New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Jan 15, 2016
Pak Action Against Jaish A Mere Re-Run Of Post-Mumbai Attack Sham?
Rezaul H Laskar
Give Up Past, Work Together
Break The Talk-Terror Template
Keeping Aside Past Baggage
The Multiple Identities Of Adnan Sami
By Khaled Ahmed
Mufti Sayeed Didn’t Live To See The New Chapter Of Indo-Pak Ties
Prem Shankar Jha
Pak Action Against Jaish A Mere Re-Run Of Post-Mumbai Attack Sham?
By Rezaul H Laskar
Jan 14, 2016
“Media reports about Jaish Chief Masood Azhar and his aides being placed in “preventive custody” were depressingly familiar.” (Reuters File Photo)
It was the morning of November 28, 2008 and Indian security forces were still battling a Lashkar-e-Taiba terror squad in Mumbai, when a Pakistani journalist friend called in with a tip – there was buzz about the ISI chief being sent to India to help the investigation.
It was notoriously difficult for Indian journalists in Islamabad to get a word – any word – out of Pakistani officials but I decided to call Zahid Bashir, the spokesperson of then prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Bashir answered my call but was speaking on another phone with someone, apparently the prime minister himself. Bashir wanted to know whether he could confirm to the media the ISI chief would go to India.
Bashir ended the other call and I asked him about the speculation regarding the ISI chief’s visit. He gave me a confirmation and suddenly I had the biggest story of the day.
Within hours, there was an about turn following a midnight meeting between the prime minister, President Asif Ali Zardari and then army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani. The ISI chief, Shuja Pasha, would not go to India, a “representative” of the spy agency would be sent instead.
As the evidence mounted against Pakistan and journalists traced Mumbai attacker Ajmal Kasab’s family at Faridkot in Punjab, the authorities announced a crackdown on the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, declared a front for the LeT.
Television channels beamed images of JuD offices being sealed and there were reports of JuD chief Hafiz Saeed and his top aides being placed under house arrest. Within months, they were free and the JuD-LeT combine was back as Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation.
The Pakistani media reports on Wednesday about Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar and his aides being placed in “preventive custody” and of JeM offices being “traced and sealed” were, thus, depressingly familiar.
Pakistan’s security establishment has often launched crackdowns on terror groups and “detained” their leaders in the face of international pressure. Azhar was detained by Pakistani authorities in December 2001 too, after an attack on the Indian parliament was blamed on his group but never formally charged.
Two days before an Indian court convicted Azhar in absentia in December 2002 for his role in the parliament attack, his house arrest was ended by the Lahore high court. It was the Lahore high court which also freed Hafiz Saeed after the Mumbai attacks.
The links of the JeM and LeT with sections of the Pakistani military and intelligence set-up are well known and need not be gone into here. Therefore, the caution shown by the Indian government over reports of Azhar’s “detention” is not surprising.
Then there is the trial of the seven suspects, including LeT commander Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi, arrested and charged with involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks – which some Indian officials have described as farcical after Pakistan sought more information from India despite being provided voluminous technical and other evidence by India, the US and Britain.
Despite repeated assurances about expediting the conclusion of the trial of these seven suspects – the most recent one given to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj last month – Pakistan has shown little by way of moving with alacrity on the matter.
For far too long, Prime Minister Sharif and his brother, Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, have dithered on the issue of taking a strong stand on Jihadi groups based within the stronghold of their PML-N party. In these circumstances, India would do well to keep a closer eye on developments with regard to the Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Give Up Past, Work Together
By S.K. Sinha
Jan 14, 2016
This time Pakistan has not reacted as in the past, denying its involvement and blaming India’s home-grown terrorists; nor have we blamed Pakistan... The US has been urging Pakistan to act against terrorists. These are very positive developments.
I recall the 1947 slogan, “Hans ke liya hai Pakistan, ladkar lenge Hindustan”. Within weeks of Partition, Pakistan invaded Kashmir on October 22, 1947. We defeated that invasion and the subsequent ones in 1965 and 1999. The 1971 war was a shattering defeat for Pakistan. They then evolved their strategy of thousand cuts and cross-border terrorism.
The origin and history of Pakistan has been of relentless hostility towards India. Kashmir has been the casus belli.
Pakistan has violated all agreements: Standstill Agreement of 1947, Ceasefire Agreement of 1949, Simla Agreement of 1972, Lahore Declaration of 1999 and Pervez Musharraf’s commitment to stop cross-border terrorism in 2004. Pakistan has been in permanent denial though it has been exposed in books by its own leaders: General Akbar Khan after 1948, Gen. Musa Khan after 1965 and Gen. Pervez Musharraf after 1999.
In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the world by surprise by inviting all heads of government of neighbouring countries to his swearing-in ceremony, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. They had a cordial one-to-one meeting and presented a sari to each other’s mother. The foreign secretary-level talks were called off because Pakistan insisted on dialogue with separatist Kashmiri leaders. Much stepped up cross-border terrorist attacks by Pakistan were countered with heavy suppressive fire.
In July 2015, Mr Modi and Mr Sharif met on the sidelines at Ufa, Russia. They decided to have talks on all issues, including Kashmir. Pakistan insisted on Kashmir first and terrorism later. Talks were getting stalled. The two Prime Ministers meeting on the sidelines of the climate change conference in Paris on December 1, 2015, gave a push to the dialogue process. The national security advisers (NSAs) of the two countries met in Bangkok, accelerating the process. Pakistan NSA Lt. Gen. Nasser Khan Janjua’s (Retd) Army connection and Ajit Doval’s diplomatic skill led to a productive outcome. This was followed by Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Pakistan. Her fluent Punjabi helped while interacting in Pakistan and promoted cordiality. The big surprise was Mr Modi’s drop-in visit to Lahore and hugging Mr Sharif on his birthday. It astounded the world and was welcomed by all countries, including China.
The nuclear-rattling defence minister of Pakistan now saw merit in fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-aligned terrorists in Pakistan. Some extremists, like Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed and Mohammad Azhar, were, however, critical of this. In India, the Congress Party and some others maintained that high-level visits without preparatory groundwork cannot be of any use.
On Diwali, November 11, 2015, Mr Sharif made a conciliatory gesture towards Hindus in Karachi which no Prime Minister of Pakistan had ever done. He told them that he was the Prime Minister of not only Muslims, but also of Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. He even invited them to throw colours on him on Holi.
On New Year’s Day, a very dangerous and well-organised attack by terrorists from Pakistan targeted Pathankot airbase. Despite a high alert by the intelligence agencies, six heavily-armed terrorists infiltrated into India from the same route in Gurdaspur as they had done six months ago. They took over a taxi, killing its driver, and then the official car, with blue beacon light, of the superintendent of police, Gurdaspur, driven by his jeweller friend.
The conduct of the SP appears suspicious and is being investigated. The terrorists roamed about for nearly 36 hours and managed to get into the airbase. This information reached Delhi late in the afternoon. The Army Chief and NSA met immediately and decided to send NSG commandos from Delhi to Pathankot airbase. They reached Pathankot the same evening. The Army garrison at Pathankot was alerted and deployed to defend the very large cantonment. By then the terrorists had managed to enter the airbase. Four terrorists were killed immediately on the first day and the remaining two a little later. For two days the forces continued to flush the large area to ensure that no more terrorists were in the base. There was no damage to any aircraft nor were any hostages taken. Compare this with how Delhi dithered for over 24 hours and the hijacked IC-814 Indian Airlines aircraft was allowed to take off from Amritsar. During 26/11, it took over 24 hours for NSG commandos to take off from Delhi. Our prompt action in Pathankot prevented a great disaster.
Of course there were serious lapses in our overall functioning. Six months earlier a similar terrorist intrusion had taken place in the same area. The terrorists should have been caught as they intruded this time. We failed to catch them at the border or while they were at large in Indian territory, and we failed to stop them from entering the airbase where they killed seven of our security personnel. The guilty need to be punished and the heads of the negligent should roll.
This time Pakistan has not reacted as in the past, denying its involvement and blaming India’s home-grown terrorists; nor have we blamed the Pakistan government.
Mr Sharif has promised to act promptly against the culprits in his country and seems to be doing so. The Pakistan Army Chief is said to be on board. The US has been urging Pakistan to act against the terrorists. These are very positive developments. India has shown maturity in not canceling foreign secretary-level talks, but has asked for tangible action against the culprits in that country on the basis of evidence provided. Once Pakistan starts doing so, talks could commence. With the ISIS threat looming over the civilised world, Pakistan has to realise that it must correct the course of its India policy of the past 68 years.
In 1998, we had Punjabi-speaking Prime Ministers on both sides. Mr Sharif told I.K. Gujral, “We cannot take Kashmir from you and you cannot give Kashmir to us.” Gen. Musharraf’s four-point plan of a soft Line of Control with free movement of people and trade accepted ground realities. Earlier, at Shimla in 1972, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had verbally agreed to change the LoC to an international boundary, as a prelude to changing the terminology of Ceasefire Line to LoC.
The two nuclear weapon-armed neighbours, threatened by ISIS terrorists, should confront this menace jointly with the rest of the civilised world. India should give up its legal claim to Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistan should give up claiming Indian-administered Kashmir. This will usher in prosperity and progress for the people of both countries. The road to this Elysium has many obstacles that’s why we must never lower our guard and always keep our powder dry.
S.K. Sinha, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir
Break the Talk-Terror Template
By Sankar Sen
15 January 2016
The Pathankot attack has once again muddied India-Pakistan peace process. It remains unclear if Pakistan has made a genuine commitment to better bilateral ties or, more importantly, if Rawalpindi and Islamabad are on the same page
The Pathankot attack raises one key question: Does Pakistan really want improved relations with India? It was hoped that the Indian Prime Minister’s sudden visit to Lahore will bring about a thaw in the strained relations and strengthen peace negotiations. It was also anticipated that both state and non-state actors of Pakistan will adopt devious means to scuttle the peace process. This has been the pattern in the past, and history has now repeated itself.
The moot question that now arises is, if the terror attack had the backing and blessings of the Pakistan Army. The answer seems to be yes. It was hoped that the peace process, initiated by the two Prime Ministers, would enjoy the support of the Pakistan Army which controls Pakistan’s foreign policy. But that seems unlikely.
Pakistan’s National Security Advisor General Nasser Khan Janjua is a trusted confidant of the Army chief, General Raheel Sharif, and will endorse the decisions which have the backing of the Pakistan Army. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a risky decision, knowing well that peace with Pakistan is a difficult and complicated process, and that his counterpart in Pakistan is not the master of the house.
There are a number of state and non-state actors influencing Pakistan’s policy towards India and there is an ever-present danger of sabotage of the peace dialogue. The pattern seems to be the same. Whenever India-Pakistan relations seem to be on the mend, the Pakistan Army ratchets up tension and scuttles chances of understanding.
But Mr Modi also feels that India’s economic development cannot be realised unless there is peace in the neighbourhood. India can fast develop its economy only in a cooperative and peaceful region. Also, in his election speeches, Mr Modi had promised a robust response to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. He now understands the need for maintaining peace with Pakistan, but at the same time does not wish to appear weak.
It was calculated by the mandarins of the External Affairs Ministry that after the Paris attack, there has been a strong international opinion against those helping and harbouring terrorists and abetting their acts of violence. The point was probably driven home to the General Sharif during his visit to the US.
It was also felt that the changing scenario in Afghanistan will have a sobering impact on the Pakistan Army. In Afghanistan, Pakistan’s diminishing control over the Taliban has caused a serious loss of face before the US and Western powers. Today, the Afghan Taliban no longer fully trusts Pakistan.
The proxy war against India is also failing to carry conviction among large sections of people in Pakistan. There is some kind of consensus among the political parties in Pakistan for peace with India. But if peace negotiations are to succeed, the Army has to make serious efforts to rein in the terrorists.
The US has urged Pakistan to walk the talk in dealing with terrorists but it is doubtful how far America will be able to change or influence the Pakistan Army’s policy of encouraging cross border terrorism and coddling groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and Jaish-e-Muhammed in order to bleed India.
India has clearly linked the progress of peace talks to Pakistan’s action against terrorist groups responsible for the attack. The ball is in Pakistan’s court. Though Pakistan may promise action against the terrorists, past experience shows that very little is likely to be done in practice.
Prime Minister Sharif is in no position to overrule the ISI. Some cosmetic, face-saving measures may be taken, but there will be no meaningful action. India has not fixed a time-limit but expects a prompt and positive response from Pakistan. India should stay the course, carry out peace negotiations but make clear that no lasting understanding with Pakistan is possible unless Pakistan gives up proxy war against India.
India has to exercise flexibility while demonstrating extreme dissatisfaction through appropriate statements. It also has to prepare itself for a robust retaliatory response if any further attack takes place. While improving preventive capacity, it must keep its powder keg dry.
That said, it must be acknowledged that India’s options for giving a befitting reply to Pakistan are limited. Economic sanctions are not of much use in the absence of extensive trade and commerce links. Overt military action carries the risk of an uncontrollable escalation and even nuclear war. Surprise air-strikes, without retaliatory risks, may not be feasible. Covert tit-for-tat terrorism may or may not be effective. But options has to be explored to inflict pain on Pakistan whenever serious terrorist strikes originating from Pakistan take place.
The post-attack blame game has already started. Many are finding fault with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval for deploying the National Security Guard and not acting swiftly on the available intelligence input. Failure to prevent entry of the terrorists into the airbase has also been criticised. The fact, however, cannot be gainsaid that because of the actionable intelligence and swift action on the intelligence received, strategic assets could be protected and terrorists eliminated before they could enter ground zero.
It will be good to suspend judgement till a full enquiry is held and all facts unearthed. The loss of soldiers’ lives is most unfortunate, but if the terrorists had succeeded in attacking some of the military targets, there would have been colossal outpouring of anger and perhaps public pressure on the Government for precipitate and perhaps knee-jerk reactions.
Sankar Sen is former Director General of National Human Rights Commission and former Director of National Police Academy
Keeping Aside Past Baggage
By Urvashi Sudhindra
15 January 2016
As the memory of partition recedes, the new leaders taking charge may bring a qualitative change in India-Pakistan ties
We know relations between India and Pakistan are tense; they have been so for the last more than six decades. India and Pakistan share a border, disputed territory, a history of four wars, but more importantly, also a culture and society. An Indian in Empress Market of Karachi is going to feel at home, the same way a Pakistani is going to feel comfort in the crowds of Chandni Chowk in Delhi. Of course, there has been loss on both sides and wounds are yet to heal, but the youth of India and Pakistan might just influence the dynamics of this highly politicised relationship in a postive way.
India is the second most populous country in the world, home to over 1.2 billion people. The growth rate of the population is 1.22 per cent and is not looking at slowing down at least in the next decade. The average age of India's population is 27.3 years and close to 47 per cent is in the age bracket of 0-24 years. Pakistan's population is over 19 million with the average age being just 23 years. The growth of population is happening at 1.46 per cent, and 54 per cent of this is in the age group of 0-24 years. Why is the demography of these two nations important to change the relationship they share?
The average age of the Indian population is 27.3 years and for Pakistan it is just 23 years. Both nations have few people who are above the age of 65 years (India has 5.95 per cent and Pakistan 4.35 per cent). This is the set of people which witnessed the partition of India and Pakistan and have stories to tell their children and grandchildren, some of harmony and happy times and some of slaughter and killings. The next generation has heard the stories of partition first hand and were raised in a country that was finding its way post-1947. These are the people who are currently in-charge in India and Pakistan.
The generation after, below 35 years of age, in India and Pakistan, has lived in more tolerant times. About 71 per cent of Pakistan and 66 per cent of India today have only read about partition. They have been exposed to globalisation, foreign investment and trade, education not only in their home countries but outside in the Western world. Some of these individuals from India have friends in Pakistan; some people from Pakistan have family in India and vice versa. More importantly, this generation has grown up with the boom in media and the Internet. There are many a things that could go wrong by the use of Internet, but the silver lining that it brings to the India-Pakistan relationship cannot be ignored.
The memory of politics as a theory highlights the same point — that three generations are needed to forget an incident of the past and to move on. Because the current generation does not bother itself with the nuances of the way things functioned once upon a time, when this generation comes to power, it will be a lot more pro-active in building a friendship with each other than just for the sake of diplomatic ties.
Those born after the 2000s will perhaps not know the magnitude of the hatred that India and Pakistan shared, because their own parents do not understand that feeling strongly. Even those born in the 1990s do not find their time worthy of spending on the petty thought of hatred. What is to stop an Indian to invest in Lahore for business if there is a profit or a family from Pakistan to vacation one summer in the backwaters of Kerala?
The launching of a website called Aman ki Asha was a start in the initiative to mend things. The Coca-Cola campaign on bringing India and Pakistan together in the form of a video explains so much that the youth is looking forward to and willing to work towards. The Indian Hindi film industry does not hold back, and promotes movies and stars across borders. Art, music, talent do not know borders or boundaries. The emotional yet beautiful advertisement brought to us by Google about the friendship that India and Pakistan share, is just another example of how close these two countries are and yet so distanced due to a minority of the people living in the past. An app on the Android play-store called ‘India or Pakistan' tickles the brains of those who think they know these two countries well, but will only realise how wrong they were.
More and more people from both sides of the border do not care about nationality, religion and fighting over anything but cricket. Society is evolving in India and Pakistan. It is the time to be pro-peace and also anti-terrorism. The causes we must fight for are travel, trade, transportation, sharing of resources and helping each other build. Is it naïve to have a vision of a friendly India and Pakistan? Or is the globalised world the best phenomenon to have in this tumultuous sub-continent? Only time will tell.
The Multiple Identities of Adnan Sami
By Khaled Ahmed
January 15, 2016
Pakistan seems to have made heavy weather of accepting its singer Adnan Sami’s adoption of Indian nationality. TV talk shows have aimed jibes at “disloyal” Sami’s “desertion” of his fatherland, Pakistan. India took a long time granting it. He entertained India for 15 years, none of it rejected by his Pakistani fans, and became a Bollywood success like many Muslim stars there.
What galled was Sami’s tweet of “Jai Hind” upon receiving his Indian passport. Why should anyone in Pakistan be stung by that, unless textbook nationalism based on an unspoken pledge of war prompts it? Khan had arrived in India in 2001 on a one-year visa that expired. This was followed by the expiry of his Pakistani passport, rendering him “illegal”. He had to get a “renunciation of nationality” certificate from Pakistan before getting an Indian passport.
Approaching the Pakistan high commission in New Delhi, he wrote, “I don’t need the green passport any more. I have found my home in India.” This somehow offended the high commission diplomats, who asked him to submit “an unconditional apology for his behaviour” and “follow the correct procedure for getting the renunciation certificate”. His stay in India was legalised on humanitarian grounds, “exempting him from proceedings under Section 3 of the Foreigners Act”.
TV anchors in Pakistan plumbed new depths, expressing the “wound” inflicted by Sami on Pakistan. Sami’s father’s background also bit deep: Arshad Sami Khan, who died in 2009, was a Pakistan Air Force fighter pilot (fought the 1965 war against India?), who arose from a protocol officer in the foreign office to serve as Pakistan’s ambassador in 14 countries, before retiring as federal secretary of culture in the top grade of 22. Sami’s life was peripatetic as a diplomat’s child, laying him bare to something that puts Pakistan off: Multiple identities. Like any great artist, his marriages were shipwrecks and his self-punishing obesity (200kg!) didn’t help socially till he somehow got rid of it because of the change of scene offered by Mumbai.
Pakistani nationalism and Pakistani textbooks instil an intense single identity based on “separation” from India. If the unconscious Indian slogan is “ekta” (unity), Pakistan’s is “pehchan” (identity). Clearly, one is inclusive, the other exclusive, and Pakistan uses religion as its binding glue. It has tried to alter Jinnah’s foundational slogan of unity-faith-discipline by putting faith first in the Urdu version. Pakistan’s nation-building has gone haywire by becoming “exclusionary”, which doesn’t stop at “excluding” only non-Muslims but also Muslims through apostatisation.
As Amartya Sen would ask the RSS-Sena gangs: Can a state survive through an enforced single identity? In his book, Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (2006), he finds the perfect citizen in a man who has multiple identities rather than a single one. Adnan Sami, as an artist, may have many identities within him.
India and Pakistan should both heed Sen when he says that any coercively singular identity is against nature and gives rise to violence through intolerance. The natural state of man is characterised by multiple identities within a single individual, tolerance of that which is “different”. And he thinks states impose a single identity for the sake of a myth called “collective destiny”. Pakistan’s thinking on the subject has been rudimentary and flawed. Coinages such as “castle of Islam” have presaged a “siege mentality” vis-à-vis India, with whom the waging of a “just war” was to propel the country towards its “pure” destiny. Together with a singular identity, a uniform mind, too, has been the objective of the state.
Writers and artists are the problem people for the state anywhere. They threaten neighbouring states with what is called “cultural invasion”. There was a time when some Indians and Pakistanis objected to what they called “Western invasion” — till globalisation and free trade made this objection irrelevant.
Pakistan emphasised “separation” from India and thought of rewriting history to remove its cultural nexus with its neighbour. Inside its borders, it embraced an ideology that attacked its own culture, which it saw as “too much like India’s”. With time, Indian TV channels became channels of “cultural invasion” — till they were removed from the cables. But Bollywood couldn’t be kept out from a culturally starved Pakistan.
Sami had to settle in India, not because he hated Pakistan: It was just like a Pakistani finding a professional niche in America. Why should Pakistani TV channels curse him for that? Let the Indian extremists test his new loyalty while Pakistan continues to enjoy his great crossborder singing talent. The Shiv Sena’s reaction to Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Ghulam Ali coming to India and singing is not the best thing that happened to India.
Those in Pakistan who write about India’s “cultural invasion” of Pakistan’s “single identity” have failed to grasp the mysterious way civilisation has of surviving. The invasion of Pakistan is actually spearheaded by the Muslim-Indian “Khan” actors like Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir, and their Pakistani fans will not let the state block them from their cinemas. Now that India has accepted a son of Pakistan, let’s count it as “advantage Pakistan” and let the Sena bother about it. And when Sami comes to Pakistan on a visa, welcome him as a great talent that will survive as part of our civilisation.
Mufti Sayeed Didn’t Live To See the New Chapter of Indo-Pak Ties
By Prem Shankar Jha
Jan 15, 2016
When, on the insistence of his daughter Mehbooba, Mufti Sayeed came out of eight years of political hibernation in 1999 to form the Peoples’ Democratic Party, he did so with a clear-cut purpose. This was to restore lasting peace to Kashmir and end the political disempowerment of its people. He took up this challenge in the full knowledge of the long hard road that lay ahead. Three of the four wars that India and Pakistan had fought since 1947 had been over Kashmir. Mufti knew, therefore, that Kashmiris would not know real peace until India and Pakistan arrived at a settlement of the Kashmir issue. A key purpose of his new party was therefore to “persuade the Government of India to initiate an unconditional dialogue with Kashmiris for resolution of the Kashmir problem” .
The security establishment in New Delhi greeted his announcement with undisguised hostility, labelling him a ‘soft separatist’ who absolutely could not be trusted. But Mufti was anything but a ‘separatist’. He understood from the very beginning what the former foreign minister of Pakistan, Mian Mahmud Kasuri, had been at pains to emphasise in his memoirs, that no Pakistan government could have ‘sold’ an agreement on Kashmir to its people that the people of Kashmir did not accept. Thus the first requirement for peace in Kashmir was the restoration of a genuine democratically elected government in Kashmir that could be seen by all to have the backing of the majority of the Kashmiris.
In hindsight one can see how closely Mufti and then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee must have worked in the five years that followed. It helps to understand Vajpayee’s adamant insistence on a truly honest election in Kashmir in 2002. It explains why Vajpayee held out his hand of friendship to Pakistan despite the Kargil war, and did so from Srinagar.
In Dr Manmohan Singh, Mufti found a prime minister who was if anything even more keen than Vajpayee to end the dispute with Pakistan. His crowning moment came when he presided over the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road at the Kaman post bridge over the Jhelum in April 2005. The memory of his face, suffused with pride and contentment as 10,000 Kashmiris crowded the slopes on the other side in their best clothes to watch the event, remains etched on my memory today.
Mufti would have realised his dream in 2008 had the Amarnath land scam, with its curfews, crackdowns, and killings not erupted that summer. In October the state would have held its second free and fair election since the end of the militancy, the turnout in the Valley would not have been 30% but close to the 70% of last year, the PDP would almost certainly have come back to power, and Kashmir’s history would not have taken the grim turn it took in the next six years.
There would have been no stone throwing; no mowing down of unarmed youth; no filling of the jails with a new generation of ‘stone throwers’ ripe for training into the next crop of freedom fighters. Afzal Guru would almost certainly not have been hanged in 2013. By now the terror and repression of the 1990s would have become a distant memory for all but the families of the deceased. Instead Kashmir is once more a seething cauldron of disaffection and despair.
A lesser man would have been crushed by disappointment: so no one would have blamed Mufti if he had refused to come back into the fray in December 2014. But the desire to complete what he had so nearly achieved nine years earlier persisted. Had the PDP won 35 seats in the Valley, as most people had expected it to, he might have been able to pick up the threads more or less where he had dropped them in 2008, and sought a coalition with the Congress and some independents. But with 28 seats, only two more than the BJP, and a yawning rift between aggressively Hindu Jammu and radicalising Kashmir, he found this option closed.
To remain a single state Jammu and Kashmir had to work together. And to attain lasting peace in Kashmir Mufti had to get the government of Narendra Modi to reach out to Pakistan once more. Mufti could do neither without forming a working relationship with the BJP both in Kashmir nor in New Delhi. With immense courage, knowing full well how he would be vilified by his detractors, that is what he set out to do.
The last 10 months of his life must have been the most difficult Mufti ever faced. For Modi proved not to be a Vajpayee and the BJP proved not to be another Congress. Within weeks of signing the Agenda for Alliance, New Delhi went back on each and every commitment it had made to the PDP in it. Mufti’s attempt to remind Pakistan that by not attempting to disrupt the elections Pakistan had made itself a party to its results was immediately misrepresented as treachery by many people. His attempt to apply a healing touch in Kashmir, as he had done in 2002, also went awry because bitterness had sunk too deep into sections of the radicalised youth in Kashmir, who had been facing unrelenting police terror since 2008.
But Mufti did establish good working relations with the BJP in Jammu in a remarkably short time and, as Modi’s unexpected stopover in Islamabad on his way back from Moscow showed, his faith in the moderating power of Indian pluralism was not entirely misplaced. A new chapter could well open in India’s relationship with Pakistan despite the Pathankot outrage. Mufti did not live to see, and take advantage of it. That is the legacy he has bestowed to his beloved daughter Mehbooba.
Prem Shankar Jha is a senior political commentator. The views expressed are personal.
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