Srinagar : Would the Pakistani Army’s Zab-e-Azb operations against Islamist militants in North Waziristan impact the security situation in Kashmir? Most locals believe it could, though others say it is far-fetched.
As reports of jehadi fighters getting killed in targeted operations by the Pakistani Army pour in, locals wonder whether such fighters would head for “safer havens” once Pakistan and its tribal areas become “too hot for them”.
“There is no armed militant group in Jammu and Kashmir that does not have a dominant component of foreign fighters now. In fact, it is these foreign fighters who call the shots in the militant groups in the state,” a top intelligence officer told IANS, adding that not more than 30 such hardened foreign fighters are at present on the radar of the security forces.
“There is no doubt that the Pakistani army can fight the jehadis very well. In fact, they are the ones who created them,” a senior military officer told IANS on condition of anonymity.
Apprehensions about jehadis trying to find a foothold in Kashmir gained credence when Guardian.com recently carried a story about the Al Qaeda asking Kashmiris to join the pan-Islamist jehad.
Most separatist leaders here allay fears that Islamic warriors like the Al Qaeda and the Taliban would head for Kashmir.
“Ours is not essentially a religious struggle. It is about the political aspirations of a people who have been denied their legitimate rights. “Yes, we are Muslims, but so are the people of Palestine. Does anyone say theirs is a religious struggle,” a senior separatist leader asked while speaking to IANS.
Having been through the worst violence for the last 23 years, the common Kashmiri believes in political solutions to political issues.
“Why should anyone come and fight my struggle if I have a genuine cause? Militancy has not led us anywhere although I cannot blame the youths who joined the militant ranks. They did so when all doors of peaceful assertions of their rights were closed on them”, Abdul Gani, 54, a resident of Srinagar’s old quarters, told IANS.
Many locals believe the jehadi mindset cannot be fought with guns and grenades; the world needs to ideologically address the breeding ground of such a mindset.
“It is a mindset and, howsoever mighty an army might be, one cannot fight a mindset. It is, therefore, imperative that this mindset is fought at an ideological level.
“Why should we lose sleep because things are happening elsewhere over which we have no control? We lose sleep here because ours has become a fertile ground for violence due to political uncertainty”, Gowhar, 52, a local businessman here, told IANS.
Whether one likes it or not, the Kashmiri’s concern about developments in North Waziristan, as also in Afghanistan and Iraq, is for real. People here know what turmoil and bloodshed means; they have already paid a heavy price.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)