Pakistani secularists determined to abandon the Kashmiri struggle

Zafar Bangash

Muharram 22, 1422 2001-04-16

Special Reports

by Zafar Bangash (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 30, No. 4, Muharram, 1422)

That oppressors everywhere try to maintain the status quo by trying to delegitimize the struggle of those whom they are oppressing is understandable. After all, they do not want to lose the privileges and benefits that accrue to them as a result of occupation and aggression. This is as true in the Balkans and Chechnya as it is in Palestine and Kashmir; but what is one to make of those who are supposed to be supporting the oppressed and yet work to undermine their struggle?

This is increasingly the case in Pakistan, where the secular elites have launched a systematic campaign to undermine the jihad in Kashmir and discredit their supporters in Pakistan. The secularists are averse to anything Islamic; they are also obsessed with pleasing Uncle Sam, whatever he wants. That Uncle Sam is a hard customer to satisfy is ignored by these American-doting secularists. Why they are so keen to please America is also not clear, since Pakistani obeisance has only earned it greater humiliation. The secularists, it seems, are either naive or enemies of Pakistan, both of which should disqualify them from being anywhere near the decision-making process.

In the examples cited above — Chechnya, the Balkans, Palestine and Kashmir — the victims are all Muslims who are targeted as part of the west’s assault on Islam. While the Palestinians’ struggle has received considerable attention, even if much of it is unbalanced, the Kashmiris have been the victims of global indifference bordering on scandalous. This does not mean, however, that their struggle is any less important.

In recent years, as the two peoples — Palestinians and Kashmiris — have suffered increasing brutality, their tormentors have coordinated their policies against them. India-Israel military and intelligence collaboration is no longer a secret, yet Delhi continues to enjoy warm and cordial relations with most Muslim governments in the Middle East. This is tragic. Much worse, within Pakistan itself, the only country which has officially stated its “political and diplomatic support” for the Kashmiris, there are forces busy undermining the struggle in Kashmir and clamouring to ‘normalise’ relations with the murderers and rapists of the Kashmiris.

Some Pakistanis suffer from a curious state of schizophrenia: the country was created in the name of Islam — there is no other reason for its existence — yet its secular elites have taken it upon themselves to denigrate Islam and the struggle in Kashmir. Their own failure, which is so glaringly obvious that it needs no pointing out, is being used to undermine the Kashmiris’ just struggle, as if they were responsible for Pakistan’s plight. It is not uncommon in Pakistan to hear opinion-makers as well as some in the military establishment argue that Islamabad should forget about Kashmir and put its own house in order by establishing cordial relations with India. While no one can argue against putting Pakistan’s house in order, it is not Kashmir that is responsible for the mess; the corrupt and incompetent elites are. So instead of blaming the Kashmiris, the real culprits need to be put in the dock and taken to task.

The secularists call the Kashmir dispute “intractable” and, therefore, best left alone. To support this argument, they cite China’s Taiwan policy, which they claim has not prevented Beijing from maintaining good relations with its adversaries. That such an argument is fundamentally flawed is conveniently overlooked. No Chinese has been killed or raped in Taiwan, or indeed anywhere else in the world; the Kashmiris have suffered horribly at the hands of the Indian army of occupation. Besides, it is simplistic and naive to believe that India would leave Pakistan alone to develop as a rival power. China can afford not to engage its adversaries militarily because it is in a strong position and has managed to safeguard its interests well so far, notwithstanding the recent stand-off with America over the spy plane. Pakistan, on the other hand, has had to retreat again and again over the years, and now finds itself in such an unenviable position that even the United Nations is not prepared to deal with the matter (although Kashmir remains on the UN agenda and there are security council resolutions calling for a referendum to resolve the dispute). Last month, UN secretary general Kofi Annan pointedly refused to meet Kashmiri leaders while visiting Delhi, in order to avoid displeasing India.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in India has in fact played a duplicitous game over Kashmir. Faced with mounting desertions and demoralisation, Indian army leaders have urged the government to find a political solution to the problem. Last November, Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee announced a well-publicised ceasefire just before the start of Ramadan. The ceasefire did not stop the killing of Kashmiris (in the first 100 days of the ceasefire, 700 Kashmiris have been killed), but it gave India an opportunity to project itself as a “peacemaker.” Delhi has deliberately sabotaged peace efforts by refusing to hold talks with Pakistan, and has even slammed the door in the face of Kashmiri leaders, who have been awaiting permission for five months to travel to Pakistan for discussions.

Instead, Delhi has put forward humiliating conditions for a dialogue with Pakistan, the most ridiculous of which is that the struggle in Kashmir must first cease and that Pakistan must stop what it calls “cross-border terrorism.” It needs recalling that India has been forced to acknowledge, albeit elliptically, that Kashmir is disputed, only because of the mujahideen’s struggle and the sacrifices of the people in Kashmir. To end this uprising would be tantamount to committing political suicide, yet the Pakistani secularists have become willing tools in this vicious propaganda game to delegitimize the Kashmiri struggle. The morally-bankrupt secularists who have never made any sacrifice, who would rather drink whisky with their Indian counterparts during sessions of poetry than worry about Kashmiri women being raped in a distant land: for these people, rape may be a crime but condoning and ignoring it isn’t; a raped woman in Kashmir is no worse off than a raped woman in Pakistan (for instance), so what’s the big deal, is their attitude.

Their moral turpitude aside, the secularists have started to blame groups supporting the jihad in Kashmir for all of Pakistan’s ills. They and their children would rather enjoy themselves in the nightclubs of Europe and America than worry about the suffering of the Kashmiris. Even worse, the children of the poor who are giving their lives in support of the struggle in Kashmir are being accused of undermining Pakistan.

It appears that even the regime has joined this propaganda war at the behest of the US. In recent weeks, senior government officials have given orders to curtail and even ban the activities of the jihadi groups and their supporting organizations. On the occasion of Eid al-Adha, for instance, the jihadi organisations were forbidden to collect the hides of sacrificial animals, a routine activity in the past. What were the rulers so scared of? It was not their own hides that were being collected. By undermining the jihadi groups, the government is fulfilling India’s and America’s agenda, a move that will also damage Pakistan’s own interests.

It is clear that only the struggle of the past 12 years has forced the Kashmir issue to the forefront of the Indo-Pakistan agenda. This is the result of the great sacrifices of the mujahideen, both within and outside Kashmir. For 40 years before that, India ignored the issue; even now it would do so if it could. So why is Islamabad so anxious to facilitate India’s policy objectives, instead of pursuing its own interests? One must also remember that Uncle Sam is hard to please. Abandoning the legitimate struggle of the Kasmiris is not going to bring any respite from America’s demanding and demeaning ways; Uncle Sam will find more reasons to exert pressure and demand acquiescence to other policies. The honourable thing is to say “no, thank you.”

It is far safer to be America’s enemy than to be its friend, in the words of Henry Kissinger. Let that be a lesson for all would-be do-gooders in Pakistan.

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