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Islam and Politics ( 4 Sept 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Like The Afghan Girl, Syrian Boy Means Little: New Age Islam’s Selection from Indian Press, 5 September 2015


New Age Islam Edit Bureau

5 September 2015

 Like The Afghan Girl, Syrian Boy Means Little

By Abhijit Iyer-Mitra

 Son Rise: Al-Qaeda Recharged?

By Makhan Saikia

 Will India Ever Be Free Of Personal Laws?

By Kanchan Gupta

 Will Kashmir See A New Wave Of Suicide Terror?

By Syed Ata Hasnain

 Talks Come, Talks Fail, Plea Goes On Forever

By Hiranmay Karlekar  




By Abhijit Iyer-Mitra


04 September 2015

Grieve Aylan Kurdi but don't live under the delusion that his death will bring out something better. The sheer weight of human suffering we see today won't change how the Syrian war protagonists play their deadly game

The photograph of the body of Aylan Kurdi — a three-year old Syrian toddler refugee — washed up on a Turkish beach, has predictably stirred up a major media frenzy. Aylan Kurdi, of course, was not the first child killed while trying to flee the conflict, and realistically, he will not be the last. But in many ways, this photo may be to the Syrian conflict what the ‘Afghan girl’ — Sharbat Gula’s photo on National Geographic cover — was to the Afghan War.

However, if Afghanistan is anything to go by, then Syria hasn’t even seen the worst yet. In much the same way that the Afghan girl never brought anything but newspapers op-eds, Aylan Kurdi’s death will not change the politics on the ground. But perhaps the more important lesson for the world and for India — besotted as we are with candlelight protests and feel good India-Pakistan films — is that public opinion is almost irrelevant to international relations.

We will hear a lot of public statements of outrage from politicians and basically anyone who wants to have a future in public life; we will have human rights organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch milk this for all its worth to make a few millions and secure funding for another few years; but beyond that the question is: What does the future hold for Syria and Europe?

Syria, we have to assume, much like Afghanistan, will be a broken and dysfunctional country for the next 25 to 30 years at the very least. All its institutions have been destroyed, its educated classes have migrated, presumably settlling and invariably integrating into foreign countries. Those who remain, especially the children, have missed out on far too much education over the last few years, and society as a whole has been brutalised, skewing its sense of right and wrong and what is socially acceptable or not.

So, in addition to having a devastated landscape, Syria will have to cope with a lack of its highly educated and wealthy citizens and it will also be burdened with an infinitely more polarised population that will be more prone to radicalisation due to years of brutalisation and depravation. In many ways, what we are seeing is the end of the nation state.

European states, largely through wars and enforced homogenisation, achieved linguistic homogeneity and made this the basis of their nationhood. Arab Republics, on the other hand, are overwhelmingly linguistically homogenous, but a persistent lack of governance means that other identity factors, such as region, sect, and religion and so on, also become salient.

The European human rights and identity discourse shares much of the blame here. Having had centuries to solidify the linguistic state concept largely intact from the wars of religion that plagued the continent previously, modern Europe we should not forget was a bastion of xenophobia and racism — and this did not end on May 2, 1945, with the fall of the Reichstag building.

Far from it, the victorious Allies imposed the brutal ethnic homogenisation of Europe, ensuring that the German minorities were kicked out of their traditional lands, leaving much of central Europe both linguistically and ethnically homogenised. It was this more or less homogenised Europe that, after many years of development, could afford to take a more lenient view of Basque nationalism or Scottish devolution or Irish and Flemish separatism in the 21st century.

By then, Europe had had after more than 300 years to construct a supra-national identity — the European Union that could deal with such fissiparous tendencies much better. In this Europe, talk of separatism no longer means the severing of economic ties and breaking of traditional trade routes. This is not the norm but the exception.

Everywhere else, the partitioning of countries leads to bitter acrimony and wars — like between Ethiopia and Eritrea, between India and Pakistan, and between North Korea and South Korea. The Arab world and Syria were no exception. The notion of Syria as a secular state is what kept it together. How else could Alawites, Christians, Shias and Sunnis (further subdivided into Sunni Kurds and Sunni ethnic Arabs) form one nation, if not by discarding religion in politics?

The frequently mentioned counter example is Lebanon — where all politics is denominational. But Lebanon is a country that has virtually no sovereign authority with every faction, every denomination being a tool in the hands of a foreign power. Rafiq Hariri who heads the Sunnis has his entire family based in Saudi Arabia, his business interests linked to the Saudis and basically dances to Saudi tunes. Hezbollah and Amal are largely seen as taking orders from Syria and Iran, while the Druze and Christians variously shift their loyalties and alliances. This was never going to be a feasible solution for Syria.

This is the reason that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, when he agreed to elections, that insisted that the political parties not be formed on ethnic or religious grounds. This proved a bridge too far for Turkey, and the Saudis, who desperately wanted to break the ‘Shia arc’ and needed an expressly denominational non-Shia Government in Syria.

These are some of the micro politics and historical narratives that have fed into the royal mess that is Syria today, with its impact stretching far into Turkey and Iraq. To simply blame Mr Assad for governance failure or being brutal as the monocausal starter of this chain of events is both true and false.

To blame the Turks and Saudis for playing what they thought was a smart game is naïve. Blaming Mr Assad for simply trying to survive is simply disingenuous. To blame Europe and America for starting and sustaining this crisis, though accurate, is futile.

As things stand today almost no one is to blame and everyone is to blame, but it will be a mistake to assume that the sheer weight of human suffering we are witnessing today is about to change anything in how each of the protagonists of the Syria tragedy play out their deadly game. By all means grieve Aylan Kurdi, but don’t live under the delusion that his death meant something and will bring out something better.

Abhijit Iyer-Mitra is Coordinatorof the National Security Programme at the Observer Research Foundation in Delhi




By Makhan Saikia


05 September 2015

Zawahiri introduced Osama bin Laden’s son, Hamza, to Al-Qaeda ‘as the son of the lion of jehad’, under whose leadership, the radical Islamic movement took an ‘ever bigger leap’ transcending all barriers of the modern state and, most importantly, by avenging the most spectacular terrorist attack at the heart of America on September 11, 2001

Hamza bin Laden, the 24-year old son of Osama bin Laden, the “Father of Global Jehad”, was launched to the world of Al-Qaeda in August. He was introduced by Bin Laden's deputy and Egyptian jehadi Ayman al Zawahiri through an audio recorded last May. With son's rise, Al-Qaeda is likely to turn over a new leaf in the radical movement at a time when it is facing an ever-growing turbulence, both in the ideological and operational front, from its own brethren — ISIS. The radical Islamic worldview as exemplified by Laden was medieval and purely reactionary, which sends a fervent appeal to Muslims to return to its glorious seventh century roots. To him, there is an urgent need to reclaim the righteousness of early Islam and implement the Sharia in its purest form either through the machinery of the state or by bringing trust among Muslims. With him, the radical Islamic movement has taken an “ever bigger leap” transcending all barriers of the modern state and, most importantly, by avenging the most spectacular terrorist attack at the heart of America on September 11, 2001.

Hamza, in his audio release, places high esteem for late Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, along with al Zawahiri. He has held high praises for all of Al-Qaeda’s franchises and individual missions in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, the Maghreb, Somalia and India. The goal, he underlines is crystal clear: “To him, the crusader enemy is like an evil bird and the head of the bird is America; and its wings are Israel and NATO; and the body is the apostate leaders of the Muslim states who serve the crusaders like the Saudis. Al-Qaeda’s goal is to destroy the birds head — America —which will kill the bird. He urges the Muslim believers to attack American and Jewish targets around the world, especially in Washington, London, Paris and Tel Aviv. Thus his mission to rejuvenate the dampened (at the moment) Al-Qaeda would surely encourage thousands of Islamic perpetrators to sacrifice their lives in the days to come.

Let us take a look at the deep seated ideology of “jehadism” in Al-Qaeda. Islamism today is also known as political Islam, Islamic fundamentalism, Islamic revivalism, and is currently recognised as a potential destabilising force almost across the world. The reason behind is very simple: Islamism has become much more organised and institutionalised at the moment than before. The manifestation of an organised Islamism could be well-observed in both Al-Qaeda and ISIS. This form of Islamism swings from the most moderate and modernist to revolutionary and absolutely reactionary. The universal appeals released by Al Qaeda reveal its conscious religious attempts to engage particularly the young Muslims around the world. In one of these appeals, the Base, the Jehadist Forum Administrator echoes:

“Everyone you look into its lands, there are Mujahidin saying:

No Surrender.

And in every side of its hills there are men saying Allahu Akbar,

No Persecution.

We have planted its lands with our heads held high so it grows into glory and blooms.”

From this, we can rightly observe how the multifaceted Islamic concept of ‘jehad’, has enormously assumed a single direction: launch violent movement against the invaders. The global jehadist scholar, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, in his book, Millat Ibrahim (The Religion of Abraham) is urging all Muslims to obey the doctrine of “al-walawal-bara” which roughly implies two things, “First, Muslims must have unquestioning loyalty towards God: a Muslim ought to be loyal and loving to all that is in accordance with God’s law, or Sharia. Second, Muslims ought to reject and disavow all that contradicts Sharia, especially polytheism, democracy and those who advance such deviant ideologies’ [Brachman, Jarret, M. (2010), Global Jihadism, London & New York: Routledge]. Thus the concept of loyalty and disavowal has risen to the fore as the dominant voice while guiding and spearheading the jehadi discourse. Apart from this, the other four pillars of radical Islam are: Tawhid (unity of God), Aqidah (creed), Takfir (excommunication) and Jehad (struggle). Brachman argues, “It is this particularly explosive cocktail of ultra-conservative doctrinal elements, mixed with a flair for waging spectacularly catastrophic acts of violence, that separates jehadis from the other schools of Salafism. Therefore, jehad is intrinsically attached to its root — Salafism. Initially, Salafism, which came up in Egypt by the end of the 20th century, aimed at bringing an intellectual reform movement so that increasing wave of Westernism on Islamic society could be prevented. Finally, the solution was found solely in preaching a puritanical return to Islamic faith obeying the Quran, the Hadith and Sunnah.

With Al-Qaeda, the preaching of monotheism rules all its foundations, which defines Islamic traditions and values, both in individual and collective spheres of life. To all Al-Qaeda believers, Islam is the sole authority, and any authority or political system created by men is a form of polytheism. Hence, any man-made system practicing democracy, socialism or any other ideological foundations must be fought by all Muslims.

The seeds of Al-Qaeda’s war against the West, formally started in 2001, were actually launched during the long holy war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Primarily, the Arabs, who came to join the Afghan War, were largely divided into two groups: the Egyptians and the Yemenis. The Yemeni group attracted more and more religious zealots who descended in Afghanistan from various parts of the world. These freestyle hardliners were basically indoctrinated by Mullahs in their home turfs for raging war against the infidels. The Egyptian group was under the control of the leadership of the underground Egyptian Islamic Jehad Movement of Zawahiri. This camp broadly impressed upon politically and ideologically motivated people and retired army officers of Egypt. They strongly believed that the central reason behind the fall and degeneration of the Arabs was no other than the US and the despotic Muslim rulers of the West Asia who are always masterminded by Washington. The Zawahiri camp, since its inception, emphasised on building a genre of strategic jehad leaders and for this, it strongly focussed on ways and means for ideologically motivating the armies of the Muslim world. While explaining the thinking, the operational style and idiosyncrasies of Al-Qaeda, a few of us have unearthed the origin of the group beyond Osama.

Al-Qaeda itself emerged from another organisation. This was the Maqtab al-Khidamat, the services bureau that Abdullah YousufAzzam set up in the early 1980s to facilitate young Arabs coming from the West Asian nations to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Azzam was assassinated in 1989 and was succeeded by bin Laden, one of his leading disciples. Osama bin Laden transformed the organisation into Al-Qaeda. However, his was no more than a structural change. Al-Qaeda would not have had the same impact if it had not been preceded by Zawahiri and the Egyptian camps ideology and pattern of struggle. In fact, Zawahiri was the one who actually made Al-Qaeda into the organisation the world knows today. [Shahzad, Syed Saleem (2011), Inside Al Qaeda and The Taliban, London & New York: Pluto Press and Palgrave Macmillan]. The crucial role of Zawahiri could be largely noticed as he was the one who has introduced Hamza, bin Laden’s son’s, “as the son of the lion of jehad; in turn, Hamza pledges his loyalty to Zawahiri as the emir of Al-Qaeda’ (Riedal 2015).

However, globalisation has a significant impact on the style, functioning and radicalisation of political Islam. Though initially and in principle, Al-Qaeda vows to fight the US and its ever expansionist neoliberal capitalist propaganda, the group and many other radical Islamic organisations reflect western ways and means: “They term their mobilisation jehad, or sacred struggle, although many Muslims point out that the Prophet called struggle against others the “lesser jehad”, with the internal struggle to lead a good life being the “greater jehad”. Regardless of the ancient terminology, Al-Qaeda and other Islamic groups operate globally like transnational corporations, with affiliates and subsidiaries, strategic partners, community chains, standardised training, off-shore financing and other features associated with contemporary global capital. Indeed, insiders often referred to Al-Qaeda as the “company” [Kurzman, Charles (2012), Bin Laden and Other Thoroughly Modern Muslims in Frank J Lechner and John Bolied. The Globalization Reader, UK: Wiley & Sons, P. 394]. This mirrors the inevitable juggernaut of untrammeled capitalism in the form of globalisation even on political Islam.

Today, with a resurgent Al-Qaeda, we could distinctly witness, how a common Islamist language of defiance and resistance is gaining strength in a globalised world. Drawing on social psychology, historical evidence, cultural differences and post-colonial studies, it can be well argued that Al-Qaeda and like-minded jehadi forces are here to stay. They all, irrespective of ideological differences, would definitely derive their source of sustenance from innumerable experiences of humiliation and repression, whether real or perceived imposed on the Muslims by the invaders. Notwithstanding the diverse scholarly positions and points of sheer contentions, the mission jehad would be endured among the fundamentalists as it strongly promotes an alternative socio-political order of freedom and high esteem articulated by their interpretation of Islam.

(The writer is an independent political writer based in Delhi)


Will India Ever Be Free Of Personal Laws?


By Kanchan Gupta


5 September 2015

Although it is not the best way to do so, let me begin by quoting from a PTI report, published in newspapers with a Lucknow dateline. “The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Thursday said there was no scope of change in the ‘triple Talaq’ system and rejected the suggestion by some community outfits for building a consensus on making a three-month period mandatory before finalisation of divorce.” The report was based on what AIMPLB spokesman Maulana Abdul Raheem Qureshi had to say about the All India Sunni Ulema Council’s letter that “if there was any scope in Islamic law then Talaq said by a person thrice in one go should be considered as said only once.”

This forms the immediate backdrop of a point I have often made earlier. Every time secular India has demanded that the system of personal laws based on religious injunctions should be done away with, that Article 44 of the Constitution of India which enjoins upon the Government to adopt a Uniform Civil Code should be taken for what it was meant to be, a cornerstone of state policy in a modern nation state, a countervailing cry has gone up, alleging that it is an assault on the identity of minority communities, indeed, an assault on the hocus-pocus ‘Idea of India’.

That, of course, is a misnomer; what those opposed to a Uniform Civil Code mean is that the State should not interfere with retrograde personal laws that discriminate on grounds of gender, laws which are not in tune with the social realities of the 21st century. The best example of such laws is the Muslim personal law that remains unaltered in sum and substance despite vacuous words of assurance by leading lights of the Ulema.

The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, which has vested itself with full and absolute powers, though it enjoys neither legal sanctity nor official approval, to implement personal law, had presented what was grandly described as a “model Nikahnama”. That was supposed to be modernisation. More than 10 years later, nothing more is heard of that proposal.

While self-proclaimed progressives, who have never had to suffer the inequities of personal laws, were quick off the mark to hail this 14-page document as a big leap forward, Muslim women who have been agitating against the discrimination they face denounced it as nothing more than cosmetic tinkering. A decade on, the debate over the necessity for a Uniform Civil Code continues, like a stuck record.

Lost in the debate over iniquitous Muslim Personal Law and why a secular republic must repudiate such laws is the crucial fact that the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board is nothing more than the personal enterprise of Ulema and Alim, apart from Maulanas who teach at seminaries. By its own admission, the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board was established in 1972-1973 “at a time when then Government of India was trying to subvert Shari’ah law applicable to Indian Muslims through parallel legislation”.

The immediate backdrop was the introduction of the Adoption Bill in Parliament by HR Gokhale, then Union Law Minister. While introducing the Bill he had described it as “the first step towards Uniform Civil Code”.

This triggered an alert among the Ulema, which immediately went on the offensive, decrying the Bill as an attempt to dilute, to quote the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, the separate identity of Indian Muslims. The “risk of losing applicability of Shari’ah laws was real and a concerted move by the community was needed to defeat the conspiracy”, the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board says of its history.

For the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, “it was a historic moment. This was the first time in the history of India after Khilafat Movement that people and organisations of Indian Muslim community belonging to various schools of thought come together on a common platform to defend Muslim Personal Law.”

The first meeting to ‘save Shari’ah’ was convened at Deoband at the initiative of Hazrat Maulana Syed Shah Minnatullah Rahmani, Ameer Shariat, Bihar and Orissa, and Hakeem-ul Islam Hazrat Maulana Qari Mohammad Taiyab, Muhtamim, Dar-ul Uloom, Deoband. At the meeting it was decided to hold a convention at Mumbai on December 27-28, 1972.

The official history of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board records: “The convention was unprecedented. It showed unity, determination and resolve of the Indian Muslim community to protect the Muslim Personal Law. The Convention unanimously decided to form All-India Muslim Personal Law Board. As per the decision of the Mumbai Convention, the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board was formally established at a meeting held at Hyderabad on April 7, 1973.” The purpose: “To adopt suitable strategies for protection and continued applicability of Muslim Personal Law, i.e., Shariat Application Act, in India.”

Since then, the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board has consistently insisted that ‘Shari’ah’ is beyond reach and scope of India’s courts of law. The Supreme Court’s judgement ordering maintenance for Shah Bano, an old, indigent woman thrown out of her home and hearth by her husband who had taken recourse to the expedient, Shari’ah sanctioned means of pronouncing Talaq thrice, led to nationwide violent protests engineered by the Ulema and backed by the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board.

The Congress Government, headed by Rajiv Gandhi, instead of seizing upon the judgement to push ahead with a Uniform Civil Code, chose to pander to the Ulema. The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board scored a huge victory when Rajiv Gandhi used his brute parliamentary majority to steamroll the Muslim Women’s Bill in 1986. This strengthened the case for Shari’ah more than the 1937 Act.

Since then, although a debate has raged in the public space, little has changed on the ground. We remain as far away from a Uniform Civil Code as we were in 1950 when we declared India a Republic founded on the values of secularism.

The writer is a senior journalist based in the National Capital Region.


Will Kashmir See A New Wave Of Suicide Terror?


 By Syed Ata Hasnain

4 Sep, 2015

A brief history of suicide terrorism in Kashmir, and why it is safe to be prepared for a new wave.

Since the period 1999-2003, a new generation has grown up all over India. Forgotten is this period of J&K’s militant history to which we can trace today’s elevated sentry posts at important installations, double barrier entry gates and much more barbed wire than what is ever desirable. It was suicide terror which brought about all this.

Today there are just 150 terrorists of marginal capability present in Kashmir and less than 75 in the Jammu region. However, in South Kashmir, a ‘new militancy’ is growing which many say may grow and  manifest as ‘new terrorism’. A 21 year old militant leader Burhan Muzaffar Wani, from a reasonably well to do family from Tral/Pulwama has emerged.

 Young, energetic and fully radicalized, he is uploading videos calling for a new jihad. It is the talk of the town among younger people in Kashmir and I am getting messages from all over J&K expressing anguish at this development which is finding much attraction among the younger generation. He had even uploaded his photograph along with ten others in well-fitting combat fatigues and the symbol of machismo, the AK-47.

Such movements which have a way of turning nasty. Burhan is spreading the message of radical Islam with a trans-national imprint and its effect is admittedly attracting the attention of the young. Sooner than later, he must demonstrate his arrival; thus far it is only videos and photographs on social media. Terrorists are bereft of empathy with any segment of society and the weakest is usually the target. They have a way of conducting the most bizarre acts against the run of trends and end up showing their flag with high profile acts. Suicide terror is one of them.

If my memory holds right it was July 1999 when the first of the Pakistan sponsored ‘fedayeen’ (hereafter referred as suicide terrorists) struck the BSF DIG Headquarters at Bandipur in North Kashmir. The LeT had been active in J&K since 1992 and executed many criminal terror acts including minority killings but a small squad suicide terror attack had hardly been witnessed before. Most observers would be unaware that the July 1999 was the period in which the Kargil operations were in their last intense phase and North Kashmir was left with few troops; the famous 8 Mountain Division having redeployed to Dras.

 A flurry of similar attacks followed at Chak Nutnas (a larger strike against a newly arrived Rashtriya Rifles (RR) unit) near Handwara, Manasbal and Beerwah, where quite a few lives were lost by the RR.

On 03 Nov 1999 a suicide squad carried out a sneak attack on the Badami Bagh entrance at Batwara Gate killing the Defence PRO. This was followed by two suicide car bomb attacks in December 1999 and April 2000 almost at the same spot, again leading to casualties. However, the most daring of these sneak attacks took place on the headquarters (HQ) of the 1 Sector RR at Khanabal, near Anantnag on 13 Jan 2000.

It was meticulously planned. The HQ locations are divided by the National Highway and there were fixed timings at which the gates would open for essential administration between the two parts. The terrorists had observed that 6 PM was one such time when food was transported from the administrative area across to the main HQ.

The terrorists stole a Maruti van at about 4 PM from the vicinity of Anantnag and a general alert was issued by the JK Police. Dressed in combat fatigues four terrorists drove up in the van at about 6.15 PM and halted on the main road between the two gates which were open. They dismounted firing from the hip and even shot rockets at the sentry post of the main HQ gate.

One of the terrorists was killed by the sentry while another probably lost nerve and escaped along the perimeter wall. Two of them ran through the open gate and disappeared into the darkness in the HQ complex. It emerged that they holed up in the first floor of a block of four flats. The Army and Ikhwan did their best to flush them out but ultimately had to resort to the time tested method of blowing up the house to eliminate the two terrorists, not before a few lives had been lost.

We had occasion to speak to one of them as he lay dying under the cornice of one of the buildings. The information gleaned was something which could be applied across the board to most Pakistani terrorists. They came from impoverished background, some were terminal cases of HIV and had been promised a sizeable sum of money for their families; they had no qualms about participating in sneak attacks where the chances of being killed were almost a hundred percent; and most importantly they invariably came for such missions either drugged or drunk.

I cannot recall too many classic suicide bombing cases in J&K where a terrorist blew himself with a bomb against a target. Two of these were at the gate of Badami Bagh and at least one was a case of a Maruti car laden with explosives which rammed against an Army bus near Pattan in 2004. As against Israel/Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan where suicide attacks by human bombs have been rife, the J&K terror situation has witnessed such attacks rarely.

Mostly there have been suicide attacks by small parties against security installations in which the terrorists have almost invariably been killed. After 2003 there was a downward curve in the quantum as the footprint of terrorist presence reduced year on year. The period of the street turbulence from 2008-11 witnessed a further reduction in attempts to target posts of security forces.

A couple of observations on the current trends before any deductions can be drawn.  First, the Mohra/Uri encounter (Jhelum Valley) in early Dec 2014 and the attempt on the Tangdhar Brigade HQ three months ago were both against any earlier trends wherein such sneak attacks took place only in the hinterland and not near the LoC. Tangdhar and Uri are both near the LoC and known to be centres of transient terrorist activity.

Secondly, two incidents of LeT terrorists surrendering or being apprehended in the last five weeks displays lowering of motivation and dilution of standards of the Daura e Khas training of the Lashkar. Earlier LeT terrorists captured in J&K to the best of my knowledge were not really fighting elements. Mostly LeT fought to the last round last man and their bodies were usually found burnt in the rubble of houses set afire to flush out the terrorists. Thus this trend of apprehension is against the run and may hurt Lashkar’s ego.

Thirdly, Syed Salahuddin’s Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) was never known to be a radical Islamic entity. Even Salahuddin’s many rantings were mostly political in nature not ideological. The sudden imprint of transnational Islamic radicalism in South Kashmir’s militancy is the birth of potential new terrorism giving the HM’s fortunes a new fillip.

It is as yet unsure and still absorbing the romanticism of the gun and fatigues. A few more youth are getting attracted to it in North Kashmir as evident from the four young men apprehended from Hafruda forest some days ago. Burhan and his comrades do not have to go to PoK for training; they do it here in the back yards of South Kashmir houses and forested areas along the ‘karewas’ (mid height plateaus).

Probably some surrendered terrorists could be extending their expertise to them. It is the transnational Islamic label which is dangerous and with ideas afloat from the Islamic State’s videos and propaganda material the effect on minds is unpredictable. Aligning themselves with Islamist warriors in ideology and methodology of conduct is a distinct possibility. Social media’s evils have not yet reached India in any distinct manner but the scope remains immense.

It is not my deduction that suicide terror and bombing will be the next phenomenon in J&K’s history of terrorism. It is just that frustrated minds, immature ideas, skewed motivation and a burning desire to prove that they have arrived sometimes leads to the most unexpected acts. With the desperate attempts by the sponsors from across the LoC to revive terrorism in J&K and the extremely effective counter infiltration grid established by the Army with years of experience, we may expect something more unexpected. It is good to be forewarned and cater for it.




05 September 2015


By Hiranmay Karlekar  

Armed to the teeth against India, Pakistan feels it is under no compulsion to seriously seek peace. So, instead of appealing for peace, New Delhi should build up its military strength and forget about talks with Islamabad

There is a perennial quality to a section of the civil society’s plea for India-Pakistan talks that reminds one of Alfred Tennyson’s The Brook, “For men may come and men may go, / But I go on forever.” Read instead, “For talks may come and talks may fail, / But the plea goes on forever.” The question to ask, particularly after the aborted talks scheduled from August 24, is whether dialogues between the two countries, back-channel or in the clear light of the day, can yield results. Those familiar with Pakistan’s internal power alignments and strategic doctrine would find it very difficult to say “yes”. State power in Pakistan, it is widely known, rests on three pillars. The first is the Army, which calls the shots even when an elected civilian Government is in power. Its clout, which some hoped, would diminish post-Musharraf, has, in fact, waxed thanks to the threat the second pillar, the jihadi segment, poses to the civilian Government. The latter, the third and perhaps the weakest pillar, knows that its writ may not run even in the capital city of Islamabad without the Army’s support.

In fact, even the lives of the Prime Minister and key members of his Cabinet may not then be safe. Recall the assassinations of Pakistani Punjab’s Governor, Salman Taseer, and Minorities Minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, in January and March 2011, respectively, and of Pakistani Punjab’s Home Minister, Shuja Khanzada in August this year. It has no chance — if there ever was any-other than that of playing the second fiddle to the Army’s. In any case, the latter has always had the final word in Pakistan’s policy toward Kashmir and India.

The question arises whether there is any chance of the jihadi threat diminishing and, thereby, enhancing the civilian Government’s ability to stand up to the Army. The answer is a resounding “no”. The jihadis would not want peace because that would drastically reduce their money inflow and their salience in Pakistan’s public life. Besides, some of these are spawns of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, which continues to nurture them. The most prominent example is the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba whose headquarters sprawl over 200 acres in Muridke near Lahore. Against India, its primary area of operations is Jammu & Kashmir but it has launched attacks in other parts including New Delhi, Mumbai (the most sinister one being the one labeled 26/11), Bangalore, Hyderabad, Varanasi, and Kolkata and so on.

LeT is banned as a terrorist organisation by India, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Russia and Australia — and, formally, even by Pakistan. The United Nations has designated it as a foreign terrorist organisation and also proscribed the Jamaat-ud-Dawa’h. It, however, continues to receive help and protection from not only the Pakistani Army and the ISI, of which the LeT and allied bodies are strategic assets, but Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Shahbaz Sharif, Chief Minister of Pakistan’s Punjab. Both have excellent ties with Hafeez Saeed, the head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa’h and have been helping him with Government funds. Under the latter as Chief Minister, Pakistan’s Punjab provincial Government provided more than `8.2 crore in 2009-2010 for the administration of JuD facilities. In fiscal 2010-2011, Chief Minister Sharif, using his discretionary powers, allocated `7.98 crore for six organisations at Markaz-e-Toiba, the JuD’s largest centre, and a special grant-in-aid of `30 lakh for the JuD’s Al-Dawa school system. Pakistan’s Punjab’s provincial Government’s Budget for 2013-2014 allocated `35 crore to the Markaz-e-Tayyeba for setting up a “knowledge park” and `6.1 crore to the JuD.

Even if the LeT and allied organisations did not have support in high places, it would have been difficult for Pakistan’s Government to wipe them out, or even brush aside their criticism of attempts to patch things up with India. Pakistani Army’s much-hyped offensive, Rah-e-Raast (the Right Path or the Straight Path) against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or the Pakistani Taliban, launched in the Lower Dir district of the country’s North-West Frontier Province on April 26, 2009, and extended to the neighbouring Buner district of the same Province on April 28, eventually covered Swat, Upper Dir, Shangla and several others of its 24 districts and large tracts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas — comprising seven agencies — Khyber, Kurram, Bajaur, Mohammand, Orakzai and North and South Waziristan.

Like the subsequent offensives, it achieved very little. Most often, the troops did not do much. An AFP report, published in the Dawn of July 26, 2009, stated, “Pakistan says that it has eliminated the Taliban in a military offensive launched last April in north-western districts of Buner, Dir and Swat, which rendered nearly two million people displaced. But deadly skirmishes continue raising fears that the Taliban escaped into the mountains and might return, as after previous offensives.”

 The reasons for the Pakistani Army’s failure are well-known. A report by Richard A Oppel and Pir Zubair Shah in The New York Times of January 24, 2009, had stated, “When the Army does act, its near-total lack of preparedness to fight a counterinsurgency reveals itself. Its principal tactics is to lob artillery shells into a general area, and the results have seemed to hurt civilians more than the militants, residents say.”

 The Army proved to be unprepared because its orientation was — and continues to be-toward fighting a conventional war against India, and the bulk of the weaponry Pakistan had bought with the huge amounts of American aid post-9/11, was for fighting India and not the insurgents. The Americans, who know this, did precious little except occasionally telling Pakistan, Naughty! Naughty! Good countries don’t do such things.

 And, of course, the good country in question, paid little heed. Armed to the teeth against India, Pakistan feels it is under no compulsion to seriously seek peace. It also believes that the United States, desperately seeking its help to cobble together an Afghan settlement, will not dare to push Islamabad beyond a point. And, of course, there is that all-weather, all-seasons friend, China. If anything, it will continue to regard India’s overtures for peace, as a sign of weakness.

Instead of appealing for peace, India should concentrate on building deterrent military strength. There is a great deal of sense in American President Theodore (Not Franklin Delano) Roosevelt’s oft-quoted advice, “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”