On May 10, RajaFarooq Haider Khan, Prime Minister Azad Jammu and Kashmir, wriggled out of his commitment to chair a seminar. The seminar was convened to discuss the veracity of the claims by the former foreign minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri in 2007, that by March 2007, a compromise on Kashmir was around the corner. Barrister A. Majid Tramboo, Kashmir Centre Brussels and Prof Nazeer Shaal were among the participants. Almost two dozen coordination phone calls and physical checks of the venue had preceded the event. At one stage Khan’s personal staff conveyed that the premier would be there within ten minutes. But those ten minutes turned into an eternity.
As it turned out later, the AJK Prime Minister skipped the event because Pakistan’s Chief Secretary for Kashmir – who is as dreaded by the Kashmir government as probably the COAS is by the armed forces – had showed up for a meeting.
This small anecdote explains the volatility of the independent state called AJK. This also sheds light on how Kashmiri leaders are at the mercy of the Pakistani authorities, illustrated by the government’s direct meddling in AJK’s recent judicial crisis.
Perhaps Raja Farooq Haider Khan may have been absent at the Kashmir seminar also because most of the participants attending the event, including representatives of different factions of the All Hurriyat Party Congress (APHC) as well as those from Kashmir Centre Brussels, are considered extensions of the national security establishment. Kashmir observers say that various Kashmir-related organizations based in various parts of Europe and North America liaise with the Pakistani authorities for guidance and coordination.
Did the AJK Prime Minister then attempt to stay away from a meeting packed with what he thought was a pro-establishment crowd? Probably not. Even premier Khan and his party – the Muslim Conference – had been an important element in Pakistan’s war for Kashmir, maintaining close contacts with the security establishment, as close as the links between the security establishment and some sixteen Kashmir-focused militant organizations that used to work under the United Jihad Council (UJC).
The relationship between the security establishment and the UJC permitted the UJC to maintain offices and camps not only in Kashmir but also elsewhere. Lashkar-e-Taiba was not part of the UJC, but it coordinated with the Council on matters of political policy. In fact, Washington and New Delhi claim Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the successor of the LeT that was banned on 12 January 2002, and Jaish-e-Mohammad act as the first line of defence for Pakistan’s security apparatus. Many US and British publications report that over 1500 religious seminaries and mosques are being run by these two Kashmir-focused organizations across Pakistan. Kashmir’s future – the fight for self-determination – provides these organizations with a cover that is hard to remove. These outfits illustrate the model of cost-effective militant activity for a specific purpose. This military-militant nexus peaked in the 1990s but has shrunk considerably after General Musharraf’s assurances to Richard Armitage, the US Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005, to ban the proliferation of militant camps.
Recently, a former Musharraf aide admitted that incessant US pressure resulted in a scaling down of cross-border Jihadi operations and militants were told to refrain from violating the Line of Control because of unusual US satellite surveillance. Yet the security establishment kept “managing” some of the groups because “they were human beings and could not be dumped overnight”.
Popular rhetoric and lobbying by Hafiz Saeed and Jamaat-ud-Dawa on Pakistan’s water and current trans-border issues, comes across more as a ploy that suits the hawks within Pakistan. This particularly appeases those who believe the Kashmir issue is related to water and not territory. Increasingly, the policy of using Jihadi outfits to implement this tactical approach – rooted in the desire to deliver a thousands cuts to India – has boomeranged and resulted in monumental strategic losses to Pakistan and bled it profusely. This warrants a total but gradual divorce from the establishment’s doctrine of a cost-effective way of holding India back.
This approach in the current international context and in view of Pakistan’s ever-growing economic problems has outlived its utility and has compounded political and economic problems for the country. The sooner the better, as international tolerance for such adventures is waning.