana Arsalan Rahmani stated.

In early 1995, the Harakat ul-Ansar was maintaining offices in most Pakistani cities, as well as training facilities in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It expanded its global reach in support for Islamist causes. "Ours is a truly international network of genuine Muslim holy warriors," explained Khalid Awan, a Pakistani member. "We believe frontiers could never divide Muslims. They are one nation and they will remain a single entity." Harakat ul-Ansar are known to be fighting in Kashmir, the Philippines, Bosnia, Tajikistan, and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the ISI continues to provide the terrorists with new weapons. In the summer of 1993 the Kashmiri Mujahideen were provided with long range and powerful missiles ~U air missiles of Afghan War vintage. At that time, the Kashmiri and ISI crews were being trained in the use of these missiles in Pakistani Kashmir.

Subsequently, there has been a marked expansion of smuggling of quality weapons from Pakistan into Kashmir as of late 1993. There has been a corresponding change in the terrorists' tactics, introducing hit and run strikes by highly trained and well equipped detachments. Among the new weapons now used in Kashmir are 107mm rockets, 60mm mortars, automatic grenade launchers (Soviet and Chinese models), modification of 57mm helicopter rocket pods with solar-powered sophisticated timing devise for delayed firing barrages of rockets, and LAW-type tube-launched ATMs (Soviet and Chinese models). A threshold was crossed in the spring of 1994, when the ISI began providing the Kashmiri Islamists with Stinger SAMs. Indian security forces captured a Stinger on 30 April 1994.

As of the fall of 1993, the Kashmiri terrorists also began using sophisticated communication systems including small radios (including systems with frequency hopping, selective broadcast, digital burst communications, etc.) and collapsible solar-panels for reload systems, as well as frequency scanning devise for detecting and homing on military-type broadcasting. All the communication systems are of NATO/US origin, with some components made in Japan.

All of these systems had been used by the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, having been provided via the ISI. There has been a large increase in the quantities of small arms provided to the Kashmiris, including Type 56 ARs (PRC AK-47s), several types of machine guns, long-range sniper rifles, pistols and RPGs, all of Soviet and Chinese makes. Some of the Kashmiri terrorist began carrying highly specialized weapons such as pen-guns for assassinations.

The ISI 'Afghan' and Kashmiri forces also assist the flow of weapons and expertise to the Sikhs in the Punjab. The main weapon depots for this new surge in subversion and terrorism are in Baramulla and Kupwara area of the Kashmir Valley, where ISI-trained Sikhs run the depot. In addition, there is a key depot for the Bhindranwale Tier Force of Khalistan in Singhpora. The source of these weapons are two Hizb-ul-Mujahideen officials known to the Sikhs as Al-Umar and Fiaz Ahead.

In early 1994, the ISI already had a force of 2,000-2,500 highly trained mujahideen assigned for Kashmir, including Kashmiris, Arab 'Afghans' and Afghans. The key force includes 1,000 Pakistani (inc. Pakistani-born Kashmiris), 500 Afghans, as well as numerous Saudis, Egyptians, Sudanese, Algerians, Nigerians, Jordanians, Palestinians and other foreign volunteers. Their main training bases are in Peerpanjal range area. By the spring of 1994, when the weather permitted the resumption of large-scale terrorist operations, the ISI controlled mujahideen, most of them non-Kashmiri 'Afghans', were already firmly in control of the escalation. Some of these ISI-mujahideen ultimately operated as the Al-Mujahideen Force, ostensibly a "Kashmiri grass-roots" force with allegiance to Sardar Abdul Qayum Khan.

In April-May alone, some 400 of these 'Afghans' were infiltrated into Kashmir. Shaykh Jamal-Uddin, an Afghan mujahid recently captured in Kashmir insists that the ISI-sponsored Islamist forces already in Indian Kashmir are larger. "There are several thousand Afghans/'Afghans' in the Valley," he stressed. The ISI-sponsored mujahideen operate mainly under the banners of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Harakat ul-Ansar. Several highly trained Afghans and Sudanese operatives were infiltrated into the Valley to assume command over key networks of these operations, as well as impose Islamism on the local population.

The summer of 1994 was a fundamental turning point in the conduct of the Pakistan-sponsored Jihad in Kashmir. The change did not take place on the battlefield. In order to ensure its tight dominance over all aspects of the escalating Islamist Jihad in Kashmir; Islamabad organized the 13 leading Islamist organizations into the United Jihad Council [Muttahida Jihad ('council - MJC] under the leadership of Commander Manzur Shah, the leader of Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, and under the tight control of the ISI. Among the member organizations: Harakat ul-Ansar, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, Al-Jihad, Al-Barq, Ikhrwan-ul-Mussalmin, Tariq-ul-Mujahideen, and all other Islamist militant organizations. The declared objective of the escalating Jihad is to join Pakistan.

In early June 1994, Commander Manzur Shah declared that the sole objective of the escalating Jihad in Kashmir is to incorporate it into Pakistan. "The declarations of all Kashmiri militant organizations have announced [that] Pakistan is their ideal and goal.... The freedom fighters will surrender [Kashmir] to the Pakistani military and government." Commander Manzur Shah stressed that "the Jihad has been getting stronger... The Mujahideen are getting organized now and are attacking the Indian militarystrategically." He admitted that Indian Kashmiri Muslim leaders were assassinated or attacked in order to prevent them from reaching an agreement with the Indian government. "Wali Mohammed would not have been assassinated and the caravans of Farooq [Abdullah] and Rajesh Pilot would not have been attacked if the climate was conducive to political action."

Meanwhile, a campaign of assassinations was launched in order to eliminate the Kashmiri civic leadership that opposed the escalation of the Jihad. On 20 June 1994, Islamist terrorists assassinated the Kashmiri scholar Qazi Nissar Ahmed. He was kidnapped a night before and pressured to endorse the anti-India Jihad. He refused and was killed. A key member of the assassination squad was Fayaz Ahmad Mir a.k.a. Abu-Bakr of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. Ahmed was the 17th Kashmiri Muslim scholar and civic leader to be assassinated by Islamists for refusing to join the anti-India struggle.

Thus, by the fall of 1994, the ISI was already successful in consolidating control over the Islamist armed struggle in Kashmir. The ISI can now ensure that key operations and major escalation in Kashmir will serve the strategic and political priorities and interests of Islamabad.

This marked escalation in the ISI's support for the Islamist insurgency and terrorism in Kashmir is a direct by-product of Pakistan's national security policy and grand strategy. Ms. Bhutto has repeatedly emphasized the centrality of the annexation of the entire Kashmir for the long-term development of Pakistan. The new rail-line that will connect Karachi and Central Asia must pass through Indian-held Kashmir to be engineeringly and economically effective. Ms. Bhutto's Islamabad considers the opening of the road to Central Asia by using Pakistan as the region's gateway to the Indian Ocean as the key to the growth of Pakistan's commercial activities. Kashmir is also Pakistan's true gateway to the PRC and into Central Asia -- the path of the new Silk Road. And there lies the future and strategic salvation of Pakistan.

Indeed, Islamabad expresses its support for "the liberation of Kashmir" in more than words. ISI support for Islamist terrorism and subversion in Kashmir continues to grow. In recent months, there has been a noticeable improvement in the professional skills of Islamist terrorists operating in Kashmir -- the result of the more thorough training received in ISI-run camps in Pakistan. The is also an increase in the deployment of high quality Afghans, Pakistani Kashmiris, and Arab 'Afghans' into Indian Kashmir in order to bolster the local terrorist organizations. Increasingly using sophisticated and heavy weapons recently supplied by the ISI in Pakistan, these expert terrorists carry out quality operations. The quality of the weapon systems available to the Kashmiri insurgents crossing over from Pakistan also continue to improve. Islamabad is fully aware of the extent of its active support for subversive operations inside India, and considers it a tenet of its regional security policy.

Pakistan knows that the active pursuit of the current Kashmir strategy may lead to an escalation of the face off with India. Islamabad is ready to deal with this eventuality while increasing its all out support for the Kashmir is. Indeed, Pakistani officials are raising the ante of Islamabad's Indian strategy. In mid February 1995, a Foreign Ministry spokesman warned that "if India carries out another aggression and war breaks out between Pakistan and India, it would not be a war of a thousand years or even a thousand hours but only a few minutes and India should not be oblivious to the potential devastation." (The "thousand year war" is a reference to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's statement ofthe extent of Pakistan's commitment to a struggle with India.) Other Pakistani officials were quick to clarify the statement. They stressed that the statement "warned India not by implication but in clear terms that the next war will only last a few seconds and will bring inconceivable destruction and devastation. This clearly indicates that the Pakistani Government has bravely displayed its nuclear capability." The officials added that "Pakistan is really in a position to strike a heavy blow against India through its nuclear capability."

What is most significant in both the spokesman's statement and the subsequent clarifications is their context. The strategic logic of using the nuclear factor to offset any deficiencies in conventional military power has been the cornerstone of Pakistan's nuclear strategy. Recently, a more assertive element was first introduced to the nuclear strategy by Islamist politicians. The overall Pakistani strategic confidence has been expressed in brinkmanship statements coming out of Islamabad since the fall of 1993. For example, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the Jamaat i-lslami Chief Senator, urged the Bhutto government "to declare Jihad on India to save Kashmir Muslims from total annihilation." There is no other way to resolve the crisis, he declared. "Let us wage Jihad for Kashmir. A nuclear-armed Pakistan would deter India from a wider conflict," he stressed. Thus, the statement of mid February 1995 confirms that the Bhutto Government has indeed adopted the strategy and policy outlined by the Islamists.

As the spring of 1995 draws near and the weather improves, the ISI is about to unleash a new cycle of terrorism and subversion. Considering the extent of the training, preparations, and organizational effort invested in the Kashmiri Islamist insurgency during the last few years, it is safe to assume that the fighting in the Kashmir will escalate markedly in the coming year. Numerous additional highly trained and well equipped Mujahideen, many of them professional special forces and terrorists, will join the fighting in Kashmir and will even expand the struggle into the rest of India. They already have in place extensive stockpiles of weapons as well as large sums of money to sustain and support their Jihad. Their primary mission, however, will not be the liberation of Kashmir but rather furthering the strategic interests of Islamabad and Teheran.
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