13 November 2010

Militants Regrouping In Pakistani Kashmir

By Zafar Iqbal  -  12 November, 2010  -  Countercurrents.org

Today Kashmir is boiling again. Current unrest started after the killing of a young boy in June has taken at least 112 lives and crippled daily life in Muslim majority parts of Indian held Kashmir. Meanwhile, on the other side of the volatile Himalayan region, Islamic militants have started re-emerging in various cities and towns of Pakistani administrated Kashmir.

The key activists of banned Islamic groups Jaish-e–Muhammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) have reportedly been active since last few months. They have been addressing public gatherings and meeting people openly.

Since last few years Pakistan has been battling a fierce war against Taliban and other hard-line Islamic groups. According to official reports, militants have killed over 2,450 army men and thousands of civilians since 2004. Pakistan government has outlawed at least 24 Islamic organizations declaring them a great danger for national security and stability.
Though, political situation in Pakistan administered Kashmir is not as oppressive and alarming as it has been witnessed by independent observers in Indian held Kashmir during last two decades, the public sentiment against Islamabad is not very much different. People in Azad Kashmir have been cautiously witnessing political, administrative and social interventions by the federal government after the catastrophic earthquake in 2005. They have been protesting through local media that Islamabad is intentionally pushing hardcore Islamists to the territory of Kashmir who have reorganized their activities under the garb of earthquake rehabilitators.

The movement of banned outfits has been observed mainly in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan administered Kashmir. In past, this mountain-clapped city has been sanctuary of different Islamic groups waging war against India in Kashmir. Nevertheless, they had apparently limited their activities or ceased to function openly and aggressively when former Pakistani president Pervez Mushraf put pressure on them after US and Indian intervention.
Recent media reports have indicated that there has been increased Jehadi activity in some of the major cities in Pakistan administered Kashmir.

People are once again witnessing the increased magnitude of public gatherings and processions as they had observed during late ninetees. They are cautiously putting arguments that how Pakistan can afford re-emergence of militant Islam in a highly disputable area which itself is very close to the federal capital posing threat to its own integrity.
A newly found militant outfit- Tahreek Azad e Kashmir( Kashmir Freedom Movement), which has been on the forefront of militant activity in this region, is believed to be a new face of Jammat-ud Dawa (JuD) (the alleged mastermind group behind Mumbai attacks) and Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM). Some of the local political groups, mainly pro- independence JKLF have expressed their concern over these new developments. They have warned that such movements could damage the indigenous character of present Kashmir Intifada (as they describe it). If local authorities do not take any action against these militant groups, they will be at large to re-organise and re-launch Jehadi activity against India or Pakistan itself. The Swat saga is not a matter of distant past.

According to reports, the rebirth of pro-militancy organizations has been more remarkable in Neelum valley than other parts of the divided state of the Jammu & Kashmir; the same region which in past have been identified as an incubator of Kashmiri insurgents.
‘Some strangers have hired shops and houses in our area,” says a resident of the Neelum valley, whose name may not be disclosed due to safety reason. People say that radical groups are carrying out their work in pretext of charity job to help the needy, particularly the victims of recent floods.

Neelum valley is the most affected area in Pakistan administered Kashmir hit by devastating floods this year. The Aid agencies have disclosed that recent floods have destroyed above 800 buildings, houses and shops, affecting almost 40,000 people in this area. This calamity ridden region has already paid a heavy price in tense years of post -1989 Kashmir militancy. 

The proxy war has stopped people’s access to health and education services and ruined socio- economic infrastructure.

Majority of population in the valley is poor and jobless. Several local people have been enrolled by militant organizations to work with them as helpers, another resident has disclosed.

When asked about the identity of those militants, the cautious guide told that mainly they come from Pakistani Northern Pashtun region and Punjab province. “They are not familiar with hilly terrain and local mountainous paths. That’s why they need local support for their mobility to enter into Indian Kashmir,” he said.

Local people in Neelum Valley are again worried about the presence of these non-Kashmiri bearded faces. They foresee that existence of Islamic combats could cause awful bombardment along the Line of Control (LoC) again.

Following years of tension along the LoC (Defecto border between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir) both armies had halted their hostile operations since Nov 26, 2003, when ceasefire came into effect on the 744-km-long and 34 –km-wide border.

Pakistan and India, however, have again started violating the peace agreement. More than four incidents of firing and shelling have been reported in last month. Civilians say that this unusual firing and border skirmishes have escalated fears among them about durability of peace along the volatile LoC.

“We were forced to leave our homes. We lost businesses and our dear ones in the decade-long tension between Pakistani and Indian troops”, says Fatima Bibi with tearful eyes, a victim of recent cross-border tension between India and Pakistan. Her six years old daughter was shot dead when playing outside her home on 20 October, 2010. Sitting near the grave of her daughter, Bibi says that any more war like situation will make her life hell. “I beg to oppressors, don’t kill our children.”

India blames Pakistan for breaching the ceasefire accord, claiming that such shelling facilitates the infiltration of guerillas into Indian controlled Kashmir. Pakistan denies, although, former President Musharraff confessed in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel that Pakistan had trained the militants to fight against India.

Regardless of the concerns of sane Kashmiri circles about the genuine achievements of current revolt in Kashmir; the Intifada by and large remained separated from the direct clouts of armed groups. This factor projected the representation of public resistance as an aboriginal configuration; brushing away the previous Indian allegations that Pakistan triggers anti-India violence in Kashmir.

This alleged bolstering and pushing radical elements into Pakistani part of Kashmir by Pakistan will cause profound loss to peaceful struggle of Kashmiri people on the other side of the border which in recent months has gained momentum. This totally civilian upsurge has won unprecedented attention of the independent observers all around the world.

(The writer is a freelance journalist. He can be reached at: zafarjournalist@gmail.com )

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