PEACE OR PAUSE ?

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Peace or pause?

by Bashir Assad

Kashmir is enjoying a breeze of peace and after ages of unrest, this almost
feels heavenly. But is it peace or just quiet before a storm? After all, Srinagar is readying for the G-20 summit and we need to be vigilant against the forces in Pakistan
that never give up their anti-India agenda.

Fazaa yeh aman-o-amaan ki sada rakhein kaayam, Suno yeh farz tumhaara bhi hai, hamaara bhi
–Nusrat Mehdi

YES, peace is our right and our duty too. But unfortunately, it may not be everyone’s
way of being. Or choice. After a long, long struggle with violence and political manipulation, Kashmir is presently tasting peace… the much forgotten, sweet flavour of peace. The Valley can right now be termed ‘normal’, thanks to all the parameters of violence showing a
dip. It’s witnessing one of the most violence-free phases. It is quiet. There are no situations requiring law and order interventions. This state of being, however, requires a deep analysis. Whether it is really peace out here or is Kashmir simply quiet right now – is a subject to be looked into. One thing is clear: people have rejected violence in all forms and manifestations. If looked at from that perspective, Kashmir is indeed peaceful; but when
we take into consideration the whole scenario wherein we have Pakistan and its militant arms having stakes in disturbances and distractions, Kashmir is simply quiet. There is a huge difference between peace and quietness.

G-20 summit and lurking fears
In the run-up to the upcoming G-20 summit to be held between May 21 and May 23, face-lifting of the capital city of Srinagar is the main highlight. Arrangements are being made for the smooth conduct of the summit. However, in the face of the summit, there are
apprehensions about the uncertain nature of this peace. Pakistan and its militant arms still pose a challenge to this peace and any provocation could make the scenario fragile and unsustainable. Though a mass uprising is completely ruled out now in Kashmir, given the fact that the larger majority has rejected violence as an option to seek redressal of
grievances whatsoever; but the provocations of militants have the potential to create an unfavourable situation which could somehow help a mute Pakistan to propagate its narrative amidst the unprecedented economic and political crisis it faces.
Well, with no intention to create any fear, we are just attempting to analyse and asses the current situation. After all, an event of phenomenal diplomatic and political ramifications is scheduled to be held in Srinagar, which makes it even more significant. Will Pakistan and its destructive militant arms really be quiet and ready to eat the humble pie? Not really. It
would be foolish on part of the security and law enforcing agencies to expect that Pakistan and its militant arms will not try to create some kind of nuisance ahead of the grand show. According to security experts, Pakistan is certainly up to something obnoxious even though it faces serious problems internally on all fronts – economic, political or in regard to engagement of Pakistan army in the North West Frontier Province region. Pakistan has many challenges, to the extent that its survival is under threat owing to its crisis. That said, there are elements in the Pakistani establishment, particularly in the army – which we call rogue elements – that are not willing to give up their anti- India rhetoric. This segment is least concerned about the existential threat that that country is facing. But again, the circumstances have squeezed the space for this segment too. The killing of some top militant commanders of Kashmiri origin in Pakistan in the recent past has shaken the confidence of the top designated militant leaders who presumably are running the launching pads. According to some senior police officials, insecurities are brewing up among the militants in charge of launching terrorists to this side of Line of Actual Control. “The recent killing of militant leaders in Pakistan – mainly on funding issues – have shaken the militant leaders who are assigned the job of sending terrorists to this side,” a senior police officer tells this correspondent. On condition of anonymity, the officer adds that it is
for the first time that militants are feeling unsafe in the otherwise safe haven for them – which is Pakistan. Though the insecurity they have has a lot to do with money, but even fear chains them. He says the militant leaders in charge of launching pads, have, to a great extent, stopped communication with their assets on this side. “We have inputs that they
use different phone numbers to connect with their assets on this side and the conversation remains brief and precise,” the officer says. He also adds that the terrorists sitting there in Pakistan are not so enthusiastic about infiltration bids. “Some attempts were made but each was foiled by our security forces,” he informs, adding that the chances of scaling up the infiltration attempts by terrorists are remote. However, the officer is also quick to add
that Pakistan is unpredictable and we cannot be complicit.

It merits a mention here that Bashir Ahmad Peer, the top commander of the terror outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, was shot dead by unidentified
assailants in Pakistan’s Rawalpindi on February 20 this year. Peer, who hailed from Kupwara district, had been living in Pakistan for more than 15 years. Peer was in charge of launching terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir through Line of Control. He was designated a terrorist by the Home Ministry on October 4 last year under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for his role in terror activities, following an exclusive story on him by Kashmir Central that talked about his role in sending terrorists to Kashmir. Earlier, Aijaz Ahmad Ahanger, a designated terrorist hailing from Srinagar, was killed in Southern Afghanistan by Taliban militia. This was followed by yet another killing of Sayed Khalid Raza, a notorious terrorist
commander of Al Badre terrorist outfit outside his Karachi residence. Khalid hailed from Baramullah District in North Kashmir. The larger point is that Pakistan and its militant arms face a peculiar situation and under such circumstances, implying that any attempt from
across the Border to disturb the fragile peace in Kashmir valley, would be lacking in intensity. The attempt, if any, would be made only to the extent of creating a noise around the Pakistani narrative on Kashmir. According to the police sources, there are a few terrorists ready to infiltrate, waiting for the right time. However, activities around launching points are very insignificant. The fire is, thankfully, missing.

It’s quieter closer home
Back in Kashmir, there are even lesser militant activities presently. Thankfully, just two operations in the last four months, one each in Budgam and Pulwama districts. Just a few days back, terrorists managed to break the cordon by the security forces and fled from the site. A senior police officer says that militants have been sighted here and there on
many occasions in the last few months but the forces could not act owing to security reasons. But he adds that terrorists are hiding right now. “As of now, it seems, they are avoiding contact with the security forces. It could be because almost all the top terrorist
commanders were eliminated last year and it’s possible that the surviving terrorists have been told to go into hiding and are working towards consolidation before indulging in activities,” says he. However, he adds, the incursion or an attack in the hinterland is always a low cast affair for Pakistan and it does not require the approval of the political or army top brass of that country.

Drug smuggling touches low
Again there is an interesting observation. For whatever reasons, the smuggling of drugs into this side from across the Border has also gone down considerable in the last few months. “This coming down of drug smuggling again calls for in-depth analysis. We were fearing unprecedented smuggling of drugs because of the free flow of drugs post
Talibanisation of Afghanistan. And it really did take off initially. But now it has reduced drastically,” says another senior police officer requesting not to be named.
By all accounts, the situation is intriguing. The former army chiefs and retired diplomats of Pakistan are talking more whereas the present setup is mute. There is something more than meets the eye. Pakistan is certainly not in a position to create trouble for India especially in Kashmir; but at the same time, it has not given up on its malicious designs towards India. The security agencies of India need to be vigilant to ensure an incident free G 20 season.

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