So they are terrorists now? By Dr Shabir Choudhry

13 10 2008

Source: pakistan christian post
When a head of state makes a statement it is regarded as an official policy of the country; and now it is official that Kashmiri struggle is ‘terrorism’ and all those associated with it, including leaders of APHC are ‘terrorists’, claims President of Islamic republic of Pakistan, Asif Zardari.

It is different matter that Pakistani establishment has hitherto projected leaders of the APHC as ‘holy cows’, which must not be criticised or opposed; if anything they must be respected and followed. Asif Zardari might have had his reasons and compulsions when giving this very bold interview to very prestigious newspaper Wall Street Journal.

But compulsions and requirements of powerful military and ISI, which is known as state within state, could be different from that of Asif Zardari; and it remains to be seen if they will accept this doctrine or will continue their old policies of supporting, training and promoting ‘jihad’ and militancy. It is not secret anymore that it was their considered policy to ‘keep India bleeding’ and to ‘keep India engaged’ or bogged down in Jammu and Kashmir; and that time it was perceived as in the best interest of Pakistan.

Nations best interests do change with time, but question is since when Pakistan has become a nation? Where and when they have discussed and reached a consensus that so and so policy is in the best national interest? There have always been forces within Pakistan competing against each other and undermining national interest. Policy of ‘adhocism’ always prevailed there with no system of check and balance or any kind of accountability or transparency.

My colleagues and I were fiercely attacked and a malicious campaign against us was launched with help of Pakistani agencies some years ago because we refused to accept the APHC as representative of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and demanded politics of accountability and transparency. We criticised role of these leaders and not only refused to follow them but also questioned about their sincerity, legitimacy and action plan for the Kashmiri struggle.

This vicious campaign was initiated against us because we challenged those who were puppets of the Pakistani establishment and were protecting and advancing ‘interest’ of Pakistani establishment. We stood our ground and claimed that the policy of communalising Kashmiri polity with violence, hatred and extremism will ultimately hurt people of Jammu and Kashmir; and might destabilise the Pakistani society as well.

When bombs were exploding outside the borders of Pakistan it was promoted as a ‘Jihad’ by Pakistani establishment and media because they were behind all this; and mosques and their imams and other Islamic organisations were urged to preach this ‘jihad’ and recruit people for waging it outside borders of Pakistan. For this ‘noble cause of jihad’ millions of dollars were spent and huge network was established.

We opposed this kind of ‘Jihad’ because it was a ‘proxy war’ of Pakistan presented to people of Jammu and Kashmir and the world at large as a Kashmiri struggle; also because it immensely increased suffering and problems of the people and unleashed forces of communalism, terrorism, extremism and hatred.

Asif Zardari has turned decades of Pakistani policy on its head; and it sent shock waves not only to the Pakistani establishment but also in many quarters around the world. It also shocked some Kashmiris as they still thought Pakistan was sincere with the cause of Kashmir; and in frustration and anger they burnt effigy of Asif Zardari.

Apart from the above U turn, he boldly claimed, “India has never been a threat to Pakistan”. That statement in practise means that it is always Pakistani military, which initiated wars with India and caused death and destruction of thousands of people in wars of 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999, and not to mention proxy wars. Similar views have been expressed by some Pakistani writers, and Asif Zardari’s statement is supporting that view point, no matter if Pakistan’s strong establishment and military likes it or not.

In line with tradition of Pakistani politics the Pakistani government and members of establishment tried to limit the damage by saying that Zardari Sahib didn’t say that. But the fact is he did say it and no one is taking explanations of Ms Shery Rehman seriously. If he really has not said it then why doesn’t he sue Wall Street Journal? It is clear that he won’t because he has no legs to stand. He knows that the interviews of this kind are recorded and could be produced in the court.

Also Asif Zardari stunned everyone by acknowledging that the USA has permission to attack and kill militants and terrorists inside Pakistan. Of course with every strike more and more civilian are killed and maimed. Previously all government leaders were yelling that they will not allow any country to attack Pakistan or undermine its sovereignty. One wonders where they stand after this revelation. Either there was total lack of coordination, consultation and understanding among different branches of the government and rulers, or they were issuing these statements for public consumption knowing full well that they were wrong and didn’t mean anything.

However crucial question for people of Jammu and Kashmir is can they rely on Pakistan anymore? A government or rulers who feel no shame in killing their own people with F16 fighters, helicopter gun – ships, tanks and bombs even in holy month of Ramadan, will they spare us Kashmiris when and if we demanded and took certain measure that we want Pakistan to leave from Azad Kashmir and Gilgit and Baltistan. One has to remember that despite virtual collapse of system because of militancy in 1990, killings, destruction and human rights abuse on the Indian side of the divide the authorities there did not use tanks or jet fighters to eliminate militants.

Moreover a government or rulers who give permission to foreign powers to violate Pakistani sovereignty, cross over to Pakistani territory and use their lethal weapons to kill people and destroy their properties, can we trust these rulers? Killing militants or Terrorists is one thing, but killing of innocent people men, women and children who are generally killed in these attacks cannot be condoned; and it is not proper to cover all these atrocities under the umbrella of ‘collateral damage’.

One can agree that extremists and terrorists are threat to every civilised society, but there must be unity of thought and action on this. You cannot pick and choose in this matter, and say that one kind of terrorism is justified because it furthers ‘our national interest’ or strategic policy; and the other kind of terrorism is wrong as it hurts us and directly challenges ‘our national interest’, writ of government and strategic policy.

If violence and terrorism is wrong in Pakistan then it is also wrong in Jammu and Kashmir, and appropriate measures need to be taken in order to stop and contain terrorism. Government of Pakistan and its agencies must abandon its old policies and stop supporting those who have been actively and deliberately promoting violence in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere.

Also government of India and Pakistan must not give undue importance to those who took part in violence and have been promoting it for so many years, as that is tantamount to rewarding their past violent or ‘terrorist actions’. Both governments stop human rights abuse in their respective parts of the State and support those forces who believe in non military solution of the Kashmir dispute; those forces who promote liberal and democratic politics and rule of law.

*Writer is a Spokesman of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.

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