General Musharraf’s declaration of an end to violent jehad from Pak soil, his radical crackdown on madrassa-bred extremism and his ban on the Lashkar and Jaish will no doubt change the colour and complexion of Kashmir’s separatist movement. The only condition: he should survive till his policy starts showing results on the ground.
In fact, the immediate implication of Musharraf’s statement will most likely be an escalation of violence in the Valley. Both Lashkar and Jaish have substantial strength here and the ban may actually provoke a series of suicide attacks. The Lashkar said so in its first reaction today.
Unless the stand-off de-esclataes, there is a likelihood of an attack that could precipitate matters. A war is the only way for the jehadis to shift the focus. For, they know, that in the long run, it is extremely difficult to operate without the support of the Pak establishment.
The new policy, however, will also have an immediate effect: it will demoralise the jehadis and their supporters in Kashmir. The recruitment of boys to these groups will also decrease and thus slow down the process of their ‘‘indigenisation.’’
Lashkar runs a small radio station from PoK while the leadership of both Jaish and Lashkar control their Kashmir operations through a very strong communication network. This is likely to be severely affected. The most interesting aspect of Musharraf’s speech has been his silence on indigenous Kashmiri groups like the Hizbul Mujahideen.
This group is the only one which has both the infrastructure and support base inside Kashmir and Pakistan to sustain the militant movement.
Hizbul was solely responsible for keeping the militant movement alive during the mid ’90s when militancy was on the verge of collapse under severe pressure from security forces. This is when the jehadi forces were introduced.
There is one big question: What will happen to the Kashmiri activists of these banned Jihadi groups especially as there are more than 2,500 Kashmiri boys who have joined their ranks in the past one year alone? They might join the Hizbul and return to Kashmir as part of an indigenous outfit.
Although a staunch pro-Pak group, Hizbul is not as radical as Lashkar or Jaish. Its agenda does not transcend the ‘‘right of self-determination’’ to jehad and it does believe in dialogue as a means to resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
The Hizbul did attempt to initiate a peace process with New Delhi in August 2000 when it declared a unilateral ceasefire but was forced to abandon it after jehadi outfits opposed it—violently.
Musharraf’s speech could also lead to realignments in separatist politics. Many will ask if Kashmir is not jehad, what is it? The first fallout will be on the All Parties Hurriyat Conference where pro-Pak Islamists have always enjoyed an upper hand thanks to support from jehadi groups and the Pak establishment.
Now when Musharraf has declared himself an enemy of the jehadis, the power balance inside Hurriyat will shift towards moderates. It’s a common saying in Kashmir’s separatist politics, that ‘‘even God is on the side of those who enjoy the support of the Pakistani Government.’’
Published in KashmirLive of Indian Express