First off, there is nothing new in Pakistan raising the Kashmir issue. It has been the lifeblood of Pakistani diplomacy and politics since 1947. Notable at this point is the extent of Pakistan’s effort to raise the pitch of protests after Burhan Wani’s death four weeks ago.
What is happening in Kashmir, in Pakistan, and beyond, is no longer about Wani. In fact, it has not been about Wani for more than three weeks now. It is about what Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called "a new wave of freedom struggle" in Kashmir – and Pakistan’s overt and covert role in making this happen.
Within the Valley, the immediate anger over the killing of the iconic hero was skillfully steered into an extremely dangerous tactical pattern. From the first day, police stations, paramilitary camps and convoys were targeted. Mobs of enraged boys were turned into mobile columns for the purpose.
Since then, two complimentary trends have emerged in the attitude and views of Kashmiris. On one hand, the majority of adult Kashmiris are tired of participating actively in disrupting what passes here for normalcy. On the other, there is a widespread willingness to sit back and let the hartal continue long-term – to see if something concrete finally emerges this time.
A third, parallel, trend is keeping the protests alive: Teenagers, often joined by boys in their pre-teens, are in the forefront of enforcing the hartal, and keeping the sloganeering and demonstrations going.
Activists of Islamist groups are playing a key role to organize and spur these bands of boys. Jamaat-e-Islami activists appear to be in the forefront. Jamaat is far more closely linked to Hizb, to Pakistan and to the post-Zia Pakistan Army than other group in Kashmir.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has succeeded in pushing into a combine the three separatist figures who the media tend to play up – Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar and Yasin Malik. Pakistan has been strongly pushing them to unite for at least the last year.
As for what is happening in Pakistan itself, one must read between the lines of what is said, or not – and by whom (even if one cannot yet figure out what they are doing). For the first time in this century, men who have been designated not only by India but internationally as "terrorists" have led a major strand of Pakistani response to Wani’s death.
More notable is the fact that the Hizbul Mujahideen, to which Wani belonged, has linked up with the more Salafist Lashkar-e-Toiba to protest Wani’s death in Pakistan. Hafiz Sayeed, the mentor and leader of Lashkar, has been in the forefront, shoulder to shoulder with Syed Salahuddin, who is called chief commander of Hizbul Mujahideen.
The two were together for a funeral prayer in absentia immediately after Wani’s death. Since then, they have collaborated in protest marches. Their target is India in broad terms; Wani is barely highlighted any longer.
For several years after the efforts of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, figures who had been branded "terrorists" laid low in Pakistan. India had managed to put Pakistan in the dock internationally over its allowing Sayeed to roam free. Now, his protests and statements are unapologetic. Indeed, they are an important strand of Pakistan’s responses.
Within the context of his country’s politics, Nawaz Sharif’s positions have been measured, cautious. In tandem with statements from others in the government, and those of figures at the "terrorist" end of that spectrum, it is clear that Pakistan has used Wani’s killing to up the ante hugely against India.
To turn away from talks to protest all this would be like pouting in front of one’s bedroom mirror after a neighbour lights a fire in one of the rooms of one’s house. The thing to do is to keep talking, even if only to protest that neighbours must live amicably together.
Of course, the more urgent thing to do is to put out the fire in that room – and clean it up, and ensure that one does not store so much flammable tinder in that room again.
First Published On : Aug 4, 2016 14:42 IST