Why are Kashmiri militants becoming rejectionist of the Pakistani state?

Seven years earlier, when Abu Dujan traversed from Pakistan to this part of Kashmir little would he have thought that one day he would become the first Pakistani militant in Kashmir to publicly renounce the Pakistani war in Kashmir.

Dujana’s tale of renouncing the Islamic republic of Pakistan would have remained unknown if his last call had not went viral wherein he pledges support for al Qaeda–a global terror outfit that destroyed the world trade centre, and which sees the US-Israel-India as “axis of evil” vis-à-vis Muslims. His renouncing of the Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir was given credence when the Lashkar-i-Toiba outfit didn’t pay any homage to him.

Why did the Lashkar remain quiet? Why did Dujana left the LeT, and joined al Qaeda which considers the Islamic republic of Pakistan as a deviant Muslim state?

In the 1990s when casualties in Kashmir swirled between 1,500 and 3,000 per year, the Pakistan establishment asked Osman bin Laden to set up an organisation for Kashmir (Through Our Enemies’ Eyes by Michael Scheuer). Harkat ul Mujahedeen (renamed Harkat-ul-Ansar, and back to HuM) came into existence, funded and trained in Afghanistan by Osama (Through Our Enemies’ Eyes). By the time al Qaeda sent shockwaves to the US– becoming the first organisation in the modern world to attack America inside its territory–the Pakistan state felt the heat. Immediately it cut ties with al Qaeda and the Taliban. The Islamic republic of Pakistan gleefully became a partner, and handed over its airbase and routes to the US to slaughter Muslims of Afghanistan. The Islamic republic of Pakistan was the first country to recognise the Taliban government, but became the only country in the world to arrest a foreign ambassador of an independent nation on its soil, Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef, and shamelessly handed him over to the US (My Life with the Taliban by Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef).

Zakir Musa in an undated file picture. Source: Internet

Afzal Guru, hanged for his role in the Indian parliament attack case, writes that Ghazi Baba of the Jaish-i-Mohammad organisation also renounced Pakistan. In his book Aayina, Afzal recalls that when the Islamic republic of Pakistan agreed to join the US against Muslims of Afghanistan, he posed a question to Ghazi Baba: if Pakistan can do it with Afghanistan, morrow it would do the same with Kashmir, in that situation what would happen to us? The slain JM chief in Kashmir quipped: “the Taliban”.

That was in 2001, Ghazi Baba was killed in 2003. In 2003, there was thaw between India and Pakistan relations, both agreed to hold back fire at borders. Borders were sealed. Pakistan allowed India to fence the LoC. It started inviting pro-India delegations that included Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah, Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami, Hakim Yaseen, et al. In the Valley it was common to hear that a back channel talks are going on, and some solution would be offered. By the end of 2010, the causality figures came down to 375 from all time high of 4,507 fatalities in 2001. In 2010, as the people again came on the streets demanding independence from the Indian rule, the police says that Dujana sneaked into the Valley.

A militant is not trained to shot and kill only, but trained to deceive, manipulate, and create confusion among his adversaries. Dujana, it seems, had mastered this art. For seven long years he was ahead of his adversaries. So many times he was successful in breaking the cordon that on social media he came to be known with the sobriquet of “cordon breaker”.

Dujana’s reneging the membership of the Lashkar is a momentous change in an insurgency that was largely Pakistan backed, and with a huge section of population in favour of merger with Pakistan. Interestingly from the past five years militants are no longer going to Pakistan for arms training. They train locally, and snatch weapons from the Indian forces before joining any militant organisation. The increase in bank robberies is also an indication that these militants no longer want the interference of Pakistan, or their supporters in Kashmir. Twenty-eight years ago when the Tehreek in Kashmir started it was believed with internationalisation of the Kashmir conflict Pakistan would come to the rescue of Kashmiris just as India intervened to liberate Bangladesh from Pakistan. It turned out to be a charade.

The Pakistani state has realised that the merger of Kashmir is no longer possible considering the intransigent India which refuses to give an inch of its land, and the pampered Kashmiris who may challenge its sovereignty once they are given no special status in Pakistan. That is why the Pakistan state is pushing for a compromise solution in which boundaries are not changed. Pakistan’s inability to force India to accede to any solution in Kashmir has significantly affected its standing. The internet has also debunked the myth that Pakistan is an Islamic country where alcohol, prostitution, fashion shows, and western system is in place. Moreover with the intrusion of the internet the Islamic republic of Pakistan’s treatment of its Muslim population that has rebelled against non sharia government, and betrayal of Muslims in general is not going well with the Muslims of Kashmir. The seriousness of the Pakistani establishment can be gauged that last year when Kashmiris were protesting in favour of armed militants, and the epicentre was South Kashmir, its then prime minister Nawaz Sheriff embarrassed the pro-Pakistan supporters in Kashmir in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly. He said, “From Srinagar to Sopore, the men, women, and children come out each day, defying curfew, to demand freedom”! This year also Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN Maleeha Lodhi flashed a picture of an injured Palestinian girl in an Israeli attack claiming she was a victim of pellet guns in Kashmir! It was such a goof up which no one was able to cover up.

It is surprising that it took 28 years for the militants in Kashmir to form an organisation without the backing of Pakistan. These rejectionist of the Pakistani state in Kashmir are challenging its hold, grip on the affairs in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. While the pro-Pakistan supporters are now taking up every opportunity to wave the Pakistani flag, or drape militants in it, but the ground reality in Kashmir is drifting toward the global jihadi campaign. For years Kashmiri youth have been protesting against oppression of Muslims in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and now the Muslims of Rohingyas. These protests were building up pan Islamism amongst the youth of the Valley. The pro-Pakistan militant organisations, Hurriyat Conference and their sympathisers, and along with the local police are mocking al Qaeda affiliate in Kashmir and ridiculing its leader Zakir Musa. But the fact is that in Kashmir al Qaeda footprints would continue to increase, because whatever is being written about this organisation it is certain that Kashmir holds an important place for it. It was bound to come.

The founder of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden has been issuing statement on Kashmir since 1996. In 2000, when the talks between the Indian state and the Hizbul Mujahedeen broke down, Osama issued statement criticising the militant leadership (Through our enemies’ eyes). Kashmir has featured in many communications Osama had during his hiding days post the 9/11 event (Through our enemies’ eyes). Since Dujana was a trained militant, and part of the LeT, al Qaeda has often exploited the former’s network to attack important installation in India and Pakistan (Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 by Syed Saleem Shahzad,  it may not be a surprise if it turns out that Dujana was laying ground for al Qaeda in Kashmir, and he may have been the person who convinced Burhan Wani along with his associates to be part of global jihad. Remember last year when Wani was killed al AQIS issued a statement praising the slain Hizb commander.  During these seven years Dujana may have been building up networks, which al Qaeda specialises in. Shortly after Dujana was killed Zakir Musa affirmed that he helped in setting up his affiliate in Kashmir.

However, the coming up an al Qaeda affiliate in Kashmir can be a dream for peaceniks and status quoist who want both India and Pakistan to fight together the US led “war on terror”, and as the situation is unfolding it may not be a mirage. If the US and Russia can fight together against Germany, and now against ISIS, Indo-Pak coalition battling out against al Qaeda and ISIS in Kashmir is not a wild guess. The rivalry between the two nation states will continue, but when it comes to existential threat nation states often cobble together to fight their demons.


(The author is a resident of Srinagar, Kashmir. )