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Sunday, November 26, 2023

Pakistan finally learns what it must do to help Kashmiris

Saleem Akhtar Malik |

8th July 2016: Kokernag, a sleepy town in the Anantnag district in Indian occupied Kashmir, shot into prominence when Burhan Muzaffar Wani, the 20-year-old commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, was martyred in an encounter with the Indian army. His death sparked widespread protests in the Kashmir valley. According to the highly sanitized reports issued from time to time by the occupation forces, more than 90 Kashmiris died during the six months that followed Burhan’s death. During the same period, an estimated 15,000 Kashmiris and 4000 security personnel were injured. Indians have always doctored the details about the deaths suffered by their army. 

The Valley erupts as India loses grip

To quell the disturbances, Indian army, and paramilitary forces used the notorious pellet gun, which maimed and blinded hundreds of protesters.

The violence, which erupted after Wani’s death, was described as the worst in the region since the 2010 Kashmiri uprising. Despite the continuous curfew that was slapped on the Kashmir valley between 8th July and 31st August, there was no let up in the public demonstrations where the stone pelting locals, mostly students, confronted the gun-toting Indian occupation forces. To quell the disturbances, Indian Army and paramilitary forces used the notorious pellet gun, which maimed and blinded hundreds of protesters.

Read more: Changing Kashmir’s demography: India’s tactics to win Kashmir

On 28th May 2017, a little less than a year after Burhan Wani’s death, The Indian forces succeeded in killing Sabzar Bhatt (28), Wani’s close aide. Sabzar had taken over the reins of Hizbul Mujahideen after the maverick commander Zakir Musa quit the outfit over ideological differences. Reportedly, Sabzar received martyrdom during a gun battle that had begun and raged throughout the night 27/28th May at Saimoh village of Tral, in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

Exasperated by the inability of the Indian security forces to control the situation which is slipping out of their hands with each passing day, the Indian Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat, has supported the officer who used a local Kashmiri as a human shield to counter stone-pelters. Some days back, Rawat had insinuated, “This is a proxy war and proxy war is a dirty war. The rules of engagement are there when the adversary comes face to face and fights with you.” Starting from Burhan Wani’s encounter with the Indian forces, the adversary has gradually come face to face with the Indian Army. The second phase of a guerrilla war starts when the stone-pelters are turned into armed fighters.

“This is a proxy war and proxy war is a dirty war. The rules of engagement are there when the adversary comes face to face and fights with you.”
– General Bipin Rawat

In the early 1990s, Kashmiris had been revolting against the Indian occupation in cycles of resistance. In phase one of these cycles, unarmed Kashmiris started a non-violent struggle against the occupation forces. Then, the mobs, retaliating to the ham-handed tactics of the Indian army and para-military forces, resorted to stone-pelting and similar actions to protest against the Indian brutalities. In phase two, small bands of militants, supported by the local population, launched raids and ambushes, targeting the security forces and important installations. The third phase, which aimed at overthrowing the occupation government through conventional warfare, was never reached. Like a stillbirth, the cycle was never completed as the struggle always fizzled out in phase two, only to start all over again after a lull. This was because, in the past, the Indian security forces always managed to throttle the resistance movement in the second phase. This was achieved through a combination of carrot and stick measures.

Read more: Kashmir on fire: Has Pakistan really helped the cause?

However, the situation is different in 2017. The right wing Hindu government of Narendra Modi, in its extreme arrogance, loathes talking to the Kashmiris. In their endeavor to crush the collective resolve of the Kashmiris, the Indian occupation forces have resorted to sledgehammer tactics. Fearing that phase three of the current resistance cycle will be facilitated by the Pakistan Army, Modi is threatening to wage a short war against Pakistan. He thinks that if the Pakistan Army is humbled in a limited war by, say, capturing the Shakar Garh Salient, Kashmiri resistance movement will be halted in its tracks just as it had happened in the past.

We should either wash our hands off Kashmir or help the Kashmiris in a meaningful way.

Those who think that the current revolt in Kashmir will reach its logical conclusion without help from Pakistan are living in a Cuckoo world. We should either wash our hands off Kashmir or help the Kashmiris in a meaningful way. The writer is not suggesting that, like 1965, Pakistan should send infiltrators to fight the war for the Kashmiris. But by our present Hamlet-like indecisive attitude, we have literally thrown the Kashmiris to the wolves.

In 1965, during the half -hearted Operation Gibraltar which Pakistan had launched to recover J&K from India, whole infantry battalions were pulled out from their defensive positions by bleeding the holding brigades to beef up the infiltration forces. Some of the units were hastily moved into the area from their peacetime locations. When the Indians retaliated by attacking Pakistani posts all along the 1949 Cease Fire Line (CFL), the infiltrating units were recalled and asked to counter attack. There was little time for preparation. In the confusion of battle, companies lost contact with each other and with their battalion headquarters. Resultantly, the Indian army easily captured the abandoned Pakistani posts and the whole of the Haji Pir Bulge.

Read more: Is Kashmir slipping away from India?

We should have fully expected a backlash by India and, to counter it, maintained a defensive posture all along the CFL, the Working Boundary, and the Radcliffe Line, while holding the strategic defensive balance with 1 Armored Division, 6 Armored Division, and 9 Division. However, we started the war in the Valley and then reacted to the enemy’s moves. India responded to Operation Gibraltar by occupying the heights in the Kargil sector, Neelam Valley, and the Haji Pir Bulge. Pakistan reacted with Operation Grand Slam in Chamb sector. India responded by attacking along the Radcliffe Line.

This time, Pakistan has played a smart card by not interfering with the indigenous freedom movement launched by the Kashmiris to throw away the Indian yoke. However, freedom will remain an elusive objective unless Pakistan helps the Kashmiris by striking at the right time – phase three begs for a Pakistani commitment to the Kashmiri cause. Pakistan’s armed forces are already playing a vital role by maintaining a vigil along the Line of Control, the Working Boundary, and the International Border. Feeling like a cornered animal, while the Pakistan Army stares at it in the eyes and the Kashmiri freedom fighters breathe down its neck, in desperation, the Indian army will for sure launch an offensive against Pakistan in an area of its choosing. That will be the time for phase three of the Kashmiri freedom struggle to unfold.

Saleem Akhtar Malik was a Lt Colonel in the Pakistan Army. He holds an honors degree in War Studies, an MBA and an M.Phil in Management Sciences. He is the author of the book Borrowed Power. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.