In February 1989, as last Soviet troops were leaving Afghanistan, three groups of Kashmiri youth were already in Pakistan receiving arms training to launch jihad in Kashmir. And while the mujahideen in Afghanistan moved to dislodge Soviet-backed Najibullah government in Kabul, Kashmir metamorphosed into a full-blown parallel battleground between Kashmiri militants and New Delhi with secessionist armed campaign in the neighbouring Punjab already at its peak.
Now with US preparing to exit Afghanistan following more than a decade of war that echoes Soviet engagement, there is a sense of deja vu in Kashmir. The Valley apprehends the repeat of the situation that followed the withdrawal of USSR and its subsequent break-up, this time compounded by a resurgent China.
This is at least what the Hurriyat delegation who visited Pakistan in December last has been told in no uncertain terms by the militant leaders including Mumbai attack accused Hafiz Saeed, his deputy Abdur Rehman Makki and the United Jihad Council chief Syed Salahuddin. ‚ÄúWe think the only way to liberate Kashmir is through military means. Dialogue with New Delhi will get us nowhere,‚ÄĚ these leaders told Hurriyat leaders who met them. ‚ÄúCome 2014 and we will again be in a position of command. We will restart jihad in Kashmir‚ÄĚ.
And as for the Pakistan establishment is concerned, there is an apprehension of the messy fallout of Afghan endgame. Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq says that in his meetings with Pakistan leaders, he saw them deeply concerned about the post US-exit scenario. ”Pakistan sees more spillover of Taliban insurgency into Pakistan and some of it possibly into Kashmir,” Mirwaiz said. “And should this happen, Pakistanis feel they will not be in a very good position to stop this”.
Hurriyat engagements in the country also included meetings with Pakistan army chief General Ishfaq Kayani and the ISI chief Lt Gen Zahir ul Islam besides interactions at the prestigious National Defence University and the Pakistan Institute of Strategic Studies.
And as if endorsing Mirwaiz‚Äôs statement, Tehreek Taliban-i-Pakistan has also talked of sending its fighters into Kashmir to liberate it from India. ‚ÄúAllah willing, the mujahedeen of Tehreek-e-Taliban will arrive in Kashmir and as per the Islamic sharia will help the Kashmiris get their rights. As our ancestors sacrificed their lives for Kashmir and had got Kashmir liberated by force [in 1947-48], the same way these progenies [i.e Taliban fighters], walking in the footsteps of their forefathers, will get Kashmir liberated [from India], and will help them get their rights,” TTP leader Wali Ur Rehman, against whom the US has announced a $5 million reward for his involvement in the murder of seven CIA officials in Afghanistan in December 2009, is believed to have said in a rare video of his along with the TTP chief Hamikullah Mehsud.
However, while Pakistan leadership has made it clear that they will not support renewed militant campaign in Kashmir, the country is hopeful that the US withdrawal next year will bring about a geo-strategic shift in the region, possibly bolstering Islamabad‚Äôs position against India. Islamabad already has a cause to be content with the preponderant stake it has gained in enabling the transition to post-US Afghanistan. The recently revealed ‚ÄúPeace Process Roadmap to 2015‚ÄĚ prepared by the Afghanistan government sponsored High Peace Council makes Islamabad central to the efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. And as already laid out in the document, the head of the peace council Salahuddin Rabbani travelled to Pakistan in November 2012 to ‚Äúenlist Pakistan‚Äôs collaboration behind this roadmap‚ÄĚ. And just as the roadmap had outlined, Pakistan freed at least seven ‚Äúmid and low level‚ÄĚ Taliban prisoners at the request of Rabbani for dialogue with Afghan government.