April 2000 News

Pak. policy on ''jehadi'' forces not clear

30 April 2000
Amit Baruah

Islamabad: Will Pakistan quietly prevent the ''jehadi'' elements from crossing the Line of Control this summer? Or, will it persist with the policy of let''s-continue-to-bleed-India-in- Kashmir? As with most things in Pakistan, there is no ''one'' answer to this question. One leading light of an Islamabad think- tank said Pakistan would take steps to stop the ''jehadis'' crossing the LoC. The Government, bowing to international opinion, would exercise restraint. In line with this approach, there have even been statements from the Foreign Minister, Mr. Abdul Sattar, to the foreign media. Whether such statements are for Western consumption alone, or they reflect a departure from past practice, is a question that needs to be answered. Last year, around this time, Pakistani troops had occupied the heights of Kargil and were preparing for a confrontation with India. Though unacknowledged and repeatedly denied, every one knows it was the Pakistani Army and not the so- called mujahideen who fought Indian forces in Kargil. On account of the Kargil operation, Pakistan today finds itself on the mat as far as international opinion is concerned. By not allowing infiltrators through, will Pakistan seek to refurbish its image that took such a battering last summer? This question is also linked to the issue of how much control the Pakistani Government through its intelligence agencies has over the militant groups. Some analysts believe it is as simple as ''turning off the tap'' while others say it will be too expensive to ''crack down'' on these groups. The large mujahideen corps raised by Pakistani intelligence would have to be ''retired'' or ''pensioned off''. Using behind-the-scenes manoeuvres, the new ''leader'' of the ''jehad'', Masood Azhar, chief of his own Jaish-i- Muhammad, has been kept quiet, showing that the Pakistani intelligence has its own capabilities when it comes to acting against ''unwanted'' persons. An ''ulema'' convention attended by leading ''jehadi groups'' on April 27 at Muridke near Lahore said the Government should avoid taking action against ''jehad and mujahideen'', under pressure from foreign propaganda. Clearly, the Musharraf Government has to make up its mind. Its publicly declared position that it was ready to hold talks with India anywhere and at any level can only have a meaning when it reins in the jehadis. The political-intelligence establishment might or might not have total control over the jehadi elements. But, in one area at least, they can act decisively if they choose to do so. They can prevent the militants from crossing the LoC. Without the support of the establishment, the ''jehadis'' can never hope to get across. The Musharraf regime holds the key to reducing the violence in Kashmir. Whether or not it chooses to do so remains an open question. Other analysts believe Pakistan would first have to ''alter'' its Kashmir policy. Only then can the ''mujahideen'' from Punjab and the Frontier province, be sent home. Will the coming weeks and months show that Pakistan, after exhausting itself in the game to wrest Kashmir militarily, now appreciates the benefits of a less interventionist, if not a non- interventionist policy in the Valley and adjoining areas?


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