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Pak Support to Terrorism: Yasin Malik Revelation

Cmde C. Uday Bhaskar (Retd) is former officiating Director of Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
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  • June 20, 2005

    The gratitude expressed by the JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik in his recent visit to Islamabad has caused a major flutter on both sides of the Indo-Pak border. On Monday (June 13) Mr. Malik acknowledged the role played by Pakistan's current Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed at the height of the terrorism scourge in Kashmir and this was at a public function attended by many Pakistani luminaries. This was also the same day when terrorists carried out a major attack in Pulwama in J&K near a school and more than 16 people were killed including school children and teachers – the softest of targets for a terrorist. The Jaish-e-Mohammed is suspected of carrying out this attack.

    The Yasin Malik event was predictably reported in the Pakistani media and the Daily Times – one of Pakistan's most professional and credible newspapers had the following news report on June 14 with an Islamabad dateline.

    'When the armed struggle in held Kashmir was at its zenith, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed set up a camp where around 3,500 Jihadis were trained in guerrilla warfare, revealed Yasin Malik, the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman, at an exhibition of 1.5 million signatures by Kashmiris demanding their involvement in the dialogue process. "Sheikh Rashid has played a great role for Kashmir's liberation. He used to support the frontline Jihadis, but very few people know about his contributions," the JKLF chief informed the audience.'

    The report further added that the JKLF leader praised Rashid for his contribution to the armed struggle, but the minister refused to comment when journalists approached him – and understandably so. Later Mr. Rashid tried to play down the praise by stating that there were many Sheikh Rashid's in Pakistan and that he had no role to pay in supporting armed jihad and terrorism. However this denial lacked credibility and to make matters worse for the Minister, a former Pakistani Army Chief General Aslam Beg confirmed to an Indian media source on June 15 that Mr. Rashid had been indeed running a militant training camp near Islamabad in 1990 and that the matter had been reported to then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief.

    The Pakistani establishment will continue to deny this revelation and already Mr. Malik has stated that the Daily Times had misquoted him and all of this predictable. However what is certain is that there will be more sources who will confirm the details of what has been an 'open secret' for years – namely that from the late 1980's onwards, some constituencies within the Pakistani establishment had deliberately and consciously supported the armed jihad manifest as terrorism against India in J&K and Punjab.

    Till now the general perception was that some groups within the Pakistan military and the radical Islamic clergy had endorsed and supported this terrorism as part of the covert war against India. Thus if some among the military and the mullah in Pakistan were supporting terrorism at the time, one must now add ministers too. The rationale for this 3 M support to religious radicalism and terrorism offers an instructive analysis from the security perspective that may be relevant when India and Pakistan are engaged in the composite dialogue process on one hand – and when terrorism for India is still a major challenge as evidenced most recently in the Pulwama incident. It must be added that the pattern continues and on June 15, the Indian security forces foiled an attack that was being planned at the Kheer Bhawani temple about 30 kms away from Srinagar in Tulla Mulla. It is understood that the militants were thwarted a few kms away from the temple where thousands of Hindu devotees from J&K and other parts of India had congregated.

    Pakistan's support to terrorism by invoking religious zealotry to realize a larger politico-military objective was derived from the experience that the Pak military acquired during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the early 1980's. The Afghan mujahedin was created and empowered by both religion and the Kalashnikov – and the armed struggle to throw out the Soviets – it was preached, had the endorsement of Allah and the support of America. The Soviets finally withdrew in the late 1980's and the Pak military, in private, used to boast that they had won the war for the USA – and that if the Pentagon had consulted them at the time, the Vietnam war may have ended differently!!

    Be that as it may – the fact of the matter is that the Pakistani military evolved a politico-military and socio-religious strategy based on their 1947-48, 1965 and 1971 wars against India and embarked upon the low intensity conflict-internal security (LIC-IS) model. Terrorism was the tool to steadily bleed the Indian giant and domestic vulnerabilities in India at the time gave the Pakistani establishment added confidence in the efficacy of their strategy. General Aslam Beg as the Army Chief had a major role to play in this shaping of the Pakistani LIC-IS strategy.

    Islamabad was further emboldened by the nuclear dimension. By the late 1980's – 1989 to be precise, the Pak military had acquired a covert but credible nuclear weapon capability thanks to the AQ Khan and related clandestine networks. This macro military capability was used by Pakistan as a firewall to prevent Delhi from retaliating even as Islamabad encouraged the LIC-IS wave in different parts of India. This it may be averred that the first use of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) and specifically nuclear weapons in support of terrorism by a revisionist regime dates back to this incident – and precedes the US anxiety about Iraq by almost 20 years.

    What the Malik-Rashid revelation confirms is that there were many people in the Pakistani establishment – the political spectrum, the military and the clergy – who had differently supported various forms of armed jihad and terrorism against India. Their actions were born out of misplaced but fierce conviction and this zealotry still permeates large constituencies in Pakistan who are wedded to armed jihad. The Pulwama incident is a stark reminder that in this jihad, alas, even the killing of innocent children is acceptable. And the Kheer Bhawani incident reiterates the determination of the brains behind these acts to aggravate religious discord in a region that is noted for tolerance – the essence of Kashmiriyat.

    The Malik revelation should not be allowed to de-rail the nascent peace process that India and Pakistan have embarked upon. Instead it must alert us to the deeper under-currents and mind-sets that have to be addressed if the sub-continent is to be cleansed of the malignant virus of recurring religious radicalism and related terrorism.