Beneficiaries across Generations and Continents
On August 3, a Twitter post went viral in Kashmir circles. The tweet related to an expose of those driving the so-called Kashmir conflict. It provided the link for the expose titled Kashmir Inc: A Conflict Industry. Beneficiaries Across Generations and Continents.
The incisive study of the big money and Pakistan’s diabolic strategy driving and shaping the conflict startled even long-time researchers and Kashmir observers. The study is meticulous. It is a detailed dossier of the conflict mercenaries of Kashmir, and their Next Gen which has been groomed to take forward the baton. Sharp and free of flab, the dossier is unputdownable for all connected with the contemporary political analysis of Kashmir. The tweet also triggered interest in DisInfo Lab, which made the announcement of the study with a bang. On its Twitter handle, the group describes itself in the following words: Investigating Info-warfare and Psy-war. OSINT (Open-Source Intelligence). Big Data. Data Journalism. India. The Kashmir dossier of DisInfo Lab pithily states: Kashmir conflict has become the family business of the Fais, the Thakurs, the Kanjwals, the Ashais, the Fazilis and the Safis with the show being run by Pak establishment, with help from concerned whites. Only the Kashmiris are missing from the Kashmir narrative.
Here are some excerpts from the dossier. Read on.
The Kashmir story is the story of few interconnected stories.
- The Kashmir conflict has become a ‘family business’ run by set of families, and like a family business is passed on from one generation to the next generation.
- The way the conflict is designed, it has generated growing number of stakeholders from set of families to the Gora politicians to the Pakistani establishment in a manner, that it would be useful for them to keep the conflict in the perpetual flux.
III. The Kashmir narrative is a globally sponsored narrative, where every so-called human-rights ‘concern’ on Kashmir is at the end connected with a nexus, put in place by the Pak establishment.
- Kashmir has become everyone’s concern except of Kashmiris. There are virtually no Kashmiris with any worthwhile connection with Kashmir involved in the discussion of Kashmir. If there were, they have been side-lined.
- The centre of gravity for Kashmir narrative has gradually shifted from the Middle East (Saudi Arabia) to Thrace & Asia Minor (Turkey)
This change in 2016 has salient ramifications for the conflict narrative in South Asia. However, the story traces its origin back to key players when the seeds of conflict were sown in Kashmir by Jamaat-e-Islami players; and it has continued to be played by the same set of people through their next generation.
From Terrorism to Psy-war
The Year 2015/ 2016
Several seemingly unrelated events took place in around 2015-2016 in the Indian sub-continent viz.:
- The government of India cancelled the registration of 18,868 NGOs between 2011-17 for the violation of various provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 and Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Rules, 2011. The Government also tightened FCRA rules as a result of which the foreign funding that non-profits in India received in 2016-17 fell by Rs 11,274 crore (from Rs 17,773 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 6,499 crore). This money had to find new avenues.
- Pakistan Senate publishes a report  on Kashmir on October 3, 2016 which, among other things, envisages engaging global lobbying groups, and reactivate all lobbying firms to change the global narrative of Kashmir against India.
- A number ofWhite Experts/Human Rights champions suddenly pop up critical of various ‘failings’ of India, including that on Kashmir. A number of new organizations also mushroom, precisely around these issues. These experts including CJ Werleman, Audrey Truschke, Anthea McIntyre, Danielle Alice Khan, Sehla Ashai etc. Likewise, a number of global organizations also pop up expressing concerns over India’s various issues from humanities to minority rights to Dalit rights to Kashmir including the Polis Project, Equality Lab, Justice for Kashmir and so forth.
Ayyub Thakur’s Terror Links
While on the face of it Ayyub Thakur was ‘lobbying’ for Kashmir cause, he allegedly also provided significant support to terror activities against India, channelling ISI funds to Kashmir through various of his fronts and affiliates. Thakur was alleged to funnel funds to militant organizations in J&K.
In June 2002, J&K police arrested a businessman Imtiaz Ahmed Bazaz on the charges of funneling funds sent by Ayyub Thakur from the UK to Kashmiri separatists including Asiya Andrabi and her organization Dukhtaran-e-Millat. During his interrogation, Bazaz confessed to contacting Ayyub Thakur for channelling funds sent by Pakistan’s ISI. In response, Ayyub Thakur claimed he had sent the money for purchasing sewing machines for the women of Kashmir.
While Ayyub Thakur might have denied his role, his son Muzzammil seems to have a different opinion. During an interview with a J&K based media channel Only Kashmir (in 2015) he admitted that his father “funded terrorism in Kashmir” and that he also believed it was justified as Jihad.
Ghulam Nabi Fai
Ghulam Nabi Fai is the fulcrum of ISI’s Kashmir operations. Every single thread on the Kashmir issue, which originates from Pakistan, eventually reaches him. His stature and role are so extensive and deep that the Pak establishment has failed to find a credible alternative to Fai, despite him being exposed as an agent. It would be no exaggeration to say that Fai at present is more of a liability in terms of Information Warfare regarding Kashmir because of his expose and his arrest. However, his utility apparently outweighs his liability which is why the top Pakistani leadership including PM Imran Khan to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Quershi continues to engage him, despite the obvious embarrassment that it carries with it. This is one of the key reasons why Fai and Pak establishment are preparing to pass on the muster to the next generation of their families who would carry on the business of Kashmir.
Fai and Friends: Fai, Ayyub & Siddiqi
Fai’s friendship with Muhammad Ayyub Thakur goes back to their Kashmir days. Apart from sharing Jamaat connection (and as revealed subsequently, ISI connections), both Fai and Ayyub Thakur were trained by former All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Their progress has also been on parallel tracks. Both Fai and Thakur established respective networks on Kashmir in USA and UK. However, at least from ISI’s point of view, their roles differed slightly – while Fai engaged himself in the US in building lobby networks, ISI allegedly used Thakur also for channeling funds to Kashmir.
These individuals and the fronts created by them since 1970s could be called the first generation of psy-war in the name of Kashmir. As shown, the center of gravity remained Fai, the convicted ISI agent, and this also means that the Kashmiri agenda has remained a plank for Pakistan to push its own interests at global stage. However, with time the environment changes, and the ‘oldies’ may not be the most efficient operatives for psy-war in the age of social media, and hence there was need to pass the baton. What makes Kashmir story even murkier is that the State agenda gets overlapped with family interests, as the next generation of Kashmiri leaders happen to be the children of the actors from the first generation.
Passing the Baton
As is the case with politics, Bollywood and business fraternity, Kashmir is also a family business that is carried forward as a profit-earning enterprise to the next generations to live and thrive on. The business model is so profitable that the next few generations would not meet to work any other job. Unlike ordinary families, where the children study subjects that could help them acquire a respectful earning, fraternity of particular kind prepares its progenies from the beginning to take over the muster that would be inherited. This is evident in the transition from generation 1 to generation 2 in the Kashmir theatre.
If one were to examine all the discourse about Kashmir, one would be forgiven for assuming that everyone has a stake in Kashmir except Kashmiris from Kashmir. In the name of Kashmir, beginning White Americans to US/UK/EU politicians to Kashmiris born and brought up aboard – everyone has a say on Kashmir issue, except the actual Kashmiris.
This surprisingly is not a new phenomenon.
A series of White Experts and human rights Rudalis (professional mourners) have been cultivated over decades to keep shedding tears for Kashmir – all on a particular line sponsored by one State. Never once any human right has been violated by terrorism in Kashmir, NOT ONCE. As noted in the beginning, several Foren experts/ human rights activists suddenly popped up around 2016, who precipitously found an intense human rights and geo-political interest in Kashmir, and in all other issues in India. However, while 2016 was an industrial scale expansion, similar patterns were found in the past as well. In what would be called an uncanny coincidence, three Americans appear on the theater of Kashmir in almost orderly succession, beginning 1989. Those who are aware of Kashmir’s history would know the significance of the year.
Lobbying & Kashmir
In one word – all concerns on Kashmir and human rights issues in India has been expressed by two set of people: One which Pakistani establishment has created for the purpose, and others who have been engaged by these agents o including US/UK/EU politicians.
We have noted above the activities of individuals/ organizations planted by Pak establishment for the purpose. However, to provide legitimacy to their agenda, they also need to deploy ‘third parties’, whose views could be presented as ‘neutral’. And if those ‘neutral’ concerns come from White/ Western faces from the developed world, the poor third world browns will swallow the propaganda ‘rod, hook and sinker’, without asking questions and without looking into the background. However, once looked into the background, a rather un-flattering view of the ‘democratic system’ of the developed world emerges. Institutionalising lobbying means anyone can get ‘human rights’ concerns from US politicians, a facility that Pakistan has utilised rather remarkably. As a bonus point, it also buys insurance from criticism against its own human rights track records. This is rather impressive investment. By hiring lobby firms, which in turn hires politicians, Pakistan also manages to get lot of ‘aid’ and other funds, thereby, more than recovering the investment. Pakistan has been hiring lobbying institutions since long, and has hired seven different lobbying firms (three of them mentioned earlier) in the last two years alone, with an emphasis to get the control over the narrative in Kashmir.
With all the lobbying, the networking and sophisticated propaganda machinery, the ‘mercenaries that be’ still have to resort to fake news and misinformation to push the narrative of ‘human rights violation’, ‘army atrocity’ and ‘repression’ in Kashmir by the ‘fascist’ India. The one human rights issue that remains completely absent from their ‘concerns’ is that of terrorism. The fake news about Kashmir is peddled to global media right from the top of Pakistani machinery, including their politicians, diplomats, and journalists.
Building Narrative: Army Atrocity – A Case Study
In the same vein, as August 5th is approaching, there has been a renewed effort to highlight one particular aspect: Indian Army atrocities on Kashmiris! In order to build a narrative, first random people/ anonymous handles start posting about random ‘incidences’ of Army’s harassment. It is irrelevant that none of these stories would have any factual details – date/time/location.
Corresponding to this, some major handles/influencers would start soft-paddling the narrative of army story through personalized experiences or as ‘epistemological’ exercise. And to provide the enabling environment, old and random stories of army atrocities are recycled to give it a sense of recency. This cycle is repeated often, thereby making it ubiquitous. All one would need after this is an orchestrated/provoking act compelling security personnel to take an action, record it with various angle cameras and a perfect recipe of narrative of ‘army atrocity in Kashmir by fascist India’!
(If there could be one..)Conflict theaters world over tend to create vested interests – and Kashmir is no different. What we have seen over the decades is that only the tools and techniques change, the underlying agenda remains same. And for those benefitting from the conflict it would make perfect sense. In the garb of Kashmir alone Pakistan is able to fulfill a range of its strategic objectives: It has engaged US lobby firms, who in turn are medium to reach out to US politicians, who have played a critical part in ensuring supply of ‘aid’ and other largesse from the US, despite the fact that Pakistan has consistently worked at the cross purpose of US interest in the region. In the name of Kashmir, it has also targeted every Indian-origin US politician who may not be inclined to serve their agenda, and/or seen closer to India.
While at the same time, it has kept all the focus away from its own dismal track records of human rights and minorities issues. Some of the most gruesome atrocities inflicted upon Pak minorities doesn’t even raise a whimper of protest from all the human rights cavaliers put together. Kashmir has also become a money-making machine – as seen from numerous fund-raising campaigns being run on Launch Good and other fund-raising platforms. As explained in the DisInfo Lab reports on Covid Aid Scam, these organizations not only do not provide any details about their funds utilizations but are also connected with radical Islamists and terrorist groups.
Above all, it is a survival strategy of Pakistani establishment, particularly for the Army to keep selling the Kashmir opium to its domestic population to remain relevant and grab resources. It also doesn’t harm that whenever the population demands accountability on domestic/development issue, Kashmir slogan comes handy for distraction. Kashmir conflict has also created an eco-system from which a set of families derive their livelihood and relevance. The Fais, the Thakurs, the Kanjwals, the Ashais, the Fazilis, the Safis, and the Dars among others have not only been living their dream lives, they have also come to acquire an aura of ‘experts’ and ‘human rights’ activists, an aura that is very useful, particularly in these woke time. The only things that are missing in this Pakistani orchestrated theater is Kashmiris themselves. Their role has been reduced to mere objects, in whose name the mercenaries would live a life full of ‘activism fun’.
Hence, it would be criminally naïve for not only Indians but particularly for Kashmiris to assume that Pakistan and the net cast by its establishment would have any interest in resolving Kashmir issue. For the Pak establishment, Kashmir conflict has become a Goose that lays golden eggs, and unlike the stupid old lady, it has no intention of killing the goose.