Friday, February 15, 2019
C. CHRISTINE FAIR
Pulwama suicide attack, use of a Kashmiri attacker, and a pre-attack video is an attempt by Pakistan to reassert its equities over Kashmir dispute.
Calibrate the violence
Suicide attacks and the videotape
Islamic State and Al Qaeda
Jaish-e-Mohammed to the front
US created this beast on the border
In the wake of a strong Supreme Court verdict on the Faizabad dharna, one would have expected governmental initiatives to curb religious extremism to be met with general praise. After all; the government was berated for allowing these groups to fester unchecked and the apex court had ordered the state and its law enforcement agencies to be more vigilant and proactive. Moreover, the civil society and the vast majority of the population had been asking for groups like Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) to be dismantled for years now, only for our demands to fall on deaf ears.However, as the Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Wednesday announced that the government is gearing up to launch a crackdown against extremist narratives on social media in the next few weeks, the mood surrounding the statement was one of caution and dread. For while the focus of this new crackdown was ostensibly extremist narratives, this government’s past record of curbing media freedoms makes any regulation of social media platforms a dangerous proposition.
The government can still prove its detractors wrong and exclusively go after religious fundamentalists and banned groups who use social media to spread their message of intolerance, violence and sectarianism. It can shut down their communication channels and ensure that their armies on online trolls – who threaten individuals and inundate civil debates with blind hate – are made inoperative. It is sincerely hoped that the government sticks to the narrow definition of “religious extremists” and carries out the task diligently, and if it does it will certainly have the gratitude of the nation.
Yet, it is the multitude of loose terms used by Information Minister which cause alarm. Along with extremism the Information Minister has said the crackdown will prosecute those who commit “hate speech” and those who “break the law”. One only has to look at how civil society protesters are being treated by this government to understand how broadly these terms are defined. Criticism of the government could land you in jail for “defaming institutions” or “inciting violence”, while unwanted protests are often dubbed ‘disturbance of public peace”. The abuse of the law to clamp down on criticism is a common practice on the street – there is no reason to think this would be different on social media .
In fact it has the potential to be all the more problematic. Years of work behind legitimate online news services could be deleted with a press of a button – and with Fawad Chaudhry relishing the idea of “controlling” this new medium in every speech that he makes, this fear could become a reality soon.
Being a tribal Pushtun myself, I can sense the disenfranchisement among Pushtuns in general and the youngsters in particular. The reason is obvious as they demand equal rights. They want peace in their region. And discontinuation of proxy wars in their areas. To put it in simple words, Pushtuns want to live a dignified and prosperous life. Factually, this is the least that citizens can demand from the state.
Now there should be no hurdle in meeting this demand, until the state has other aims to achieve in Pushtun dominated areas. As per Pushtun Tahaffuz Movement, peace is a prerequisite for human existence. And it’s justified too. Because war-like situation in the US states of Massachusetts would nullify the existence of Harvard. Same is the case in Pushtun belt, where hundreds of schools, hospitals and markets would be of no use in the absence of peace. For a teacher, doctor or businessman would be reluctant to teach, serve and invest respectively in a hostile region.
Under the unanimously agreed upon constitution, every citizen has equal rights. There is no concept of superior or inferior as per the law of the land. Every citizen has the right to live a dignified life. This constitution binds the various federating units having different cultures altogether. Ergo in such a diversified population the rights enshrined in state’s constitution should be given to all and sundry. There shouldn’t be any double standards.
Currently, the Pushtun community reckons that their land is intentionally used by the state to advance its strategic goals. To achieve this end, the powers-that-be always remain busy in keeping the region rife with conflict. This approach on the part of state has caused immense damage to the unity among Pakistanis. For misunderstandings occur because of the inequality prevalent in the land of pure.
Being a tribal Pushtun myself, I can sense the disenfranchisement among Pushtuns in general and the youngsters in particular. The reason is obvious as they demand equal rights
To add to it, since the inception of the country till date, Pushtuns have given innumerable sacrifices for the well-being of the state. They have sacrificed their lives and left their abodes for ensuring peace in the entire country. Despite all these sacrifices, it surprises them that their belt is not at par with other regions of the state. It doesn’t enjoy the same facilities which are available in rest of the country.
The state should learn from its past mistakes. As its wrong policies have fired back. Now a new policy should be formulated that should be based on ameliorating the state of affairs of the Pushtun belt. Moreover, restoring peace should be the central idea of this new approach. Given the present situation there is no alternative of peace. It would greatly help the government in triumphing the hearts and minds of disgruntled Pushtun youngsters.
The policy makers should take cognizance of the fact that this country belongs to 220 million people. It can’t be run by preferring one region over the other. Instead, all the communities should be viewed as integral part of the state. The current unrest in Pushtun areas shouldn’t be there as for years operations were conducted in the name of eradicating terrorists. Now the fact that these forces are again rearing heads is surprising. The Pushtun community can’t afford another war in their region. Therefore, issues should be resolved by taking them into confidence.
President Trump’s office had no such equivocation as it implicitly accused Pakistan of fostering and inflicting terrorism on the region. Terming it a “heinous” terrorist attack, the White House said “The United States calls on Pakistan to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil, whose only goal is to sow chaos, violence, and terror in the region.”
“This attack only strengthens our resolve to bolster counterterrorism cooperation and coordination between the United States and India,” the statement added, going beyond the State Department’s formulation that “The United States is resolutely committed to working with the Indian government to combat terrorism in all its forms.” President Trump has whittled down US aid to Pakistan to almost zero, a policy that does not sit well with many State Department bureaucrats who believe Washington should continue to lubricate a state closely identified with the use of terrorism as a policy instrument.
It’s not often that the White House and the State Department read from a different page, but in this case, the White House unequivocally went beyond the rather circumspect formulation in Foggy Bottom to call out Pakistan for its terrorism. It is not clear if this was the result of any direct intervention by Trump, who is not known to pull punches in identifying adversaries, and who does not see Pakistan in any considerate light given its long and transparent history of hosting terrorists. The US President was engaged for the most part on Thursday and Friday with the scrap over border wall funding as he prepared to declare a national emergency.
#PulwamaAttack - India unleashes its military on Pakistan after a terror attack stoked the feud between the nuclear rivals
Modi said his country's "blood boils" and gave his military a "free hand" to determine "the timing, place and nature of their response." India and Pakistan have been bitter rivals for years, and both countries have built nuclear arsenals to hold each other at bay.
Modi unleashing the military has been called an "abdication of political responsibility" that could lead to a "super dangerous" conflict between the nuclear rivals.Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi on Friday unleashed the country's military against rival Pakistan in response to a terror attack by Muslim separatists that killed 44 on Thursday. "I know there is deep anger, your blood boils looking at what has happened. At this moment, there are expectations and the feelings of a strong response which is quite natural," Modi said in a speech mourning the police forces killed and those injured.India regularly accuses Pakistan of training and arming militants and smuggling them across the border into the Indian region of Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region on the countries' shared border.
Following the terror attack, where an explosive-laden truck plowed into a bus carrying police forces, India said it had "incontrovertible evidence" of Pakistan's involvement in the attack. Pakistani-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed the attack, but Pakistan quickly denied any official involvement. "Our neighboring country thinks such terror attacks can weaken us, but their plans will not materialize," said Modi of Pakistan.
"Security forces have been given permission to take decisions about the timing, place and nature of their response," Modi continued.Rajesh Rajagopalan, a professor of international politic at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, tweeted that Modi's statement was an "abdication of political responsibility," because he handed over control of the response to the military. Christopher Clary, an international affairs expert and professor at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy at the University of Albany, said that Modi unleashing the military had the potential to get out of control.
While Clary told Business Insider he didn't interpret Modi's words to mean he had authorized a major military action against Pakistan, cross-border conflicts happen frequently.
India and Pakistan have been bitter rivals for decades, but enjoyed a period of relative clam for the past few years. But recently, both Pakistan and India have grown in nationalist fervor, with online militias on Facebook and elsewhere lusting for blood and mocking each other's militaries and nations. Also, with Modi's Hindu-nationalist party facing elections later this year, the Indian leader may feel pressured to make a show of force.
If India engages in a cross-border strike as they appear set to, "it would be hard on Pakistan not to do something in retaliation. After a while, the back and forth can get super dangerous," said Clary. "We don't have that many countries with nuclear weapons that share a common border, so things can get pretty hairy."
Additionally, the White House came down hard on Pakistan and urged them to "end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil."
The militant attack in India-ruled Kashmir has once again put New Delhi and Islamabad on a war footing. Analysts at the Munich Security Conference say it is a setback to those who wish to see lasting peace in the region.
At least 41 Indian paramilitary troops were killed on Thursday in a suicide bombing in the Pulwama district of India-administered Kashmir. The Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which translates as "The Army of Mohammed," claimed responsibility for the deadly attack, according to local media.It was not the first time that the Islamist group allegedly perpetrated an attack in the Indian part of Kashmir, although the Thursday assault was the deadliest in the disputed region.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the attack as "dastardly," while other Indian officials said they have "incontrovertible evidence" that Islamabad had "a direct hand" in the bombing. They have vowed a harsh response to the attack.Pakistan's government, meanwhile, said it condemns acts of violence anywhere in the world and denied any involvement. The bombing immediately drew strong condemnation from the international community, including from the United States and Germany.
'No business as usual for India'
The bombing is a huge setback to the already turbulent India-Pakistan ties. The two nations have thorny relations and fought three full-fledged wars, two of them over the disputed Kashmir region. India blames Pakistan for supporting Islamist terror attacks on India. Pakistan routinely denies Indian accusations that it supports terrorism. Since the late 1980s, Kashmir's separatist insurgency has waxed and waned, but it began to pick up in the last five years as a fresh generation of Kashmiris was drawn to militancy.
Samir Saran, president of the New Delhi-based think tank Observer Research Foundation, told DW on the sidelines of this year's Munich Security Conference that there is no doubt that Pakistan was behind the latest Kashmir attack. He also accused Islamabad of waging an "asymmetrical war" against New Delhi. "It was a cold-blooded terrorist attack, conducted by militants from across the border, trained and funded by the proxy network sustained by Pakistan," Saran said.
He added that the Thursday attack could force India to react militarily and target militants' sanctuaries on the Pakistani side of the border. "After the attack, it can't be business as usual for New Delhi," the foreign policy and security analyst said.
With India set to hold a general election by May, Saran pointed out, the Modi government will be under pressure to show that it's acting tough on Pakistan. "This happened at a time when India is in the midst of or rather at the beginning of the election cycle... the prime minister will have to respond. Otherwise, he will appear weak and therefore all bets are off. I suspect this is bigger than we think it is."
'Hurtful' for Kashmir's political movement
Talat Bhat, a Kashmiri activist and documentary filmmaker based in Sweden, says he's worried that the latest deadly assault would "hurt" the peaceful political movement for the rights of the Kashmiri people.
"Pakistan needs to act against Jaish-e-Mohammed and other Islamist groups. The Pakistani army's 'strategic assets' are damaging the Kashmir cause, the cause for a national liberation movement. New Delhi gets away with its human rights violations as a result of such acts," Bhat told DW.
Toqeer Gilani, the president of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, also conceded that the latest Kashmir bombing was "damaging" for the "freedom movement" in the Himalayan region. "The assault would not bring any sympathy from the international community for the Kashmir plight. It will also increase an arms race in South Asia and keep the region backward," Gilani told DW.
Will China turn against Jaish-e-Mohammed?
India has once again demanded that Jaish-e-Mohammed and its leader Maulana Masood Azhar be declared as terrorists by the United Nations. The group has its roots in another Islamic militant group active in Kashmir, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, which is believed to have links with al-Qaida. But New Delhi's UN efforts have been thwarted by Beijing, a close ally of Pakistan. How likely is it that China would reconsider its approach toward Jaish-e-Mohammed?
"China's role in this is not difficult to understand. Last year, Beijing blocked an attempt to declare Masood a terrorist. China considers India its enemy," Bhat said. But Gilani believes it would be hard for China to ignore the latest attack on Indian paramilitary personnel.
Siegfried O. Wolf, an expert at the Brussels-based South Asia Democratic Forum, says China is "indirectly" encouraging Pakistan. "Beijing will most likely not intervene in Pakistan's policy of backing militants that are operating in Afghanistan and India. Any measures against such groups, or the withdrawal of support, will be perceived as a hostile act by regional jihadists," Wolf told DW, adding that Beijing would not want that just for India's sake.
Experts say China's response to Jaish-e-Mohammed and its leader would be crucial when it came to a possible international action against Kashmiri militants. There are growing calls in India for the government to take unilateral actions against these groups. Indians have also taken to social media to vent their fury and call for swift retribution against Pakistan. But the consequences of any unilateral action by New Delhi could be devastating for regional peace and relations between the two nuclear-armed South Asian rivals.
“We will give a befitting reply, our neighbor will not be allowed to destabilize us,” Modi said in a speech, after meeting with security advisers earlier to discuss options.
The Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility soon after a suicide bomber rammed a explosives-laden car into a bus carrying Central Reserve Police Force personnel on Thursday.
The White House urged Pakistan in a statement “to end immediately the support and safe haven provided to all terrorist groups operating on its soil”.India said it had “incontrovertible evidence” of the Pakistan involvement in the attack. The Pakistan government responded with a stiff denial, while calling the attack a matter of “grave concern.”As outrage and demands for revenge flooded Indian social media sites, Arun Jaitley, one of the most senior figures in the Hindu nationalist-led government, spelt out New Delhi’s diplomatic response.“The ministry of external affairs will initiate all possible steps, and I am here referring to all possible diplomatic steps, which have to be taken to ensure the complete isolation from the international community of Pakistan,” Jaitley, the country’s finance minister, told reporters.The first step, he said, would include removing most favored nation (MFN) trade privileges that had been accorded to Pakistan - though annual bilateral trade between the two countries is barely $2 billion.
The last major attack in Kashmir was in 2016 when Jaish militants raided an Indian army camp in Uri, killing 20 soldiers. Weeks later, Modi ordered a surgical strike on suspected militant camps across the border in Pakistan Kashmir.
When he swept to power in 2014, Modi had vowed to tough line with mostly Muslim Pakistan. The two countries have gone to war three times since independence from Britain in 1947, twice over Kashmir.The Line of Control, the disputed de facto border dividing Indian and Pakistani held Kashmir is widely regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints, especially after the two countries became nuclear armed states in 1998.
CRACKDOWN IN KASHMIR
Hundreds of thousands of Indian troops are deployed in Kashmir. Having waxed and waned since the late 1980s, the insurgency began to intensify in the last five years as a fresh generation of Kashmiris were drawn to militancy. And since last year, the number of attacks has increased.Soon after Thursday’s attack, Jaish released photographs and a video of Adil Ahmad Dar, a young Kashmiri villager it said had carried out the suicide attack on the convoy as it passed through Pulwama district.In the video, Dar warned of more attacks to avenge human rights violations in Kashmir.
Jaish is one of the most deadly groups operating in Kashmir, and has a long history of strikes against India.
In 2001, it mounted a deadly attack on the parliament in New Delhi that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of another war. India’s past efforts to add Jaish’s supremo, Maulana Masood Azhar, to a U.N. Security Council blacklist of al Qaeda-linked terrorists have been blocked by China.
Indian forces picked up seven people for questioning, after mounting a sweep in Pulwama, a police official said.
The bus in which the paramilitary personnel were traveling was part of a convoy of more than 70 vehicles on the heavily guarded Jammu-Srinagar highway.
Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik said there were security lapses and authorities are investigating why such a large convoy, transporting nearly 2,500 security personnel, was on the road.