November 2, 2008 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 472

The Re-Emergence of Kashmir as a Jihadist Battleground

November 2, 2008 | By Tufail Ahmad*
Pakistan, , , India | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 472


During the summer of 2008, a small land dispute in India's Jammu and Kashmir state snowballed into a popular Kashmiri movement for independence from India, with the secessionist movement's dominant leadership cultivating the ground for Islamic rule and steering the people in the direction of aligning the Indian Kashmir with Pakistan.

At the time of India's partition in 1947, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was an autonomous territory inhabited predominantly by Muslims, but ruled by a Hindu king. Shortly thereafter, irregulars from the armed forces of the newly created Pakistan marched into Kashmir, hoping to gain the Muslim population's support and unseat the Hindu king, Hari Singh. Hari Singh turned to India for military aid to repel the Pakistan Army irregulars. The Indian government agreed to provide military aid only after the king signed an "instrument of accession" to India, following which Indian troops arrived in Jammu and Kashmir, halting the advance of the Pakistani irregulars.

Following a ceasefire, part of Jammu and Kashmir remained under the control of Pakistan and the other part remained under the control of India. The state of Jammu and Kashmir can be broadly categorized into three regions: Kashmir valley, Jammu, and Laddakh. The Kashmir valley is populated mostly by Muslims; Jammu region is mainly inhabited by Hindus, and Laddakh has a tiny Buddhist population.

The de facto ceasefire line divided the Kashmir valley between Pakistan and India; over the years it came to be known as the Line of Control. India, under its democratic-minded first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, took the Kashmir issue to the United Nations and promised to allow a plebiscite to determine if the Kashmiris wanted to live in India, in Pakistan or independently. Pakistan, seen by the Kashmiris as an aggressor state at that time, did not agree to the proposal of plebiscite, which was to be held inside both parts of Kashmir. In the later years, India too reneged on its promise to hold the plebiscite.

Pakistan calls its part of Kashmir "Azad Kashmir," or independent Kashmir, and the other part "occupied Kashmir." India considers the entire Jammu and Kashmir state, including Pakistani Kashmir, to be an integral part of India. Pakistan calls Indian Kashmir a disputed territory, nursing a longing that its Muslim population will eventually align with Pakistan.

Over the years, the two neighbors have fought several wars, with none ending the stalemate. However, Pakistan has also tried its hand at strengthening secessionism by fomenting a high-intensity jihadist insurgency in Indian Kashmir, especially during the 1990s and after.

This was the scene in Indian Kashmir until a few years ago. After 9/11, the government of Pakistan, under President Pervez Musharraf, was pressured by the U.S. to stop the jihadist insurgency in Kashmir, as elsewhere in the neighborhood. Pakistan and India engaged in a series of dialogues to foster close ties and resolve the Kashmir issue. Between 2003 and early 2008, Indian Kashmir has been mostly peaceful, but this is changing now.

Land Allocation to Hindu Shrine Reignites Secessionism in Kashmir

Every year, during July and August, Hindus from across India defy Islamic militants and trek to the religious shrine of Amarnath situated in the remote mountains of Kashmir. There they worship a fertility lingam, or phallus, a naturally forming ice stalagmite that is believed to be a form in which Lord Shiva, the Hindu God of Destruction, emerges. The Amarnath shrine and the annual Hindu pilgrimage are managed by the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB).

During the summer of 2008, the government of Jammu and Kashmir, headed by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, decided to allocate nearly 40 hectares of forest land to the SASB in order for them to effectively manage the Hindu pilgrimage. In some Indian states such as Jammu and Kashmir, people from outside the state are not allowed to buy land. The decision to allocate land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board was seen by Muslims of Kashmir valley as India's attempt to take away their basic rights on land and as an attempt to cement India's presence in the valley.

A series of popular protests began germinating. The People's Democratic Party (PDP), which was part of the ruling coalition that has been headed by the pro-New Delhi Congress party for the latter half of the five-year term, sensed a political opportunity in view of the impending October-November 2008 elections, and decided to quit the government. [1]

Protests against the land allotment have been led by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), a coalition of more than a dozen religious and political groups seeking independence from India. There are broadly three strands in the secessionist coalition: first, those who advocate an Islamic cause and are openly in favor of aligning with Pakistan; second, those who stand for an independent Jammu and Kashmir, combing both Indian and Pakistani parts; and third, a group of pragmatic leaders who advocate independence but keep an open mind about remaining within India. In recent years, the secessionist political groups were becoming marginalized, if not wholly eliminated from the political mainstream in Kashmir. However, the land dispute reignited Kashmiri secessionist leaders. The APHC, which has not tested its electoral mettle, swung into mass politics.

On June 19, 2008, a seven-hour meeting took place between two estranged Kashmiri leaders, Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, at the former's residence in Srinagar, the capital of Indian Kashmir. Syed Ali Geelani leads the pro-Pakistan, hard-line faction of the APHC. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, who derives his authority as the Mirwaiz or Chief Priest of Kashmir, heads the APHC's pragmatic faction, that strives for an independent Kashmir. The two leaders, who had not met for years, discussed the situation in Kashmir and the allotment of land to the Amarnath shrine authority. A six-member committee was also formed to devise a way forward. [2]

The unity of the two factions was welcomed by Syed Salahuddin, Pakistan-based militant leader and head of Muttahida Jihad Council, a coalition of more than a dozen Pakistan-based militant groups active in Indian Kashmir. [3] Prior to this meeting, Syed Ali Geelani had expressed his anger at the land allocation, accusing India of attempting to reduce the Muslims of Kashmir valley to a numerical minority through such measures. He told a gathering at the APHC office in Srinagar that the Indian government was also planning to establish a Hindu village at the Amarnath shrine. [4]

Pro-Pakistan Leader Stamps Jihadist Agenda on Kashmiri Movement

However, it was from this meeting that a series of protests in Kashmir started against India, from late June through September. As for the nature of their protests, the two leaders clearly laid out an Islamist agenda from the beginning. According to a report in the Urdu-language newspaper Roznama Jasarat, "Within the few hours of the historic meeting with Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, the two factions of the Hurriyat [APHC], demonstrating a practical example of unity, staged a joint protest led by Syed Ali Geelani in Srinagar against licentiousness and making of drinking a popular habit." According to the report, some of the slogans shouted during the protests were: "Stop debauchery; Stop the sale and purchase of wine; Civilizational onslaught unacceptable." [5] The protesters, led by Syed Ali Geelani, also shouted slogans against the allotment of land to the Amarnath shrine, leading Indian security forces to fire teargas shells and to open fire to break up the demonstration.

A number of protests followed soon after the June 19 meeting of the Kashmiri leaders, turning violent at many places across the Kashmir valley. On June 24, 2008, angry mobs turned out in the streets of Srinagar to protest against the land allotment. In several locations, Indian security forces resorted to using teargas shells and to firing on the protesters, killing one youth. [6] The next day, protests spilled over to major towns across the valley, and two more people were killed and more than 50 were wounded by Indian security forces in their attempt to break up the protests. [7] The protests became widespread across the valley. On the third day, 70 people were reported injured. [8] The intensity of the protests continued for a fourth day as well, with two protesters killed by Indian security forces and more than 200 people injured. [9]

By the fifth day, hundreds of people were injured, and shops, businesses, and government offices were shut down across the valley. The government was forced to stop the ongoing annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath shrine. A spokesman for India's Interior Ministry acknowledged that Kashmiris had not taken to the streets in such large numbers since 1990, around the time of the beginnings of jihadist militancy in Kashmir. [10]

Several Kashmiri leaders, including Syed Ali Geelani, Shabir Shah and Yasin Malik were placed under house arrest. By July 1, 2008, the Jammu and Kashmir government bowed to the protesters and cancelled the land allotment to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB). However, Syed Ali Geelani, the dominant arbiter of Kashmiri protests, told a gathering in Srinagar that revocation of land allotment was the only first step toward the real goal, and vowed to continue his struggle until Indian security forces left Kashmir. [11]

Hindus Blockade Kashmiri Fruit Growers' Access to Indian Markets

In order to win the hearts and minds of Kashmiri Muslims in the valley, the Indian government has over the years given economic incentives and development packages. This has created resentment in the Hindu-dominated region of Jammu. The Hindus have developed their own narrative of grievance against New Delhi.

Soon after the revocation of land allotment, the Hindu leaders of Jammu region threatened an economic blockade against Kashmiri fruit growers, mainly Muslims from the valley, for whom the only access by road to the Indian market is through the 300-kilometer Srinagar-Jammu National Highway that passes through the Jammu region. [12] Protests erupted in Jammu city, with 75 people wounded as the Indian security forces tried to quell the protests. [13] On the second day of the protests, July 2, Hindu mobs defied curfew in several areas of Jammu. [14] The protests showed no signs of ceasing over the next days, weeks, and months.

Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was initially planning to seek a vote of trust in his government after the coalition partner PDP withdrew support on June 28, could not withstand the combined populist pressure first of the highly-charged Muslim protests and now of the Hindu protesters. On July 7, less than a month after the June 19 meeting of Kashmiri leaders Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq that launched the protests, Ghulam Nabi Azad tendered his resignation, allowing the Jammu and Kashmir state to lapse under the federal rule. [15]

Meanwhile, the Hindu protests, steered by the newly formed protest group Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti, spread beyond the city of Jammu and gained in intensity, turning strong and violent throughout the remainder of July and into August 2008. India's rightwing Bharatiya Janaty Party, and Hindu groups such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), were accused of fuelling the protests. There were also attacks on Muslims in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region. In early August, the Hindus launched a blockade of Muslim fruit growers from the valley, denying them access to Indian markets.

While the revocation of the land allotment had not led to a halt fo Kashmiri Muslims' protests in the valley, the attacks on Muslims in the Jammu region and the Hindu protesters' economic blockade of the fruit growers provided enough political ammunition to the All Party Hurriyat Conference to turn up the heat against India. During the continued violent protests, the Indian government failed, despite several attempts, to convince the Hindus and Muslims to come to an agreement over the allotment of land to the Amarnath shrine. As the protests entered their 20thday, on August 11, an attempt by a 30-member all-party delegation from New Delhi to resolve the crisis also failed, with delegation returning to New Delhi.

To neutralize the impact of the economic blockade and to win a powerful political point, the Kashmiri leaders issued a call for the fruit growers: Muzaffarabad Chalo, or March to Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir. This particular call was viewed as a step toward Kashmir's secession from India. Secessionist groups and the PDP that had recently quit the government decided to back the fruit growers' march to Muzaffarabad, despite the fact that it was an unrealistic step in view of the Indian security forces' readiness to thwart it. [16]

Killing of Shiekh Abdul Aziz and First Kashmir-Wide Curfew in 13 Years

On August 11, 2008, about 200,000 people from across Indian Kashmir, along with trucks loaded with fruit, began marching toward several points on the 778-kilometer Line of Control to cross over into Pakistani side of Kashmir, in their bid to reach Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir. According to a report in the Pakistan-based Urdu-language newspaper Roznama Jang, Indian security forces opened fire at the marchers at several places to break up their protests, killing 10, including senior secessionist Kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz who was also a prominent member of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. [17] Over 1,000 were arrested, and hundreds of wounded were hospitalized at different hospitals across the Kashmir valley. As the protests continued, over 200 truckloads of fruit were destroyed, allegedly by Indian security forces. [18]

The killing of Sheikh Abdul Aziz was like lighting a fire. The next day, more than 300,000 people turned up for his funeral in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir. [19] While the number of 300,000 can be disputed, the Pakistani flag was visibly waved aloft among the crowds that attended. [20]

For the first time in 13 years, the Indian security forces placed the entire Kashmir valley under curfew. However, people defied the curfew in various towns across the valley. Another 20 Kashmiris were killed in various attempts to break up protests, in shooting by Indian security forces.

Addressing the funeral gathering in Srinagar, Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq said: "After the martyrdom of Sheikh Abdul Aziz, our mission is to gain freedom from India." Kashmir's leaders issued a call for three days of protests against the killing of Sheikh Abdul Aziz. The government of Pakistan also condemned the killing. A spokesman for the Foreign Office in Islamabad said Pakistan would bring up the Kashmir issue before the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Conference. [21]

Protests calling for freedom from India continued through August and September in different parts of Indian Kashmir, with dozens killed and hundreds injured. However, a government-brokered agreement with the Hindu protesters of the Jammu region was reached, under which the land allotment to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB), which had been cancelled due to protests by Kashmiri Muslims, was revived in a different form.

The Jammu and Kashmir government, with the understanding of some Muslim and Hindu leaders, leased the land to the SASB for the limited pilgrimage season, giving them no proprietary or title rights. The Hindu leaders called off their stir after signing the lease agreement. The agreement said: "The [B]oard may use the land for erecting temporary prefabricated accommodation and toilet facilities and for shopkeepers to set up shops." [22] This second reversal by the government in its decision to allocate the land to the Hindu shrine has been rejected by the Kashmiri leaders, fuelling a continuation of anti-India protests.

Syed Ali Geelani: "Osama [bin Laden] Has Come Only During the Last Few Years; People Like Me Have Been Fighting For This For All Our Lives."

Pro-freedom protests, in the forms of strikes, defiance of the curfew, and public rallies in support of secession, continued into September 2008, with no end in sight. During the June-September period, Syed Ali Geelani, the 79-year-old pro-Pakistan hard-line Kashmir elder, has emerged as the sole arbiter of the protests, whereas the 35-year-old pragmatic Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, leader of the moderate faction of the secessionist alliance APHC, has largely yielded to the Islamist agenda set by the hardline leader. While Mirwaiz Umer Farooq continues to advocate an autonomous Kashmir not aligned with Pakistan, Syed Ali Geelani has his stamp on the Kashmiri uprising, advocating that the Indian Kashmir should become part of Kashmir under an Islamic rule. It is pertinent therefore to understand the mind of Syed Ali Geelani, who was once a leader of Jamaat-e-Islami. Following are excerpts from an interview he gave to the New Delhi-based daily Business Standard: [23]

"I have a three-point program. First, to impose an Islamic nizam (Islamic system) [in] Kashmir. Islam should govern our lives, be it in our political thought, socio-economic plans, culture.... The creed of socialism and secularism should not touch our lives, and we must be totally governed by the Koran and the Sunnat (precedents from Prophet Mohammad's life)."

"I have been propagating that we must fight against anti-Islamic forces. These forces come in our way under the garb of nationalists, secularists, racists, linguistic chauvinists, and so on.... I have been telling the youth to work for the right to self-determination which is granted to them by the United Nations. I have been drawing huge support from the youth for this as a result of which you see lakhs [1 lakh = 100,000] of people on the roads today."

Geelani was asked if Osama bin Laden's crusade to establish Islamic rule across the globe was no different from his. He replied: "Osama has come only during the last few years. People like me have been fighting for this all our lives. I do not want to be compared with Osama."

Kashmir Under Peace and Now Under Fire

During the 1980s, the CIA and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), along with the mujahideen, fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan. After the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989, the ISI thought it could achieve a similar feat against Indians in Kashmir. The 1989 became a critical year for Indian Kashmir. By early 1990s, the ISI created a number of militant groups that came to be known in Pakistan's streets as "jihadi tanzeemein," or jihadist organizations, among them Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, Al-Badr, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Harkat al-Mujahideen and several others. A wave of jihadist attacks in Indian Kashmir began in 1989. Kashmiri separatists, who had become accustomed to elections every five years and peaceful transitions of power into the hands of elected leaders in Srinagar, now sensed that freedom from India was nigh. However, after 9/11, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was pressured by the U.S. to abandon support for the Taliban in Afghanistan and for all such militant groups. Under U.S. pressure, Pakistan and India have engaged in a series of talks aimed at fostering ties and resolving the Kashmir issue.

As a consequence of the post-9/11 Musharraf-era policies, Indian Kashmir has been mostly peaceful between late 2003 and early 2008. As a sign of new peace, Pakistan and India launched, in April 2005, a passenger bus service linking both sides of Kashmir - an historic peace move that for the first time in six decades united families across the Line of Control. This era of peace was also reflected in the growing return of Bollywood filmmakers to the picturesque Kashmir for filming. In February 2008, a report in Pakistan daily Dawn noted that due to the decline in violence in Indian Kashmir, filmmakers were returning to the Kashmir valley, marking an end to the era of the uprising that began in 1989. [24]

Asif Zardari, the leader of Pakistan People's Party and now president of Pakistan, signaled that his party would continue with the Musharraf-era peace policy on the issue of Kashmir. The clamor for peace with India is a result of a realization in Pakistan in recent years that the progress of Pakistan has been deeply hampered by the obsession to engage in war with India on the Kashmir issue. In a highly controversial statement, Zardari remarked: "Pakistan-India relations cannot be held hostage to the Kashmir issue.... I pray that the gun rusts. If it is not used, it will corrode itself." [25]

Asif Zardari's statement on Kashmir, insofar as it was historic in nature, was also in direct conflict with traditional Pakistan thinking on Kashmir, including the classical thinking in the Pakistani military on the issue - i.e. the original idea since 1947 that Indian Kashmir being a Muslim-majority region should be in Pakistan, the lone Islamic state. The peace policy would soon yield to the hardliners in Pakistan and Pakistani Army. In November 2007 Pervez Musharraf, who had been under smoldering public pressure to relinquish one of his two posts as army chief and as Pakistani president, quit the former post; everything began changing in Indian Kashmir.

Zardari's statement was criticized severely by the Muttahida Jihad Council, a network of more than a dozen Pakistan-based militant groups. Syed Sadaqat Hussain, a spokesman for the Council, said that Zardari's statement was "tantamount to a rejection of Pakistan's 60-year principled and historical stand" on Kashmir. [26] Syed Ali Geelani, the pro-Pakistan Islamist leader whose survival in the politics of the Indian Kashmir depends overwhelmingly on the support of Muttahida Jihad Council head Syed Salahuddin, condemned Asif Zardari for the comment. Geelani asked Pakistani leaders not to issue such statements, adding: "The Pakistani leaders have no right to issue such statements with regard to Kashmir that affect the movement. It is a moral responsibility of Pakistan not only to support this movement based on the right path but also to make the United Nations aware about it." [27]

Army Chief Kiyani Reverses Musharraf-Era Peace Policy on Kashmir

On November 28, 2007, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani took over as army chief. During a March 2008 tour of forward military posts on the Line of Control, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani made a statement that was widely seen as restoring traditional Pakistani policy on Kashmir. He said: "There is a national consensus about the Kashmir issue. The Pakistan Army is committed to the Kashmir cause in consonance with the aspirations of the people." [28] In an editorial, the Kiyani statement was interpreted by the Lahore-based liberal newspaper Daily Times as promising for peace: "He [Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani] did not say what the verdict of the people was on Kashmir, but he did make clear the army's position of subservience to the will of the people." [29] The editorial comment reflected the mind of the editors insofar as it underlined a hopeful view that the Pakistani Army should follow the will of the Pakistanis.

However, the will of the Pakistani people during the 2003-2008 Musharraf-era peace had been defined more by extreme popular criticism of Pervez Musharraf for his overtures of friendship to India. Each time a lone voice in Pakistan speaks of coexistence and friendship with India, ordinary Pakistani citizens begin to wonder: If this is to be the future, why was Pakistan created in the first place? The Kiyani statement was welcomed by jihadist groups as well as hard-line policymakers, and was also seen as reversing the Musharraf-era "compromise" peace as well as restoring the pre-2003 Pakistani policy of commitment to the liberation of Kashmir from India, a classic position held by the military-and-political establishment in Islamabad since 1947. In an editorial, the highly influential Urdu-language newspaper Roznama Nawa-i-Waqt saw Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani's statement as "contrary to his predecessor [Musharraf]," and noted: [30]

"It is hopeful that the Pakistan Army's current, professional and committed chief has, while expressing views on national issues, given importance to national sentiments and feelings. And contrary to his predecessor, who used to bear in mind only the U.S. standpoint and strategy right from Kashmir to Afghanistan, [Gen. Kiyani] has made such statements which give an impression that the foreign and internal policies adopted in an atmosphere of fear after 9/11 [by Pervez Musharraf] will be sidelined and national interests will be given importance....

"The Pakistani people, by keeping themselves and their children hungry, have always provided resources for the defense [of Pakistan] and the only expectation they had from the Pakistan Army [is] to liberate Jammu and Kashmir by the use of force because without it, Pakistan is incomplete.... The expression of clear commitment by the new leadership of Pak[istan] Army with regard to the Kashmir cause is hopeful."

The reference to Pakistan being "incomplete" is an illustration of the existence in Pakistan of an ideology promoted by the Pakistani establishment, called the Nazaria Alhaq-e-Pakistan, or the ideology of aligning with Pakistan. An illustration of the Nazaria Alhaq-e-Pakistan was given by Prime Minister of Pakistani Kashmir Sardar Atiq Ahmad Khan, who stated that integrating Kashmir into Pakistan is essential for the defense of Pakistan. Sardar Atiq Khan added: "Pakistan has defended Kashmir for the past 60 years, and now we are ready to defend Pakistan." He made the statement during a seminar on the subject of "The Ideology of Alhaq-e-Pakistan [Uniting Kashmir with Pakistan] and Our Responsibility." [31]

Syed Salahuddin, Pakistan-based militant leader and head of Muttahida Jihad Council, lauded Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani for his statement on Kashmir. Syed Salahuddin said: "Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani has, during a visit to the Line of Control, translated the sentiments of 17 crore [1 crore = 10 million] people by giving a statement to remain committed to the Kashmir cause.... This is a historical fact that without Kashmir [being part of Pakistan] Pakistan cannot remain durable, sovereign and secure." [32]

Broadly, Gen. Kiyani's statement on Kashmir was seen in Pakistan in opposition to the peace initiatives begun during the times of Pervez Musharraf. For most of its six-decade existence, Pakistan has been ruled by the military. The post of army chief in Pakistan is the most powerful institution, its authority being seen in terms of its ability to rule over elected civilian governments. It is also pertinent here to keep in mind that Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani is the first head of Pakistan's dreaded Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to fill this post.

Jihadists and Soldiers Return to the Line of Control in Kashmir

After Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani took over as army chief, Indian Kashmir has witnessed the return of two trends: first, a resurgence in a number of gun battles between jihadists and the Indian security forces; and second, shooting by security forces across the Line of Control. Pakistani security forces usually use the tactic of firing across the Line of Control to divert the attention of Indian security forces, who see it as a diversionary tactic by the Pakistan Army in order to send jihadist militants into Indian Kashmir. The two trends had been prevalent between 1989 and 2003, but during Musharraf's time they were noticeably absent, paving the way forward for confidence-building measures.

On August 26, 2008, Indian Defense Minister A K Antony noted that during the preceding two months there had been at least 31 violations of the Line of Control in Kashmir. He said India was concerned over the infiltration of militants from Pakistani Kashmir. [33] The shooting by security forces across the Line of Control continued after Antony's statement. On the same day, A K Mitra of India's Border Security Forces (BSF), which is tasked with patrolling the Line of Control, said that 800 militants were amassed on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control, ready to enter Indian Kashmir. [34] In the months since Musharraf stepped down as army chief, this has become a trend in Indian Kashmir: shooting across the Line of Control, followed by gun battles between jihadists and Indian security forces. These trends were absent between 2003 and early 2008.

Pakistani media groups maintain nearly total silence on ground activities by the jihadist groups inside Pakistani Kashmir, only occasionally reporting statements by militant leaders. However, Pakistani journalists say that in recent months there have been reports of non-Kashmiri militants appearing publicly in Pakistani Kashmir. On August 16, 2008, the local people in the Neelam Valley, northwest of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir, protested publicly against the presence of militants. The protesters turned out by the hundreds at Ath Maqam in the Neelam Valley, registering their protest with a local official called the Deputy Commissioner. A month and a half before the protest, the women of the area had protested against the presence of militants, telling authorities that they did not want to live in bunkers again - a reference to the pre-2003 shooting across the Line of Control that made their lives difficult. It is clear, however, that Syed Salahuddin, the head of Hizbul Mujahideen militant group and chairman of Muttahida Jihad Council, moves freely across Pakistan, supposedly not without the support of the military.

In early September 2008, leaders of 14 jihadist groups attended a conference in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir. The meeting was billed as the Defend Kashmir Conference. Syed Salahuddin told the conference that India is settling Hindus in Indian Kashmir in order to reduce the Muslim population there. Syed Salahuddin also asked the government of Pakistan to call for an emergency meeting of international institutions to discuss the matter. He said that jihad would continue until Kashmir is liberated from India. [35] He had even warned the new civilian government in Pakistan that his group will, if necessary, fight in Islamabad. He said that if Pakistan changed its policy of supporting Kashmiri movements and "if the jihad in Kashmir failed, the fighting will start in Islamabad and Muzaffarabad." [36]

In late August 2008, the militant leader went to the extent of warning of expanding his group's activities beyond the Indian Kashmir to the other states of India. [37] On September 16, 2008, Syed Salahuddin attended a meeting of Jamaat-e-Islami, where he articulated a global agenda for jihad, stating: "So long [as] a piece of land is under the occupation of Kuffar [infidels], jihad is compulsory for all Muslims." [38] Syed Salahuddin is the key person behind the jihad in Indian Kashmir.

During the recent protests in Indian Kashmir and Kashmir fruit growers' march toward the Line of Control, thousands of activists from Jamaat-e-Islami, Muttahida Jihad Council and Lashkar-e-Taiba or the Jamatud Dawa turned out on the Pakistani side of Kashmir to welcome the fruit growers should they succeed. Jamatud Dawa, the new name of the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, staged a public rally in Rawalpindi, the twin city of Islamabad, to express solidarity with the Kashmiri protesters. Lahore-based Jamatud Dawa chief Professor Hafiz Saeed addressed the crowd at the rally, asking Pakistan and the Organization of Islamic Conference to call an emergency meeting to discuss the Kashmir situation. [39]

Indeed, a Kashmir problem does exist that India must resolve, but what is also clear is that Pakistan drives the jihadist insurgency in Kashmir, which the Indian security forces say is being facilitated by Pakistani Army. This is evident in the Pakistani state's inability and unwillingness to touch the leaders of the militant groups. Moreover, the truly independent Kashmiri movements, such as the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), have been marginalized over the years, due to their failure to toe the jihadist line dictated by their Pakistani mentors. The jihadist groups differ in two ways from the Kashmiri nationalists: first, they commit to aligning Kashmir with Pakistan; and second, they advocate Islamic rule.

While jihadist groups carry out their activities in Pakistani Kashmir freely, the trends of gun battles and shooting across the Line of Control in Kashmir are now becoming a familiar norm. This trend is evident in gun battles between the militants and Indian security forces, occurring with greater frequency in recent months. A sample of these clashes is essential here to illustrate the point.

During April-June 2008, Roznama Jasarat, the Pakistan-based, pro-Jamaat-e-Islami, Urdu-language newspaper that does not fail to report developments in Indian Kashmir and Palestine, carried several reports of actual gun battles and shooting across the Line of Control, that is, excluding the reports on Kashmiris' protests over the Amarnath shrine land dispute.

In April 2008, there were five reports of actual gun battles: two Jaish-e-Muhammad militants were killed and two were arrested on April 3; [40] a district level commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba was killed on April 15; [41] three local commanders of Jaish-e-Muhammad were killed on April 20; [42] three Indian soldiers and four militants were killed on April 21; [43] and three Hizbul Mujahideen commanders were killed on April 24. [44] Syed Salahuddin, the head of Hizbul Mujahideen based in Muzaffarabad, paid tribute to the Hizbul Mujahideen militants, describing them as "jewels on our forehead." [45]

A search of the world pages of the Roznama Jasarat website yields two May 2008 reports of actual gun battles between militants and Indian security forces: three Indian soldiers and four militants were killed on April 30; [46] one militant was killed on May 10; [47] and two soldiers were killed on May 16. [48] On June 1, 2008, a militant was killed in Indian Kashmir. [49] Ten days later, two militants were killed in a gun battle. [50] On June 14, an Indian Army lieutenant colonel was among eight Indian soldiers killed by the militants. [51] On June 19, four Pakistani soldiers were killed by Indian troops, who reportedly fired to prevent militants on the Pakistani side from trying to sneak into India. [52]

There cannot be any doubt that the militants are being directed from Pakistan and that their leaders in Pakistan are free to conduct their business as usual. In July 2008, when the protests over the Amarnath shrine land controversy were at their height, at least 31 militants and 21 Indian security men were killed in gun battles. The strength of the militants was illustrated by the fact that the dead included a Lashkar-e-Taiba commander and three junior commissioned officers of the Indian Army. [53]

In mid-August 2008, Hizbul Mujahideen militants used rockets, destroying two Indian Army barracks and killing 20 soldiers. [54] An operational commander of Al-Badr militant group, Sultan Bhatt, was killed by the Indian security forces during a shootout in the Baramulla district of Indian Kashmir. [55] Another militant of Lashkar-e-Taiba and a colonel of the Indian Army were killed in late August. [56]

There are currently two levels of the Kashmiri movement. The first level involves the mass protests steered by the secessionist groups' alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, starting on the Amarnath shrine land dispute; dozens of Kashmiri civilians died from June through September 2008 in shooting by Indian security forces to break up their continued protests. The second level involves the infiltration of militants from Pakistan into Indian Kashmir and ensuing gun battles with security forces. At least five shootings across the Line of Control were reported during August and September 2008. [57] This second element was absent during the 2003-2008 peace era, when Musharraf headed the Pakistan Army.

The gun battles between Indian security forces and the militants continued into September 2008 and beyond: three militants and four Indian security personnel were killed on September 15; [58] 10 Indian soldiers and four militants were killed on September 16; [59] and seven militants and three Indian soldiers were killed on September 22. [60]

In an assessment of how India has lost the confidence of Kashmiri people and is unable to prevent jihadist attacks, Indian defense analyst Maj-Gen. (ret.) Ashok Mehta remarked that India-Pakistan relations have been set back by five years. He also noted: "Four years ago, when India and Pakistan began the peace process, Pervez Musharraf had control over Pakistan. The improvement in relations, during these four years, between New Delhi and Islamabad, had not been seen since the two nations gained independence in 1947." [61]

As the jihadist attacks continue in Indian Kashmir, the best known pragmatic Kashmir leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, who has favored an independent Kashmir that would not be a part of Pakistan, has recently not only followed in the footsteps of the Islamist leader Syed Ali Geelani, but has also come to believe that only the Pakistani Army can liberate Kashmir from India. Mirwaiz Umer Farooq has threatened to revive armed insurgency in the Indian Kashmir. [62] In a statement that mirrors a realistic assessment of the deep involvement of Pakistani Army in the affairs of Kashmir, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq has also said: "The [civilian] Pakistani government will have to include the Pakistan Army in its ideas about resolving the Kashmir problem." [63]

*Tufail Ahmad is Director of Urdu-Pashtu Media Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute ( ).

[1] (India), June 28, 2008.

[2] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), June 20, 2008.

[3] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), June 22, 2008

[4] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), June 14, 2008.

[5] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), June 22, 2008

[6] (India), June 24, 2008.

[7] (India), June 25, 2008.

[8] Roznama Express (Pakistan), June 26, 2008.

[9]Roznama Express (Pakistan), June 27, 2008.

[10] Roznama Express (Pakistan), June 28, 2008.

[11] Roznama Express (Pakistan), July 2, 2008.

[12] Roznama Express (Pakistan), July 2, 2008.

[13] The Hindu (India), July 2, 2008.

[14] (India), July 2, 2008.

[15] (India), July 7, 2008.

[16] (India), August 10, 2008.

[17] Roznama Jang (Pakistan), August 12, 2008.

[18] Roznama Nawa-i-Waqt (Pakistan), August 13, 2008.

[19] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), August 13, 2008.

[20] Roznama Jang (Pakistan), August 13, 2008.

[21] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), August 14, 2008.

[22] (India), August 31, 2008.

[23] Business Standard (India), August 24, 2008.

[24] Dawn (Pakistan), February 7, 2008.

[25] Roznama Nawa-i-Waqt (Pakistan), July 4, 2008.

[26] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), July 2, 2008.

[27] Roznama Nawa-i-Waqt (Pakistan), July 4, 2008.

[28] Roznama Jang (Pakistan), March 13, 2008.

[29] Daily Times (Pakistan), March 14, 2008.

[30] Roznama Nawa-i-Waqt (Pakistan), March 14, 2008.

[31] Roznama Jang (Pakistan), July 14, 2008.

[32] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), March 15, 2008.

[33] Roznama Nawa-i-Waqt (Pakistan), August 27, 2008.

[34] Roznama Nawa-i-Waqt (Pakistan), August 27, 2008.

[35] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), September 5, 2008.

[36] Roznama Jang (Pakistan), July 6, 2008.

[37] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), August 27, 2008.

[38] Roznama Ausaf (Pakistan), September 17, 2008.

[39] Roznama Express (Pakistan), September 1, 2008.

[40]Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), April 4, 2008.

[41] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), April 16, 2008.

[42] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), April 21, 2008.

[43] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), April 22, 2008.

[44] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), April 25, 2008.

[45] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), April 26, 2008.

[46] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), May 1, 2008.

[47] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), May 11, 2008.

[48] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), May 17, 2008.

[49] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), June 2, 2008.

[50] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), June 11, 2008.

[51] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), June 15, 2008.

[52] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), June 20, 2008.

[53] Roznama Nawa-i-Waqt (Pakistan), July 27, 2008.

[54] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), August 17, 2008.

[55] Roznama Nawa-i-Waqt (Pakistan), August 11, 2008.

[56] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), August 25, 2008.

[57] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), September 22, 2008.

[58] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan) September 16, 2008.

[59] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan) September 17, 2008.

[60] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan) September 23, 2008.

[61] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), August 20, 2008.

[62] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), September 8, 2008.

[63] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), June 8, 2008.

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