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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

[mukto-mona] Opinion: Pakistan needs new enemies

Pakistan needs new enemies

Saleem Samad

Islamabad must continue to ensure that the Kashmir issue is a top priority
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's government-backed Rawalpindi military hawks recently published an official country map that showed Kashmir Valley as part of Pakistan.
In fact, Pakistan has repeatedly given India the opportunity to present the restive Kashmir to the world as nothing more and nothing less than a Pakistan-backed insurgency.
Pakistan's policies have effectively undermined the struggle of the Kashmiris, even those living under Pakistan's occupation.
When Islamic militias and terrorists engaged in an armed insurrection in Kashmir, it was dubbed as jihad -- holy war.
When the Baloch people demonstrated through peaceful struggle for their basic rights, they were labelled as terrorists. What a contradictory interpretation of the regime in Islamabad!
All of Pakistan's actions are an attempt to counter India's move in August last year, which changed the status of Kashmir by bringing it under Delhi's direct control under Article 370, scrapping Kashmir's autonomy. Then they imposed a blackout of the internet and enforced a curfew.
Since then, India has been accused of using excessive force to maintain peace in the valley.
Delhi obviously has a reason to be cautious, on account of Pakistan's interference in Kashmir for the last seven decades. Since the Indo-Pakistan partition in 1947, the Pakistan army has unsuccessfully attempted to infiltrate Kashmir innumerable times.
After the birth of Pakistan, it violated the status quo agreement and invaded a part of the valley, with recruits of ferocious Pashtun tribes in the absence of sufficient infantry soldiers to push into Jammu and Kashmir.
This invasion started the current 70-year conflict between India and Pakistan, as India deployed troops to defend Kashmir against the marauding Pakistan military.
In September 1965, Pakistan soldiers crossed into Kashmir to foment a rebellion -- but failed.
In the 1990s, Pakistan-backed jihadists, trained by the Rawalpindi General Headquarters (GHQ) to fight against the Soviet occupation in the 80s, were later mobilized as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed against the Indian-administered Kashmir.
In 1999, Pakistan made another failed attempt to capture the Kashmir territory through infiltration but ended up abandoning its own soldiers once the international media exposed Pakistan's actions and Delhi countered the move with its military.
Since then, Pakistan has relied increasingly on backing militant networks that have terrorized not just the Kashmir Valley but also mainstream India.
This includes Delhi's parliament assault and the Mumbai terror attack in 2001 to recent terror attacks in Pulwama and Pathankot, carried out by Pakistan's militants recruited from Kashmiris.
These aggressive tactics by Pakistan army GHQ have sealed India's perception of the Kashmiris through the lens of its historic confrontation with Pakistan.
Meanwhile, a growing schism between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan has unfolded recently as tensions threaten their strategic partnership.
Pakistan has pushed for action since August last year when India revoked Kashmir Valley's special status, but had limited success.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation -- OIC -- has only held low-level meetings on the Kashmir crisis despite Islamabad's crying calls.
Nevertheless, Imran Khan has denied rumours that Pakistan's relationship with Saudi Arabia "soured" over its lack of support for Kashmir during the crisis.
There was also a recent statement by Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi concerning the establishment of an alternative Muslim platform to deal with the Kashmir issue -- in the face of Saudi opposition to raising it within the OIC.
Acting as another nail in the coffin, Maldives, after plugging Pakistan's attempt to target India on "Islamophobia" at an OIC meet, has recently echoed New Delhi's wishes in blocking a bid to conduct the failed 19th SAARC Summit in Pakistan, on the excuse that South Asia, like the rest of the world, is preoccupied with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The rapidly shifting geopolitical realities, especially the current circumstances in South Asia, behoove Pakistan to treat the Kashmir issue as its top priority.
Thankfully, Islamabad is doing that.

First published in the Dhaka Tribune on 5 October 2020

Saleem Samad is an independent journalist, media rights defender, and recipient of the Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He can be reached at; Twitter @saleemsamad

Recipient of Ashoka Fellow (1991) & Hellman-Hammett Award (2005)
Freelance Journalist & Columnist
Correspondent, Reporters Without Border (RSF)
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