While speculation continues about the reasons for a ceasefire between India and Pakistan at the Line of Control, terrorist groups like the Hizbul Mujahideen, their two bit buddies, and their friends across the border, have all reacted with dismay at the ceasefire. As well they might.
Without the varied and certain assistance that they have taken for granted for years, they will find the going very hard indeed.
An end to that is far from certain, and as the Head of the vital Srinagar-based 15 Corps put it, the Army intends to put in place a solid counter infiltration grid, in a trust-but-verify mode. Outfits operating here are clearly in shock.
Geelani Writes a Letter
Syed Ali Shah Geelani has penned a letter where he refers to India’s “5 August aggression" and recalls the promise made by Islamabad that there would be no dialogue till this is rolled back.
His fear is that the whole would be reversed to the days of the Shimla Agreement to make Kashmir once again a ‘border dispute’ rather than the fate of '22 million’ people. Given that the Shimla Agreement did actually aim for both sides resolving disputes peacefully, that’s rather ironic.
Besides, given that the total population of the Valley is about 6.9 million, of which realistically less than a quarter could be said to even marginally support his assertions, the letter seems to point to a fear of being completely sidelined if the conflict subsides; this after years of being given top status and millions in cash.
The Hizbul Is Upset
Then, there are the fulminations of Md Yusuf Shah, alias Syed Salahuddin, chief of Hizbul Mujahideen and head of the so-called United Jehad Council, which were recently aired in an audio message.
In it he ascribes Pakistani difficulties with the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the threat of being put on a ‘gray list’ as behind their giving way on Kashmir. He bewails the ceasefire imposed, and promises that the very last Kashmiri will continue to stand for the cause.
That’s easy for him to say, sitting in a safe house near Islamabad. To be sure, he did face an attack last year that left him injured, but that doesn’t seem to have dampened his enthusiasm.
His hometown of Soibugh continues to remain a nerve centre of violence, which testifies to the network he still has access to, including overground workers – a force that is used to carry messages, weapons, and distribute money, and who are paid well for their pains.
His alma mater, the Jamaat-e-Islami, seems to be on the same page. At a joint conference in Masoor, it accused Pakistan of paying “lip service” to the Kashmir issue, something it should have known for decades when its cadres were being used to foment violence together with a certain political party.
Promises of Jihad
Furthermore, there are smaller groups, ostensibly allied to big names like al Qaeda or the Islamic State.
For instance, a group that calls itself the Mujahideen Ghazwat-ul-Hind, which positioned itself as Al Qaeda’s off shoot in Kashmir. The Al Qaeda mouthpiece even claimed it as their own, acknowledging a civil engineering student Zakir Musa as its leader. Given that it was in actuality a breakaway faction of the Hizbul, and held only pockets of influence, it suffered heavy casualties.
Clearly, it still retains a presence, with a surprisingly well-written letter signed by a Commander “Khalid”, that acknowledges international relations theory by asserting that nation states act on self-interest alone.
Nonetheless, he promises that despite the ‘backstabbing’ by Pakistan, the group will wreck vengeance on this ‘unholy agreement’, and continue jihad. This assumes that the group expects to receive continued funding.
The recent attack against the son of the owner of a popular eatery was claimed by the Muslim Janbaz Force, a group that was virtually derelict and now functions alongside or as a nom de guerre of the Terrorist Resistance Front (TRF) which was launched after the setting aside of Article 370.
Intelligence sources see this as a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba, with three top handlers incharge.
The TRF has been in the forefront of attacks on the BJP cadres in the Valley, scoring some successes with grenade attacks.
Another is the People’s Anti Fascist Front (PAFF) which is also of recent date.
A group calling itself the Lashkar-e-Mustafa was involved in bank robberies and other crimes, but its chief was arrested recently and was promptly denounced by the Pakistan-based United Jihad Council (UJC).
These small groups are likely to resort to more crime if funding dries up. But that’s a big if.
The whole point of creating these small local groups is to prop them up as ‘local resistance movements’ that serve Pakistan’s cause better dead than alive. Funerals of young men are the stuff for propaganda. Alive, he’s just another number.
The Sponsor’s Media
Back in Pakistan, the right-wing media like the Daily Ausaf are doing their best to portray India as being under pressure, due to Trump losing the elections, and warning that Delhi will push in retired army of men, criminals, and others into Kashmir to change the demography.
Daily Pakistan is pointing to the suicides of two Armymen as signs of the Army’s morale ebbing under pressure. TV channels echoed the same sentiment of impending demographic change, with, however, a dig at Pakistan’s leadership on why they agreed to a ceasefire despite its high profile “dossier’ on India-backed terrorism that it had boasted so loudly about.
Pakistani officials, like Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, are terming the ceasefire as “important progress”, a massive step away from the venom of ‘Kashmir Day’, and a year of calling India and its leadership fascists, among other colorful names. Meanwhile, the Jaish, the Lashkar, and the several dozens of other groups involved in Kashmir are keeping unusually quiet.
Clearly, there is a fear that while the bread is still available, the butter may have to wait. But it is early days yet, and there are far too many parties interested in ensuring that the ceasefire fails.
That includes those making money on the ground from terrorism, the smugglers, the small-time crooks, and the militant groups themselves, both here and in Pakistan.
Expect a large attack sometime soon. Or at least an attempt at one.
Meanwhile, trust-but-verify holds. After all, not a single terrorist camp has yet been shut down across the LoC, so its really waiting time. Delhi had better use it to get its act together, and quickly. There’s a definite spike in terrorist recruitment. Nothings over yet, and not likely to be for a long while. Pakistan knows this. That’s its ace in the hole.
(Dr Tara Kartha was Director, National Security Council Secretariat. She is now a Distinguished Fellow at IPCS. She tweets at @kartha_tara. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for them.)
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