Competitive Exams: Current Affairs 2011: Kashmir Issue

Kashmir Issue

Pakistan's Kashmir = waziristan

  • Long before 9/11, the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan brought about seismic political changes in northwest Pakistan's political landscape. Inspired by the example of the Islamist insurgents they had fought with, young commanders who had participated in the Afghan jihad began to displace the traditional tribal leadership. In some cases, local Islamist militia were set up. North Waziristan's Dawar tribe, for example, formed its own Taliban as early as 1998 − 1999.

  • Back in 2002, under intense pressure from the United States to mop up jihadists fleeing Afghanistan, General Pervez Musharraf ordered the Pakistan army into the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas, the site of these contestations. Operation Meezan, or Balance, was the army's first intervention in the region since independence in 1947. In 2004, a further offensive targeted jihadist strongholds around Wana, in South Waziristan.

  • Less than prepared for the rigours of a counter-insurgency campaign, Pakistan's army was mauled. Lieutenant-General Safdar Husain, the commander of the Peshwar-based XI corps, persuaded General Musharraf to back down, and seek negotiated deals with the jihadists.

  • In April 2004, the pro-Taliban legislators Maulana Merajuddin Qureshi and Maulana Abdul Malik Wazir secured a peace deal with 10 commanders of the Islamist insurgency in North Waziristan an arrangement called the Shakai Agreement. In essence, the commanders promised not to target Pakistan, if the army called off its offensive and let foreign jihadists live in peace.

  • Less than seven weeks later, though, the deal fell apart, after the two sides failed to agree on the registration of foreign jihadists in the main, Uzbeks, Chechens and Arabs. Even though Nek Muhammad, the key signatory to the Shakai deal, was killed in a missile attack, the Islamist insurgency went from strength to strength: North Waziristan is now the most important hub for jihadists fighting the Pakistani state, as well as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces in Afghanistan.

  • The February, 2005, the Srarogha deal went much the same way. Facilitated by the Jamiat Ullema-e-Islam leader Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman whose abiding relationship with the Pakistani state has led to his twice being targeted in suicide-bombings this year the deal saw the jihad commander Baitullah Mehsud agree to expel foreigners from South Waziristan.

  • Finally, in 2006, the Pakistan army signed a third peace deal with the Uthmanzai Wazirs of North Waziristan, hoping to stave off the prospect that low-level attacks would escalate into an insurgency. The agreement, in effect, handed power to Islamists; their flag was flown at the function where the deal was signed. Less than a year on, the two sides were at war, once again.

  • General Musharraf's desperate peacemaking needs to be understood in the context of the crisis Pakistan was confronted with after 2001. He was faced with multiple lobbies calling for dismantling the army's historical clients, the jihadists: India threatened war, following the attack on Parliament House in New Delhi; the United States was irked by the support jihadists in Pakistan's cities offered al-Qaeda; military insiders like former ISI chief Javed Qazi argued that the military-mullah alliance made attracting desperately-needed investment impossible.

  • Fighting in North Waziristan, without doubt, degrades the jihadist movement's capabilities, but large-scale terrorism will not quickly end. For that, Pakistan needs political resources a commitment to democratisation and development, and parties that can deliver them that it simply does not possess.

  • For the foreseeable future, Pakistan's descent into the abyss seems inevitable: War or no war in Waziristan.

Courtesy: The Hindu and Times of India