Dilemma For Pakistan's Leadership
18 May 2005
New Delhi: For Pakistan, ending violence in Jammu and Kashmir isn't a concession to India; it concerns its own future as a viable, modern nation-state. EVEN AS Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf was finalising preparations for his summit meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month, the Lashkar-e-Taiba had set about realising a rather different agenda. Late on the night of April 14, a group of Lashkar terrorists entered the home of Mohammad Shafi at the village of Bathoi, near Mahore in Jammu province. Shafi had opposed jihadi groups in the area; that evening, he paid for it with his life. Later that night, the terrorists made their way to the nearby home of Qamar-ud-Din, where, this time they chose to behead their victim. Roshan Din, their third victim of the night, was also ritually decapitated. Euphoria punctured Two high-profile bomb attacks in Srinagar this month have punctured the post-summit euphoria, and some commentators have started to wonder if dialogue and death can coexist. The question now being posed is not just the outcome of the bombings, but also decades of mistrust: is Pakistan really willing to sever its relationship with jihadi groups, or does it still see their activities as a negotiating tool? Is the peace process for real? To students of terrorist violence, there is nothing particularly surprising about the violence now under way in Jammu and Kashmir. As the scholar Steven Cohen has pointed out in his recent book, The Idea of Pakistan, terrorism serves objectives that transcend its purely military significance. Its principal purpose is, instead, to transform the ways in which civil society comprehends reality, through 'a theatrical performance of increasingly unimaginable horror.' What is the point of this theatre? As India-Pakistan dialogue proceeds, jihadi groups are certain to use their single source of legitimacy, which is violence, to secure a place at the negotiation table, directly or through proxy. Hard-hit by aggressive counter-terrorist operations, which have decimated the command-level leadership of groups such as the Hizb-ul-Mujaheddin and the Lashkar, jihadi organisations need to demonstrate that they can still wield coercive authority over civil society. With Pakistan having scaled back support to terrorist groups, it is also essential for their leadership to show signs of life to their increasingly-sceptical supporters. U.S. pressure General Musharraf may or may not have arrived in New Delhi with a new heart, but his actions have indeed given evidence of something more meaningful: a new pragmatic mind. The United States has placed intense pressure on Pakistan to cut back its support for the jihad in Jammu and Kashmir, fearful that another crisis in South Asia might derail its objectives in Afghanistan and elsewhere. More important, Pakistan is confronted with multiple internal challenges, from both Islamists and nationalists such as those fighting Pakistani forces in Balochistan. It cannot afford an external crisis as well. Even the prospect of an India-Pakistan war imposes disproportionate costs on Pakistan, and could undo the fragile economic gains General Musharraf's regime has succeeded in securing. Pakistan, then, needs peace for hard-headed reasons, not some emotive urge for reconciliation with India. It seems unwilling, however, to altogether demobilise its secret army. While cross- border infiltration has dropped sharply, training camps continue to exist as does much other jihadist infrastructure. The April 7 issue of the Lashkar-affiliated magazine Ghazwa carried advertisements for a new network of schools which would give students a modern education, but 'also prepare your children for jihad.' The same issue also proclaimed that the Lashkar was recruiting cadre from amongst Muslims in India, for a war it believes is not just for the liberation of Jammu and Kashmir, but against 'Hindu' India as a whole. What reason could there be for General Musharraf's unwillingness to rid himself of such allies? For all its military influence in Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan has little political clout. Its most visible supporter, Islamist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has failed to create a significant mass constituency for his Tehreek- e-Hurriyat. Centrists in the All Parties Hurriyat Conference have long been disenchanted with Pakistan. As such, it has little choice other than to seek representation through the jihadis. It is not, however, a policy without risk: as the December 2001 attack on Parliament House illustrated, any level of terrorism contains within it the risk of calamity-inducing crisis. Is this a reason for India to go slow on, or pull back from, the peace process? Quite the contrary. Pakistan has long seen the jihad in Jammu and Kashmir as a cost-free method of securing leverage - or, if nothing else, imposing costs upon its historic rival, India. After the Pokhran II nuclear tests of May 1998, Pakistani strategists came to believe this enterprise would be cost-free. Now, it is starting to become clear, the jihadis have inflicted costs on Pakistan, too: economic, social and institutional. Constructive engagement will bring home the fact that ending violence in Jammu and Kashmir isn't a concession to India, or even to the State's long-suffering people: it is, in fact, an issue that concerns Pakistan's own future as a viable, modern nation-state.