The Imperative To Talk

Kashmir and the Indo-Pak peace process

01 January 2010
For the Indian military, the Pakistan issue is almost inseperable from that of Kashmir.
For the Indian military, the Pakistan issue is almost inseperable from that of Kashmir.

EARLY IN DECEMBER, a moderate separatist leader, Fazal Haq Qureishi was shot and gravely injured by unknown gunmen. It was reminiscent of the assassination of another moderate separatist, Abdul Ghani Lone in May 2002 by suspected militants, who was inclined towards talks with the Indian government. Those were very dangerous times, but violence in terms of militant attacks has come down a lot ever since. Even compared to 2004 when the Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat Conference was engaging with the Indian government, and when unknown gunmen shot his uncle, attacks in Kashmir by militants have become negligible.

Much has changed in Pakistan as well in the past few years, with the country bogged down in a war against the Taliban and their allies in Waziristan, facing growing militancy in small-town Punjab, and devastating attacks in bigger cities. But given preoccupations in Waziristan and beliefs held in certain sections of the Pakistani security establishment that anti-India groups can still serve as a tool on the India front—whether in Kashmir or in terms of containing Indian influence in Afghanistan—Pakistan hasn’t gone all out against India-centric groups. Even if Pakistan was to initiate a direct confrontation with these groups, it can’t directly affect the source of their recruitment and growth: Kashmir.

Every case of rights abuse in the valley becomes an advertisement for recruitment into Lashkar. Last August, soon after the CRPF fired upon protesters in Kashmir, killing around 50 and injuring hundreds, the Lashkar chief Hafiz Sayeed, made a speech at Lahore’s Qudsia mosque. Sayeed told his audience about the police firing in Kashmir, about the injured and the dead, and he also mentioned the fact that the Grand Mosque in Srinagar had been closed by the government and that Friday prayers had been forbidden there. Sayeed went on to attack the Pakistani government for talking with India. Then he paused and threw a question at the Friday congregation, asking them, “And will you remain silent? Will you do nothing?”

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    Basharat Peer is a Contributing Editor at The Caravan. He is the author of Curfewed Night.

    Keywords: Pakistan Kashmir CRPF Basharat Peer Indo-Pak Hurriyat Conference Asiya freedom Mirwaiz Armed Forces Special Powers Act