Tactical shift: English labels for old terror networks
Attempt to clock terrorism as indigenous non-religious rebellion
Indoctrinated Kashmiri Youth Charmed By Slick English Names
Pakistan is giving a cosmetic makeover to terrorism in Kashmir. Facing heat from Financial Action Taskforce (FATF), Pakistan is giving new slick English labels to the old designated terrorist networks operating in Kashmir. For nearly three decades now, terrorist groups have been operating in Kashmir with names like Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar e Taiba, Jaish e Mohammed, Al Badr, and so forth. Pakistan had given these groups names cloaked in Islamic terms as a call to the youth in the name of so-called religious jihad.
Now, Pakistan has moved old terrorist cadres in Kashmir into new groups. In a shrewd move by Pakistan, these groups have been given English labels. One such group has been named The Resistance Front. Its slick abbreviation, TRF, is in circulation in Kashmir. Another terror group has been named People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF).
The shift has happened for three broad reasons.
One, to give Pakistan deniability from action that can be initiated against it by Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
Second, to give the terror networks the makeover of a non-religious rebellion. It is now widely known that terrorist groups operating in Kashmir have global jihadi links.
They are influenced by global jihadi ideology. Pakistan has rebranded the terrorist structures in Kashmir to avoid the wrath of the global terror watchdogs.
Three, rebranding of old designated terror groups like LET, JEM, and Al Badr with English names points to a new tactical shift. The purpose is to offer new social charm to the educated or poorly educated Kashmiri youth who are vulnerable to be drawn into terror networks.
Initially, the security agencies of India concluded that the rebranding was due to the FATF pressure on Pakistan to cut off the funding to terrorist groups. It was surmised that rebranding the existing terrorist cadres aimed to send out the global message that it was an indigenous non-religious rebellion. A deeper analysis of the impact of this move within Kashmir has revealed that the rebranding strategy is beyond what has been perceived. The security apparatus of the country could not analyze it at the outset.
The FATF fear factor still seems to be the visible reason for the rebranding. But the new strategy has been designed more craftily than has been hitherto grasped.
Due to the online presence of slick English names like The Resistance Front (TRF) and The People’s Anti Fascist Front, recruitment in terrorist camps has significantly picked up. The catchy names have influenced the Kashmiri youth – poorly educated or educated alike.
Pakistan is milking its religious and linguistic proximity with Kashmir society. The packaging of the anti-India rhetoric by ISI and its dummies has both religious and linguistic flavor. The content being uploaded on social media is highly provocative and instigating. Inflammatory morphed images and doctored visuals are tailored to get easy traction among the youth who are already indoctrinated by a poisonous ideology.
Miyan Ki Dukaan or Jasper and Jasper?
Evaluate it this way. Ask a youngster whether he wants to work in Miyaan Ki Dukaan or Jasper and Jasper – assuming both stores have similar pay structures for staff. Given the sub-continents fascination for English, you can bet that the youngster shall choose to work in Jasper and Jasper.
The same reason applies here. The English labels for terror groups have appealed to Kashmiri youth who are indoctrinated by Pakistan-sponsored forces like Jamaat e Islami or are influenced by the anti-India propaganda unleashed by Pakistan on social media. Also factor in the old Pakistan strategy of making heroes of terrorists. The strategy has been embedded in Kashmir for three decades now. Hence the easy shift of many youth towards violence and terrorism.
On a social front, the purpose rebranding of old terror cadres into networks with English names is to lure the Kashmiri youth in new ways.
The educated Kashmiri youth who opt for terror groups have a certain self-image. If there are some who opt for terror networks with jihadi names, others are charmed by the façade of English labels. “It is the feeling of working in a multi-national corporation,” a youngster of Shopian told me.
From Anantnag, I got the feedback that the fancy English names enable the youth to cloak their own backwardness. Youths who join terror networks find new money in their wallets to buy phones and other gadgets. On what they see as the workspace, they are now engaged with The Resistance Front or People’s Anti-Fascist Front. You can expect more to mushroom.
The online anti-India propaganda follows a pattern. Anti-India rhetoric originates from specific social media handles managed by ISI operatives.
The first traction to these posts is from the Pakistani military, followed by self-exiled Kashmiri anti-nationals. The attempt is to provoke indoctrinated Kashmiri youth to join terrorist ranks or become Over Ground Workers (OGWs).
Designated terror groups like Lashkar e Taiba, Jaish e Mohammad, Hizbul Mujahideen, Al Badr, and others were not able to get so much traction. The new strategy of rebranding the old terror groups with English titles has made the job easy for Pakistan. The glossy English names have charmed the vulnerable Kashmiri youth, who are being drawn to them.
Pakistan assumes that after dressing up Kashmir terrorism in new frocks, it has the comfort of deniability. The assumption is that new English names of terrorist groups give Pakistan the buffer to distance from the groups. The tactical rebranding and online packaging is to avoid the wrath of the global watchdogs. At the same time the rebranding gets traction among the youth. All these machinations unravel when the truth comes to light globally.
NGOs in Nexus With ISI
The mushrooming of so-called NGOs in the name of Kashmir in the US, Europe, and the UK is a force multiplier for the recruitment of terrorists. Sam Westrop and Martha Lee of the Middle East Forum (MEF), widely known for its meticulous journalistic investigations in the US, have unearthed the nexus between a Texas-based group, Friends of Kashmir, and ISI. The authors, in their joint investigation, have revealed how the Pakistani establishment exerts its influence through its terror groups in Kashmir, its diaspora, and various fronts and lobbies in the US. The NGO is headed by a little-known hatemonger named Ghazala Habib.
Likewise, Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) and Islamic Council of North America (ICNA) work closely with Jamaat e Islami Pakistan to run a disinformation campaign against India. These organizations came into being after the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir on August 5, 2019.
Role of Some Members Of Kashmiri Diaspora
Self-exiled Kashmiris in Europe, the USA, and Central Asia are supplementing the efforts of ISI in spreading and strengthening the terror tentacles in Kashmir. They are achieving this through toxic online anti-India propaganda unleashed regularly.
These non-resident Kashmiris are being paid handsomely by Pakistan for their hate-India campaign. This investment is peanuts for Pakistan. Pakistan is using these persons as strategic tools. India must initiate stern action against them.
By unleashing the malignant offensive through Kashmiri men and women, Pakistan aims to give their campaign a veneer of credibility.
Pakistan’s machinations are increasingly getting exposed. It is increasingly getting known in global circles that the Kashmiris spewing venom against India are lavishly funded by Pakistan.
The role of these individuals in the Kashmir diaspora in supporting violence against India has been largely ignored in the analysis of the Kashmir conflict. These individuals, living in different countries around the world, are proactive in fuelling hate against India. Their purpose: amassing money through sponsors of the deadly conflict. These individuals have vested interest in keeping the pot boiling. They thrive on the conflict economy of Kashmir.
A large number of Kashmiris settled in various countries are consistently engaged in instigating people back home towards violence. Tony Ashai aka Aziz Ashai an influential businessman settled in the US. He has close links with ISI. Tony has been at the forefront in promoting hatred among Kashmiris against the Indian state.
Dr. Asif Dar
Another person who has been uploading hateful content on social media and asking Kashmiris to boycott electoral politics is one Dr. Asif Dar, son of Muhammad Maqbool Dar, a resident of Bandipayeen, Baramullah. His father and also his mother are government school teachers. Asif’s brother was a militant who was killed in 2006. Currently, Asif is living a comfortable life along with his parents in Saudi Arabia. This man has been spreading venom on social media and uploading incriminating videos for the last one year demeaning Kashmiri people who want to live in peace.