General's Discovery About Kashmir Men, Matters & Memories
11 December 2004
The Daily Excelsior
M L Kotru
Jammu: Here is a confession. I am pessimistic about the prospects of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road reopening in the near future. And it won't be such a grave tragedy. In fact a hurried reopening may create more problems than it solves. Remember the Pakistani military leader, Gen Musharraf's desperate attempts during his just concluded tour of the Americas and London et al flaunting a new ghost at the international community. Kashmir, the one-time 'nuclear flashpoint', has become one of the 'root causes' of international terrorism. Next only to the Palestinian problem. In Washington and in London Pervez Musharraf repeatedly spoke of the 'roots' of terrorism. The peacenick George Bush, I coundn't help but admire the wonderous look on his face, when Musharraf expounded on his new found discovery at the White House. Of course, and predictably, Musharraf prefaced his observation regarding the 'root causes of terror', to his country's continuing membership of the alliance against terror, his continuing servility to archangel Bush's world view, and his desire to see the Middle East tangle resolved. His reference to the Palestinian issue as one of the root causes of terror came only after his American mentor had spoken of a tension free, independent Palestinian State at peace with itself and its neighbours. Musharraf would not utter one word against the Israeli role in stoking the Middle East fires. That wouldn't have gone well with his hosts. Musharraf would do well to remember that long before his appearance on the scene India had been an ardent supporter of the Palestinian struggle; his 'score- card' would have sounded a little more credible had he recalled his earlier description of terrorism:' one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter'. He should have been more candid in admitting that while he had officially banned most of terrorist groups from his land he has been unable to control most terrorist groups, still operating from Pakistani bases and keeping up a steady, though reduced, inflow of freedom fighters into Jammu and Kashmir. The heightened pace of terrorist activity in the valley during the past few months, targetting mainly the Security Forces but taking a heavy toll of civilian lives as well, should convince even a casual observer of the Kashmir scene of the continuance of Pakistani support to terrorism in Kashmir, homegrown as well as Pakistani sponsored. Cleverly enough as part of the new approach adopted by Islamabad to highlight Kashmir as a source of terrorism is the wave of protests which pro-Pakistani frontal organisations launch in the valley whenever there is a transgression on the part of the police or the security forces. In my long association with the happenings in Kashmir I have never heard of any Kashmiri 'leaders' resorting to token hunger strikes; until the Hurriyat Conference (Abbas) staged one on Tuesday in Srinagar to protest 'the human rights violations' in the valley attributed directly by them to the Security Forces. Appatently it doesn't matter to these soldiers of fortune if nine army personnel and six civilians are killed in one single attack mounted by the terrorists. If not for the soldiers' sake at least for the sake of the innocent civilians one would have liked to hear one word of condemnation of the violence perpetrated by these fighters for human rights. Without being oblivious of the hopeful trends noticed in Indo-Pak relations in recent months, if not years, I sometimes wonder what our dear commando President of Pakistan is upto. In personal contacts, as most journalists who were in Pakistan last week, including the Pakistan controlled Kashmir, must have learnt the General tries his very best to come across as a personification of sweet reasonableness, one capable of disarming even a biased questioner. Contrast this with his new discovery of Kashmir as a source of international terrorism. It is a loaded statement, one which needs to be further examined by policy-makers here. Iraq is perhaps seen by him as an aberration on the part of his American mentor. He is not aware of Al Qaeda attack on the US Consulate in Saudi Arabia a full 15 hours after it occurred and as for as his determination to nab Osama bin Laden he has 'lost' trail of him in Pakistan. In my view he still has time to have Osama picked up by loyal commanders and to send him gift wrapped to George Bush as a Christmas present. Surprising, the General would want us to believe that he is not aware of bin Laden's whereabouts. Obviously he has not had occasion to see the last Al Jazeera tape showing a healthy, prosperous looking bin Laden addressing the Ummah. I have used the word prosperous only to underline that he looked in much better shape than in earlier tapes and not to suggest that he has ever lacked funds. He still commands a personal fortune that runs into several hundred million dollars. To come back to the road to Muzaffarabad I would rather adopt a cautious approach in view of the General's latest discovery about Kashmir. Whether you accept the Indian proposal that a travel document issued by the respective high commissions together with the passport be made compulsory for any traveller up or down the road or the Pakistani proposal that a UN document or one issued by local authorities at either end, free movement just now would be risky. Consider the fact that the so-called Azad Kashmir and the Northern regions have been virtually colonised by Pakistanis. As a corollary consider also possibility of hundreds of pro-Pak militants, armed with 'identification' papers, but it to Srinagar or anywhere along the route. The key to the reopening, if at all the locks are to be removed, lies (a) in Musharraf being told clearly that his country has continued to support terrorism in Kashmir (b) that whenever the road to Muzaffarabad is reopened passport will remain the basic document for identification thought not to be stamped by immigration) along with the travel document issued for identification (not be stamped by immigration) along with the travel document issued by the respective High Commission. There is no room for sentiment when you are up against someone who changes his tack as and when it suits him. I know from our side of Kashmir only genuine Kashmiris will be enabled to travel down the road to Muzaffarabad. Sadly I can't say the same about the Pakistani side. Even passports I would add have lost their sanctity in our sub- continent. Fake passports constitute an industry in itself on either side of the border.