Ready To Rattle?

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BASHIR ASSAD

THERE are desperate attempts from the Pakistani spy agency ISI to revive terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. The events that have unfolded in Kashmir over the last several months lead us to the clue that the ISI is adopting a multi-pronged strategy to revive terrorism in Kashmir.

The strategy apparently has two dimensions. On one hand, the highly trained terrorists with sophisticated weapons have been tasked to engage with the security forces along the Line of Control   in Rajouri and Poonch Districts south of Pirpanjal. There is solid evidence pointing towards the fact that deadly terrorists are roaming close to LoC in Poonch and Rajouri districts with the backup of the Pakistan rangers.

Security agencies including the Jammu and Kashmir police tend to agree with my observation that the terrorists keep coming and going in the Poonch and Rajouri districts as the region is highly mountainous, difficult to be manned all the time. The Pakistan army has some geographical advantage in Mendhar and Balakote sectors in the region. Pakistan is fully exploiting its geographical advantage by sending highly trained terrorists with more lethal weapons to choose targets deep inside our territory. The Pakistani army, it seems, has issued instructions to the mercenaries not to target the forward Indian posts which could result in direct confrontation with the Indian Army.

The strategy is to target the Indian Army at isolated places deep inside and go back to the defence line. This analysis holds some water as there is absolutely no provocation in Balnoi sector where the Indian Army has geographical advantage and could inflict heavily on the enemy. My observation is that there is a meticulously designed plan in place where Pakistan is avoiding any direct confrontation with the Indian security forces. Rather than making borders tense, Pakistan seems to attempt inflicting heavy casualties on the Indian security forces in the hinterland. It is to avoid hostility between the regular forces. The terrorists carefully select their targets, attack suddenly and vanish from the scene. Assumedly the terrorists who strike are immediately called back only to be replaced by the new group. It has also come to fore that terrorists roaming in the forests of Poonch, Rajouri and Reasi districts keep coming and going with ease.

The second part of the Pakistani strategy is to revive the local contacts in the hinterland. It is no more a secret that each infiltrating terrorist group has at least one local terrorist with it. The local terrorist is not essentially member of the attacking squad. His job, on the contrary, is to mobilise local contacts.

Now as for the Kashmir Valley is concerned, there are serious attempts to revive Hizbul Mujahideen. Recently, the Army and Jammu and Kashmir police have noticed anti-India and pro-Hizbul slogans written on the walls along the roadside and shutters or shops. It could not be a mere co-incidence that slogans appear on walls and shutters in Trehgam area in the frontier district of Kupwara and some places in the Srigufwara Tehsil in Anantnag district. The security forces have come across such slogans for the first time after October 2019. There are some unconfirmed reports that a few old horses of Hizbul Mujahideen who had exfiltrated to Pakistan in late 1990s have returned with the sole intention to revive Hizbul in the Kashmir Valley. In some cases, the second generation terrorists have reportedly sneaked into Kashmir to take upon the task of revival of Hizbul in Kashmir.

According to some reports, sons of former Hizbul commanders, particularly from South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, currently in Pakistan, are said to have infiltrated and are silently working on the revival plan. In late 1990s, a number of Hizbul commanders, along with their legitimate or illicit spouses, exfiltrated to Pakistan. Some of them fled with their girlfriends, leaving behind their own legitimate spouses and children; while in some cases, the commanders fled first and then managed the travel of their spouses on legal travel documents. There are others who went to Pakistan, married there and never returned to Kashmir. For the last three-four months, the Hizbul Mujahideen command is actively working on a revival plan as the outfit has completely vanished from the scene in Kashmir. It is the proscribed LeT and Jaish-e-Muhammad operating in Kashmir under new names. Hizbul, as such, has no presence following the killing of its all-top commanders from 2016 to 2020.

It is believed that the second-generation terrorists and sons of former Hizbul commanders infiltrated in September or October last year and are operating in some parts of South Kashmir’s Anantnag district. There are some reports, though unconfirmed, that even former top commanders who have grown much older now, have been sent back to revive the Hizbul Mujahideen in the Kashmir Valley. However, police and the Army sources are working hard to verify the reports.

In the past too, things have shaped out in Kashmir quite along the way of the rumours. And this time, rumours about the return of Hizbul commanders or their sons are doing the rounds. People within the security establishment are relating the revival of terrorism with the upcoming Parliamentary election in Jammu and Kashmir. However, I have a different opinion. It is, sorry to state, naïve to relate the revival to the elections alone. The Pakistan handlers have a meticulously crafted plan of hardcore terrorism in the border areas and local terrorism in the hinterland. Hardcore terrorists have been tasked to engage with the Indian Army. The attacks, however, could be after long pauses, but much more intensive and fatal. The local terrorists would be tasked to concentrate on soft targets like unarmed policemen, political workers including the ‘panches’ and ‘sarpanches’, members of the minority community, so on and so forth. Of course, the local terrorists could be used to create disruptions in the smooth conduct of elections. But the larger game plan goes beyond elections.

As I have argued in the earlier analysis that the withdrawal of nations from international commitments have somehow licensed Pakistan to revive terrorism in Kashmir without any fear of answerability. Secondly, Pakistan’s identity as a nation is inseparable from the religious extremism and terrorism is the violent form of religious extremism, and again they are inseparable from each other. Till recent past, it was seen as a political statement, but the economic and political crisis in Pakistan have brought to the fore this harsh reality that rather than abandoning terrorism as a state policy, Pakistani deep state finds solution to the problems in export of terrorism to the foreign countries. As argued, the disregard for the international covenants and agreements by the nation states has actually emboldened Pakistan to revise terrorism as a state policy. So, the argument that revival of terrorism is because of elections is flawed and signifies poor understanding about the issue.

Now the question which is being asked is – how is it possible to revive terrorism in Kashmir when the administration has almost demolished the terror ecosystem and stringent measures are being taken to finish the ecosystem? Well, over the last few months, we have been witnessing strange bedfellows coming together. There is some sort of realignment of forces having tacit approval from the levers of power here or there. The proverb of ‘old wine in new bottle’ holds true as for the course of politics is concerned in Kashmir. As has been rightly said, “there are no permanent friends or foes in politics”. Indeed, enemies are becoming friends and vice versa. Those who were untouchable, are now close to the power corridors. This policy of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds is somehow making the ecosystem feel comfortable. And the adversaries are quick at ceasing the opportunity.  The way the political leaders of regional parties are reaching out to the people in Kashmir, provides an insight on how the adversaries are looking at the developments. When the political leaders would publicly defend the instruments of the terror ecosystem, unfolding events could be anybody’s guess.

As has been confirmed, Pakistan has installed the latest and advanced monitoring system controlling the movement of terrorists and terror sympathisers while sitting at a far-off place. Instructions are issued from there only through latest uncryptic applications, making it difficult for the security agencies to track and trace the terrorists. The shelf-life of terrorists has slightly gone up as compared to the previous three-four years. This again is inspiring for the new recruits. An atmosphere conducive for revival of terrorism is being created and it looks like some politicians – wittingly or otherwise – fall into the trap. See, Pakistan’s efforts alone could not do much. There has been a ‘via Bathinda’ doctrine in vogue. People do what someone sitting quite far wants them to do. Terrorism is all about exploring politics and that is precisely what the handlers sitting across the border are up to.

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