Is Islamabad out of sync with the new generation of freedom fighters in Kashmir?
By AHMED QURAISHI
Wednesday, 22 September 2010.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—Pakistan lost a friendly Afghanistan after 2001. Now it looks set to lose Kashmir eight years later.
You’d think the latest uprising in Kashmir against Indian occupation is a godsend for Pakistan, which has been championing the cause for three generations.
But all signs indicate that Pakistan is losing the respect and trust of Kashmir’s younger generation. This is similar to the way Islamabad lost the admiration and trust of the Afghan Pashtun during the last eight years, and the trust of a large chunk of Pakistani Pashtun, who remain loyal despite severe setbacks.
Kashmir was never India’s despite the forced annexation. So it’s a lost cause for India anyway. But the danger is that it could turn into a lost cause for Islamabad as well.
Unlike India, Pakistan still has time to stop that from happening.
If the gap widens between Pakistan and Kashmir’s new generation of young freedom leaders, third parties might try to hijack the movement away from its essentially pro-Pakistan character. Many of Pakistan’s antagonists believe that if Kashmir can’t be India’s, it shouldn’t also be Pakistan’s.
Pakistan’s dilemma can be traced to the bad strategic choices that its leadership made in the eight years since 9/11, putting the interests of others before its own.
Pakistani officials, civilian and military, can see that this policy has strategically impaired Pakistan. And there’s no better example than Kashmir.
By now, Pakistan should’ve been on top of the courageous popular uprising where kids, women and young men are unanimous in rejecting an Indian occupation army of rapists and killers.
Islamabad should have moved beyond the verbal to the practical, smuggling in food supplies and medicines and allowing freedom fighters from within the Kashmiris in Azad (Free) Kashmir to cross into the occupied portion to help their brethren face the Indian tyranny in self defense.
But so bad is Pakistan’s strategic environment that mere talk of this brings embarrassing smiles in Islamabad’s power corridors these days. Pakistan’s leadership has never been as impotent as it is today.
We have already alienated large segments of Kashmiris when former president Pervez Musharraf ended Pakistani support for Kashmiri freedom fighters in the hope that India would buy his Kashmir formulas and help him emerge as the superman of peace [India didn’t, thank God, a decision it now regrets]. He also allowed India to build tens of small- and medium-sized dams on Kashmiri rivers by ordering Pakistani military units along LoC to stand down enough for Indian construction workers to proceed.
And now we have his successor government, led by President Zardari, which takes its cue on Kashmir from Richard Holbrooke who says he can’t be seen uttering what he degradingly calls ‘the K-word’.
What has gone unnoticed in this grim picture is that Pakistani diplomats and military officials have quietly reversed many of the policy wrongs listed above. Kashmir now is an urgent international dispute and Pakistan won’t follow any dubious formulas for its resolution and would stick to the many UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir.
That taken care of, Pakistan now needs to catch up with the kids of Kashmir.
Young Kashmiris are maximizing the power of Internet and social media to break the wall of Indian censorship.
Pakistan has several news agencies, like the Kashmir Media Service, exclusively focused on spreading the word on Kashmir internationally. But despite their good intentions, they live in the 20th century.
Pakistan Foreign Office has no public diplomacy sections, no hired talent that can pick a cause like Kashmir and turn it into a catchword in the trendy worlds of television and cyberspace.
Pakistan’s giant state-run media and the private 80+ television news channels are incapable of conveying Kashmir’s voice to a global audience in an attractive way. Compare that to how young Kashmiris are creating compelling videos of Indian military atrocities and posting them to YouTube.
Pakistan should also get out of the post-9/11 apologetic mode on Kashmiri freedom groups. The United States blackmailed the Pakistani government in 2002 to lump these groups together with al Qaeda. Recently, Washington has been fronting for India on a Kashmiri group, Lashkar e Tayyiba, or LeT, comparing it to al Qaeda and talking about the Kashmiri group’s ‘global reach’. Indo-American attempts to link Kashmir to terrorism should also be smartly countered.
It is time Pakistan drew a red line: Kashmiri resistance to Indian terrorism targeting civilians is legitimate under international law.
As a last option, let’s recall China’s lesson on Hong Kong: Stick to your claim and never settle.
Our choices are clear and time is short: Pakistan can either win Kashmir’s young guns, or lose them forever.
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