From ‘azadi’ to ‘jihad’

Pakistan and Afghanistan’s role in transforming the movement for ‘Kashmiriyat’ and ‘azadi’ in Kashmir into an Islamic ‘jihad’ is well established

Excerpts from the report, ‘The New Islamist International’ of the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare set up by the US House Republican Research Committee (February 1, 1993). 

Sponsoring international terrorism and separatist subversion and insurgency is not new to Pakistan. Since the 1970s, Islamabad has been training Sikh and other Indian separatist movements as part of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s strategy of “forward strategic depth”, and also as a part of his effort to gain revenge for India’s support of an independent Bangladesh.

The extent of the external, that is Pakistani and Afghan, influence on the Islamist transformation of the Kashmiri insurgency is quite clear. Indeed, Kashmir was the only area in India where, as of the mid–1980s, Islamic revivalism had “taken a radical political stance” and where “the slogans of the Islamic state have been publicly raised” and had been received with growing popularity. The population was increasingly adopting the leadership of Jamaat–e–Islami of Pakistan and Khomeinists representing the “following of the line of Imam Khomeini” as their own leaders. Consequently, by 1984, an Islamic radicalisation had developed that saw the rise of such movements as the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Mahaz–i–Azadi and the Liberation League.

Later, by 1985, both the Jamaat–e–Islami and Al–Jihad movements, the latter “a clandestine organisation influenced by the ideology of the Iranian revolution,” were becoming highly influential in Kashmiri politics. Indeed, the Al–Jihad movement publicly raised the issue of an “Islamic Revolution” as “the only way to liberate” Kashmir in the mid–1980s. 

Thus, in the space of a few short years, “there was a marked erosion of the secular Kashmiri personality
and a Muslim identity with fundamentalist overtones started emerging rapidly”. Therefore, it also became
imperative for the emerging separatist leaders to “give the struggle a Pan–Islamic character and
extra–territorial dimension.”

Indeed, as noted, this trans-formation was assisted and reinforced by an active ISI program. Initially, the emphasis of this program was on using the Afghan-support infrastructure in Pakistan to support Kashmiri militants. Indeed, during the main escalation of Islamist violence in Indian Kashmir in mid–l988, Pakistan provided assistance in the training and arming of Kashmiri terrorists, as well as sanctuaries to Kashmiri insurgents across the border. 

The rise of Islamist ideology to predominance throughout Indian Kashmir facilitated the emergence of a tight link between the Kashmiri insurgents, their supporters, and Islamabad.”Muslim fundamentalists in Pakistan see the Islamic surge in Kashmir as the long awaited hour for jihad against Indian infidels, a holy war for which Pakistan must funnel material and moral backing.”

There is a profound difference between support for Sikh terrorism in Punjab, which is a matter of harassing New Delhi, and Islamist terrorism in Kashmir, where there is a genuine whole–hearted commitment to jihad. The ISI estab-lished and runs its own “Kashmiri organisation”. The most important among these are the Hizb–e–Islami, which is comprised of former Kashmiri Mujahideen who were trained by the ISI and then fought with Gulbuddin Hikmatyar’s organisation in Afghanistan. Also, there is Harakat–ul–Jihad another highly professional terrorist group created in Pakistan. It is made up of veteran ‘Afghans’ from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kashmir who receive extensive ISI support.

In the early summer of 1992, some 200 highly–trained and well–armed Afghan Mujahideen infiltrated into Indian Kashmir in order to assist in what was by now a full blown armed struggle. They are directly responsible for the increase in violence in Kashmir, in itself a part of a concentrated effort sponsored and backed by the ISI. Another group of 300 Afghans in command of a larger force of Pakistani–trained Kashmiris are waiting in Pakistani Kashmir for the opportune conditions in order to infiltrate into Indian Kashmir and open a new terrorist front.

Archived from Communalism Combat, July 1999, Year 6  No. 51, Cover Story 2



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