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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 25 New Delhi June 9, 2018

Pak moves Separatist Pawn on the Indo-Pak Chessboard

Sunday 10 June 2018

by M.M. Khajooria

The separatist trio—Geelani, Mirwaiz and Yasin Malik—have sprung bit of a surprise by announcing their willingness to negotiate with the Central Government. This significantly but not surprisingly coincides with the agreement between the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan to “fully implement” the ceasefire pact of 2003 in “letter and spirit” forthwith to stop cross-border firings in Jammu and Kashmir. It may be noted that the Special Hot Line contact was initiated by the Pakistan Pak Army’s DGMO.

The ceasefire will bring relief and solace to thousands of families residing on both sides of the Loc/IB. It should therefore be welcomed though with cautious optimism and without slackening operational vigilance and preparedness.. But will this help ease the internal situation and bring down the terror temperature? What about the intent and capability of the separatist leadership who are an important component of the Pak ISI-Wahabi network?

It will be the height of naivety to assume that with the implementation of ceasefire, terrorist operations under the cover of “struggle for freedom” will be terminated.. It would be safe to assume that the Pak ISI-Wahabi/Jihadi combine would have ensured that the required manpower and weaponry etc. are available within the State to maintain and enhance the current level of the “struggle for independence”. Training and indoctrination facilities for local recruits would have already been placed on ground with the requisite wherewithal. Moreover, trained terrorists and commanders will continue to be pushed across the LOC/IB though at a much restricted scale. The situation therefore requires that:

1. We observe the ceasefire as agreed but be in full preparedness to instantly respond to any deviation by the enemy.

2. Deepen intelligence reach across to abort and counter any surprise move.

3. Strengthen border defenses especially on the unfenced LOC/IB.

4. Sensitise place “filters” in the hinterland on highest alert to quickly trap any infiltrator who manages to sneak in.

5. Motivate and involve the border population to assist the security forces in maintaining vigilance on the borders as well as our contiguous area. Constitute/ revamp Village Defence Committees hooked into the Security Grid.

6. Mount extreme vigilance over normal modes of road and air transport for infiltration of trained commanders and smuggling of funds for separatist and terrorist outfits.

The role of the separatist leadership in the emerging situation to negotiate with New Delhi has to be viewed in the context of their status as extension of the Pak ISI-Wahabi/Jihadi nexus and the clout and moral authority they enjoy over the Kashmiri Muslim youth. It has also to be remembered that all of them—Geelani, Mirwaiz, Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah to cite the most prominent—shamelessly mortgaged their political conscience to Islamabad in the pre-Burhan Wani phase under threat of extermination. Thus they forfeited even a semblance of the moral authority by publicly discarding long held and publicly declared political stands on the so-called “Kashmir issue”. As a matter of fact their influence over the youth was subject to diminishing returns since quite sometime.

The 2008 stone-pelting phase can be flagged as the beginning of the open revolt of the “radicalised youth” against the traditional separatist leadership and their tactics. It was then that for the first time ever, a group of masked stone-pelters held a press conference in downtown Srinagar city. These masked young men had suddenly appeared from nowhere soon after the burial of Wamiq in Srinagar’s Martyrs Graveyard. They ridiculed the Hurriyat for calling for only one-day’s Hartal on Tuesday over the death of the 13-year-old Wamiq

Farooq in police action and unilaterally resolved to extend it for several days. They matched their words with deeds. From Anantnag to Baramulla, the entire Valley was taken over by the stone-pelting mobs paralysing the transport and throwing the entire life out-of-gear. This is what they had to say: “No more Hurriyat leaders. We won’t listen to them. They are agents. It is our stone-pelting that has resurrected the movement. We will have our own Hartal programme and enforce it on our own.” This was not an isolated incident. When on the following day Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq led a procession through the downtown city, the youth were not enthusiastic at all. In fact, when Mirwaiz said that Hurriyat will chart a protest programme over the ongoing atrocities, many in the audience were heard saying: “So, Mirwaiz has yet to formulate a programme. There is no need now. We know how to carry on the struggle without them (separatist leaders).”

Since then the emergence of ISIS and open threats to Syed Ali Shah Geelani and other separatist leaders by Zakir Musa, ironically supported by the son of Ayisha Andrabi, has further diluted their stature. The money-laundering cases have lowered them in the estimation of the common man. The condemnation of stone-pelting on a school bus at Batpura, Shopian on Wednesday, May 2, seriously injuring a class 2 student, eight-year old Rehan Ahmed Gorsi, who had to be shifted to SKIMS, Soura, Srinagar by both Geelani and Mirwaiz, patrons of the stone-pelting brigade was contemptuously brushed aside. This demonstrated their escalating irrelevance.

Weakening of their hold notwithstanding, it would be appropriate to engage Geelani and Mirwaiz albeit less enthusiastically for two reasons. One, they are big names and have important projection on the national and international scenes. Ironically, successive governments in Delhi and Srinagar have significantly contributed to their being placed on that high pedestal. Two, in the current Kashmir terrorist scenario where “radical” elements call the shots at the grassroot level they emerge as the lesser evil. Moreover, the conflict of interest between the two streams is bound to become more intense as the negotiations get underway. It should be hoped that our people will factor this critical element into their strategic formulations.

This internal dimension is, obviously, parented to the external dimension of broader complex Indo-Pak relations including defence, diplomacy, commerce, cultural affairs and “people-to-people contact”. More about this later.

The author is the Chairman, J&K Ex-Policemen’s League.

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