Monday, October 11, 2010

Kashmir: Pakistan's Credibility Gap

Interesting editorial in The Pakistan Observer:
KASHMIR, which received little attention of the global community during the last few years, is now once again on the world agenda, thanks to the sacrifices of Kashmiri people. In the past, India was able to hoodwink the international public opinion with the force of intensive propaganda equating the freedom struggle of Kashmiri people with terrorism, an issue of serious concern to the world these days.
If this is the position of the Pakistan government as well, delusion has completely set in. Pakistan strongly believes that it has the diplomatic muscle to "internationalize" Kashmir, when in reality it's still treading water (and has been for years). There are good reasons why Pakistan has yet to reach the tipping point on Kashmir.

First of all, Pakistan faces a serious credibility gap on Kashmir. Pakistan says it's for the self-determination of the Kashmiri people, but this will require Pakistan give self-determination to people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (also absurdly known as "Azad" Kashmir, or "Free" Kashmir). A nice idea except for the fact that Pakistan tightly controls "Azad" Kashmir. It's occupied by military and security forces. Media access is also tightly-controlled: allowing Pakistan to stage-manage "Azad" Kashmir to show to the world a Potemkin village of happy and content Kashmiris. The world community should ask why there's no media access to "Azad" Kashmir. The world community should also ask why Pakistan ceded "disputed" territory to China in abrogation of the same United Nation resolution Pakistan likes to tout.

Second, is the lie that Pakistan did not train Kashmir freedom fighters, but only offering political and diplomatic support, and send them to Kashmir. Recently, former Gen. Pervez Musharraf admitted that Pakistan indeed trained militants (Pakistan calls them "freedom fighters") to create mayhem in India-occupied Kashmir, ostensibly to bring India to the negotiating table, but also to lay the groundwork for an eventual Pakistan annexation. Many of these militants weren't even Kashmiris, but Pakistan jihadists contracted to kill not only Indian military, security and police forces, but civilians as well. The militants specifically targeted pro-India and moderate Kashmiris, especially those who opposed Pakistani interference. This has also been clearly established.

Third, the use of militants has been Pakistan's playbook since the days of battling with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Pakistan created the Taliban to control Afghanistan after the Soviet Union withdrew. It has been using militants in Kashmir since 1989. These same militants have connections not only to each other, but to Al-Qaeda as well. It's good to note that some prominent members of Al-Qaeda have been Pakistani as well, including Sheik Khalid Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef, both of whom are in American custody. These same militants are responsible for killing of countless innocent Pakistanis through suicide bombings, shootings, and outright murder, all under the protection of the Pakistani military. It's also interesting to note that many of these militant groups hold massive rallies that are well-attended by government functionaries and prominent political leaders. These are the very same leaders who head the government and are pushing for Kashmiri rights to self-determination. People do take notice.

And fourth, Pakistan is weak with little international influence. It may have a first-rate military and nuclear weapons, but it's a near-failed state with a corrupt political system, weak democratic institutions, and an economy that constantly teeters on failure. Pakistan constantly carries a begging bowl. Honestly, do beggars have any influence other being pitied. Not even the vaunted Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) cares about Kashmir. Yes, it has issued statements, communiqu├ęs, etc, but it has done little beyond that. Members of the OIC, though sympathetic to Pakistan as a fellow Islamic country, are not willing to take on India over Kashmir.

This is not to say India is completely absolved from its role in Kashmir. I believe this and past governments have often acted in a ham-fisted manner in Kashmir, and should correct its behavior. But if Pakistan wants to have final solution on Kashmir, it should get its entire house in order, top to bottom. Pakistan should realize that having nuclear weapons and a big army is not enough to be a player on the world state, but strong democratic institutions and a stable, growing economy will give it more creditability.

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