By Farhana Mohamed Khan, Ph.D.
It was inevitable. India did exploit the current war on terrorism by using it as a devise to get even with Pakistan. While the December 13 terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament was a reprehensible act, India stubbornly refused to provide concrete evidence or assist in an independent inquiry to substantiate if specific organizations or individuals behind the attack were based in Pakistan. On the other hand the Pakistani government, on its own initiative, diligently apprehended several individuals of extremist organizations who might have acted on their own. However, it appears that this incident has instilled a war hysteria in the entire Indian nation. From the common man in Jammu to an urbanite in New Delhi, the war rhetoric is in the air combined with grandiose ambitions to annihilate Pakistan. For instance, one Indian news analyst wrote that in case of a nuclear war India would be the ultimate victor because “only” 140 million Indian population will be wiped out compared to the whole of the Pakistani nation.
The rapid unfolding of recent events has cleared all the doubts - if any - that India never accepted the existence of Pakistan. While the current extremist power brokers in New Delhi can be blamed for being the first to test nuclear weapons to bully Pakistan and for the systematic harassment of minorities in secular India, the previous “moderate” Indian rulers were no different in their hegemonic designs and hatred for Pakistan. During the Congress Rule, India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974, and mainly due to the ruthless military meddling by New Delhi, Pakistan lost its Eastern Wing in 1971.
The rapid mobilization of Indian troops alongside the Pakistani borders and the Line of Control is manifestation that India considers Pakistan as an impediment to establish itself as one of the major international powers. With Pakistan playing the frontline state role in the current war on terrorism, India’s hopes to totally alienate and cripple Pakistan under economic and military sanctions have been dashed. India also became increasingly frustrated and uncomfortable with the new importance being accorded to Pakistan as the result of its courageous and righteous anti-terrorist stance.
The other dangerous ambition of India is to hijack the indigenous Kashmiri freedom struggle as a fringe foreign revolt waged by cross-border terrorists. Granted, there have been some incidents of terrorist attacks on civilians - the movement mostly targets the brutal Indian Security Forces and is being spearheaded by the moderate All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) - an umbrella organization of 14 indigenous Kashmiri political parties. With APHC’s popular lobbying, the Kashmiri voter turnout in Indian- sponsored elections is never more than 10%. It is India that has subjected Kashmiris to horrendous atrocities - especially since the 1989 uprising - under the iron-fist control of 700,000 security forces in the Indian-Occupied Kashmir. So far almost 75,000 lives, mostly of civilians, have been lost by the brutal paramilitary action in Kashmir. India has also blatantly refused to address Kashmiri aspirations of plebiscite under the UN Security Council Resolutions of 1948 and 1950.
In August 1993, the Los Angeles Times, in a Column One article and area maps, showed Kashmir a “disputed territory wrongfully claimed by India” and called the brutal crackdown of uprising in Kashmir by the Indian Army as “one of the world’s dirtiest wars in one of the most spectacular settings.” Barbara Crossette, Senior Editor, New York Times and author, said that Kashmiri freedom movement was not an Islamic fundamentalist movement but basically a human rights issue (Pakistan Link, September 3, 1993). She described the onset of Kashmiri uprising of 1989 as a result of general alienation and disenchantment of Kashmiris due to lack of opportunities for the Kashmiri youths, corruption, open rigging of elections of 1987, and the dominance of Kashmiri Pundits in government jobs.
Pakistan cannot be held responsible for the sporadic but condemnable acts of terrorism on the Indian soil because it has also suffered immensely from the imported militant fundamentalism as a result of the aftermath of Soviet withdrawal in 1989. The United States armed the local and foreign freedom fighters in Afghanistan during its war against the Red Soviet Army from 1979 to 1988 but then abruptly abandoned the fighters and the impoverished Afghan nation after its interests were realized. The disenchanted fighters (now termed terrorists) then recruited more guerrillas and regrouped in Afghanistan and the North West borders of Pakistan. The Talibinization of Afghanistan by the United States and Pakistan in 1996 to curb violence and mayhem also backfired with parts of Pakistan becoming reluctant breeding ground for bloody sectarian violence and imported terrorism. Consequently during the nineties, instead of the resolving the core issue, the US unjustly penalized Pakistan by labeling it as a state likely to sponsor terrorism.
Pakistan began its efforts in 1993 to crack down on terrorists when hundreds of the former Mujahideen were apprehended and some extradited to Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. The US National Commission on Terrorism in June 2000 acknowledged Pakistan’s cooperation to curb terrorism with its extradition of the 1993 World Trade Center mastermind Ramzi Ahmed Yousef and playing an important role in intercepting the “millennium” terrorist attacks. Since September 11 Pakistan has become the first major Muslim state to offer unstinted cooperation in the International Coalition’s fight against terrorism and also taken concrete steps to curb terrorism on its soil. In December, Pakistan froze the accounts of two militant organizations, put the leaders of Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LET) under house arrest, and prompted Harkat-ul-Mujahideen to move its offices out of Pakistan. The Madrassahs (religious boarding schools) for boys are now under government control and steps are being taken to make their curricula broad based.
Thus India cannot hijack a legitimate freedom movement under the guise of deeming it terrorist. As Pakistani President Pervez Musharraff summed it up on January 5, “Pakistan is determined to eliminate terrorism,” but, “it is equally important that a distinction is maintained between the acts of legitimate resistance and freedom struggles on the one hand and acts of terrorism on the other.”