The ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ Charade
Though Pakistan has been observing 5th February as ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ ever since 1990, this event hasn’t attracted any significant response from the international community. But this year Bangladesh chose to react and it did so with full fury. When asked by a journalist to comment on the this event organised by the Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka, Bangladesh Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu replied, “the Pakistani rulers’ empathy for Kashmir is in fact nothing but crocodile tears.” Not only this, Inu went on to say that Pakistan had a history of oppressing ethnic groups and so, before talking about Kashmir, Islamabad needed to apologise for the 1971 genocide committed by its army in erstwhile East Pakistan.
Bitter memories of this carnage may have prompted Inu to make these remarks but he is not the only one who has assailed Islamabad’s dubious role in Kashmir. Involvement of Pakistan army in sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir has been condemned by many countries and is so visible that even high ranking Pakistan army officers and militant commanders have no hesitation in openly talk about it. For example, former Pakistan Army Chief Gen Pervez Musharraf has explicitly admitted on several occasions that it was the Pakistan Army that created militant groups to fight in Kashmir. Then there is Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin who also heads an umbrella organisation comprising thirteen militant groups operating in Kashmir called United Jihad Council (UJC) owning up that his militants are actually fighting “Pakistan’s war in Kashmir.”
In its recently released report titled ‘A New US Approach to Pakistan: Enforcing Aid Conditions without Cutting Ties’, a group of eminent South Asian experts from ten renowned American think tanks has also made similar revelations and a few of these are –
o Pakistan perceives India as an existential threat and due to this obsession uses terrorist groups as part of its security and foreign policy.
o Pakistan’s military has often disrupted nascent peace efforts pursued by Indian and Pakistani civilian rulers and Pakistan-backed militants have acted as spoilers numerous times when Indo-Pak ties seemed to be warming.
o In an effort to keep New Delhi off balance and to draw international mediation into Pakistan’s dispute with India over Kashmir, the Pakistani Army continues to support terrorist groups that attack India.
Though what this study group has brought out is nothing new, but it nevertheless brings the focus back on how the Pakistan army is furthering its own agenda at the cost of Kashmir and its people. Every entity, be it the UN, international community or for that matter even the Government of Pakistan and the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), unanimously agree that the Kashmir tangle can only be resolved through Indo-Pak dialogue. Yet, every time there is a thaw in Indo-Pak relations and the atmosphere becomes conducive for talks, there is a sudden escalation of ceasefire violations along the Line of Control as well as major terror strikes on Indian soil. This obviously vitiates the diplomatic environment and negates the possibility of any bilateral
Whenever this happens, Islamabad promptly accuses New Delhi of using the “bogey of terrorism” to avoid talks and at times even absurd theories like New Delhi orchestrating terrorist attacks against its own people just to derail the Indo-Pak dialogue process have been floated. But the reality is not hidden from the world and that is why not a single nation (except Pakistan) has accused New Delhi of shying away from talks or creating hurdles to prevent dialogue. While Islamabad hasn’t been able to come up with any convincing reasoning to substantiate its allegations, the Pakistan army’s interest in ensuring that Indo-Pak relations don’t normalise can easily be explained.
Over the years Pakistan Army has created the public perception that a “Hindu India” is its existential enemy and it is only because of the army that Pakistan still survives. Taken-in by its glib talk, the people don’t mind the army’s playing its “good terrorist” game even though it has pulled Pakistan into a morass of violence due to the emergence of ‘home grown’ terror. In fact the people of Pakistan are so enamoured with the army that they don’t even mind the army chief ‘remote-controlling’ the government. The Pakistan army knows that the moment Indo-Pak relations normalise, the script of India’s hegemonistic designs on Pakistan that it has so painstakingly scripted will fall apart and once this happens, the immense power and extra-constitutional authority that the army wields will come to an end!
It is not that only the army has its own vested interests. The government of Pakistan also has its own motivated considerations that compel it to avoid any serious dialogue on Kashmir. Right since its creation, successive governments in Pakistan have used Kashmir as a tool for whipping up public emotions for diverting attention from internal issues and for electoral gains. But while it continues to base its case on the premise that Kashmir is a “disputed territory,” Islamabad knows that its stand is weak. It is aware that by ceding part of Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) to China it has wrecked its own argument because a claimant cannot dispose- off something that is disputed just because it is in his possession. Furthermore, if Kashmir is ‘disputed territory’ then construction of the CPEC through it without approval of the other party to this dispute (India) is outrightly illegal!
But things don’t end here. While politicians and Generals have complicated resolution of the Kashmir issue by making it a symbol of nationalism , ‘non state’ actors like Lashkar-e-Toiba founder Hafiz Saeed and UJC chief Syed Salahuddin whom the army patronises have further aggravated the situation by adding a religious dimension and declaring ‘jihad’ (holy war) for ‘liberation’ of Kashmir. Pakistan is resultantly caught in the web of its own making. On the one hand we have Islamabad officially maintaining that it is committed to peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue through dialogue. On the other hand one finds ‘non state’ actors who have the backing of the powerful Pakistan army openly rejecting the government’s approach and propagating ‘jihad’ to ‘liberate’ Kashmir!
Observing ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ may enthrall the people of Kashmir and raise their hopes but such theatrics will not help in resolving the Kashmir problem; Indo-Pak dialogue is the only way to permanently settle this issue. Therefore while Islamabad may be trying to exhibit its ‘concern’ for the people of Kashmir by observing ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’, but if this concern is genuine then Islamabad needs to rein-in Pakistan based terrorist groups so that an atmosphere conducive to bilateral dialogue is created. Similarly, if terror groups are actually waging ‘jihad’ for the rights of Kashmiris as they claim and not “fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir,” then they should have no inhibitions in suspending the same for the sake of Kashmiris.
But if the intention of the Pakistan government and its army is only to use the Kashmir bogey for furthering self- serving agendas, then in addition to ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ many more other such distractions will be required to keep the pro-Pakistan camp of Kashmir in good humour!