Pakistan's Kashmir Strategy
by Yossef Bodansky
Kashmir is unique
among all the crisis points along the Indo-Pakistani border in that a marked
escalation of the fighting -- both insurgency and regular -- is virtually
inevitable before any effort for a peaceful solution can succeed. The primary
reasons is the extent of the ideological commitment and self- interests
of several of the key players involved.
For Islamabad, the liberation of Kashmir is a
sacred mission, the only task unfulfilled since Muhammad Ali Jinnah's days.
Moreover, a crisis in Kashmir constitutes an excellent outlet for the frustration
at home, an instrument for the mobilization of the masses, as well as gaining
the support of the Islamist parties and primarily their loyalists in the
military and the ISI.
The ISI has a major interest to continue the crisis.
Back in the 1970s, Pakistan started to train Sikhs and other Indian separatist
movements as part of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's strategy for forward strategic
depth. Pakistan adopted the sponsorship of terrorism and subversion as
an instrument to substitute for the lack of strategic depth and early warning
capabilities. The Pakistani sponsored terrorists and the Pakistani intelligence
operatives in their ranks would be able to warn Pakistan of any impending
Indian invasion, and then launch a guerrilla warfare against the Indian
Army even before it reached the border with Pakistan. Therefore, sponsoring
separatist subversion has become a crucial component of Islamabad's national
During the 1980s, the ISI completed a vast training
and support infrastructure for the Afghan resistance that was also used
for the training and support of other regional groups. There was a corresponding
ideological development in Indian Kashmir. Since 1984, virtually suddenly,
the prevailing popular sentiments in Indian Kashmir was that "Islam is
in Danger," and that sentiment, rather than nationalism, began mobilizing
The timing of the change was not spontaneous.
Hashim Qureshi, the founder of the nationalist JKLF [Jammu Kashmir Liberation
Front] recently recalled how "in 1984 ISI Generals and Brigadiers approached
me with the offer: 'get us young people for training from the Valley so
that they could fight India on return."' When he refused, Qureshi explained,
his struggle was taken over by the ISI who installed Amanullah Khan. "It
is tragic that so-called nationalist Amanullah Khan and some of his supporters
started the present struggle in Kashmir in league with the ISI. A man with
common intelligence can understand that any movement started in a Muslim
majority area with the help of Pakistani military intelligence will eventually
mean religious struggle. " Qureshi stressed that by 1993 "Amanullah proved
that he was an agent of the ISI" having sacrificed the nationalist liberation
struggle in Kashmir on the altar of Islamist politics. Qureshi himself
had to flee Pakistan and seek political asylum in Western Europe.
Meanwhile, by the late-1980s, with the war in
Afghanistan slowing down, the vast network of training camps for Afghan
Mujahideen was transformed by the ISI into a center of Islamist terrorism
throughout South Asia, as well as the melting pot of the world wide Islamist
Jihad. This transformation concurred with an active ISI program "to initiate
full-fledged subversion in Kashmir Valley" that is still escalating. At
first, the ISI's assistance to the Kashmiri Islamists was funnelled through
Gulbaddin Hekmatiyar's Hizb-i Islami, thus providing Islamabad with deniability.
Islamabad increases its support for Islamist terrorism
in Kashmir because there is a genuine whole hearted commitment to Jihad
among the Kashmiri terrorists and their international volunteers. Moreover,
the ISI transformed its major paramilitary command into a major political
force as a direct result of their increase of support for terrorism in
India. Presently, there is a need for a mission use for the ISI's numerous
paramilitary and Afghan forces, as well as an institutional interest in
preserving the political clout that comes with these operations. Islamabad
finds a task for the ISI's vast Pakistani and Afghan cadres previously
involved in sponsoring the Jihad in Afghanistan but who are now no longer
needed, that would keep them away from domestic politics and power struggles.
Indeed, the escalation of terrorism and subversion since the early 1990s
is considered a part of the ISI's implementation of a long-term program.
Iran considers an escalation in the Jihad for
the liberation of Kashmir a key for the assertion of strategic prominence
of the Tehran-led Islamic Bloc, as well as a demonstration of its regional
power position. In order to expedite the implementation, the Iranians are
utilizing a sacred mission, that is, liberating the area of Ayatollah Khomeyni's
roots, as a rallying point. The extent of agitation and indoctrination
of Iranian, Afghan, Kashmiri, Indian, Pakistani and other volunteers in
the special forces and terrorist training camps in Iran makes it impossible
to call off such a Jihad for any reason.
Similarly, the Armed Islamic Movement, as well
as several Saudis, Gulf Arabs, and other supporters of Islamist causes,
put Kashmir high on their list of jihads to be fought. Indeed, Kashmir
is mentioned in lists of sacred goals recovered in Israel (MAMAS), Algeria
(FIS), Sudan, Egypt, to name but a few examples. Kashmir is a high priority
objective because of the firm belief in the possibility of success. It
is an easy campaign to wage for logistical considerations because of the
presence of numerous cadres and large weapon stockpiles in Afghanistan
and Pakistan. AIM's operations are closely coordinated in Tehran and Khartoum.
All of these states and organizations have large,
highly trained and well equipped forces. Virtually all of these forces
have not yet been committed to the Kashmiri Jihad. The sole attempt for
mass mobilization, in 1992, was stopped by the Pakistani authorities for
fear of Indian retaliation. However, Islamabad desperately needs an external
challenge for its own domestic political reasons, ranging from diversion
of popular attention away from the domestic collapse to finding " something
to do" for the ISI and the military other than meddling in politics. Islamabad
would receive massive financial assistance from Iran, Saudis and Gulf Arabs,
as was the case during the Afghan war, if there is a jihad to be waged.
Kashmir is the only viable option. Moreover, even if Islamabad is reluctant
to move, many of the irregulars -- Pakistanis, Afghans, Kashmiris and Arab
'Afghans' -- will eventually start the escalations on their own with a
nod and a wink from the ISI and the military, thus dragging the supporting
powers -- themselves already bound by their declaratory commitments --
into the rapidly escalating crisis.
Presently, Pakistani officials repeatedly vow
to "liberate" Kashmir, or enforce the recognition of "Muslims' rights"
in the Valley, even at a risk of a major crisis. This rising militancy
of Pakistani officials is far from being empty rhetoric. Islamabad uses
the escalation in Kashmir as a cover for the overall expansion of the terrorist
training and support system for operations in Central Asia and elsewhere
in the world.
In order to escalate their Islamist Jihad, the
ISI established in the early 1990s the Markaz-Dawar, a center for world
wide Islamist activities. Mulavi Zaki, the center's spiritual leader, told
the trainees that their destiny was to fight and liberate "the land of
Allah from infidels" wherever they might be. The commanders and instructors
are AIM members, primarily Ikhwan from Algeria, Sudan and Egypt. Most of
them had fought for more than a decade in Afghanistan.
In early 1992, with world attention paid to their
presence in Peshawar area, some of these 'Afghans' were transferred to
Azad Kashmir where new camps were being built for them by the Pakistani
Army. By early 1993, there were over 1,000 'Afghan' Mujahideen in the Markaz-Dawar
alone. Following the completion of advance training, they are being sent
to Kashmir, Algeria and Egypt.
Since mid 1993, despite Islamabad's claims to
the contrary, the main offices of the Islamist terrorist organizations
remained functioning in Peshawar. The series of "raids" by police since
October 1992 had resulted in the transfer of some of the 200 hard core
terrorists specifically wanted by the West to facilities near Jalalabad,
just across the Afghan border. In principle, the reports of mass deportation
of 'Afghans' from Peshawar by the Pakistani government were baseless. In
the fall of 1993, an Arab 'Afghan' with first hand knowledge confirmed
that "Pakistan pushed them out of the door only to open a window for them
to return and they come and go as they wish in Peshawar."
In the summer of 1993, the ISI had in the Markaz-Dawar
another force of some 200 Afghans -mainly Jallalluddin Haqqani's people
from the Khowst area -- that operated under direct ISI command and were
earmarked for special operations in Kashmir. According to Muhammad Fazal
al-Hajj, a PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine] terrorist
captured in southern Kashmir in the summer of 1993, additional 'Afghans'
and Afghans were being prepared by the ISI for the forthcoming escalation.
At least 400 'Afghans' and Afghans were known to being organized in one
camp, where they were trained by the ISI to augment and provide quality
core of leadership for the Kashmiri Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. There was a corresponding
expansion of advance preparations of Islamist terrorists for operations
in forward bases in Kashmir. Some 600 terrorists, about half of them veteran
'Afghans' and Afghans, were already at the final phase of their training.
Ultimately, many Arab volunteers continue to arrive
in Peshawar almost every day. The main Ikhwan facility is the Maktaba-i-Khidmat
originally established by the late Shaykh Abd Allah Azzam and now run by
his successor Shaykh Muhammad Yussaf Abbes. It still processes the volunteers
for AIM. At present, however, many ofthe volunteers are then dispatched
to the numerous training camps run by Arab 'Afghan' militants inside Afghanistan.
The ISI continues to provide the weapons and expertise. In July 1994, Sardar
Abdul Qayum Khan, the prime minister of Pakistani Azad Kashmir, acknowledged
that "there are a number of elements from various nationalities who participate
in the Jihad." He identified most ofthem as "Arab 'Afghans'."
Meanwhile, the Government of Afghanistan also
increased its support for terrorist training and preparations. This growing
direct involvement is important because the main operating bases for the
ISI's operations in Central Asia are in northern Afghanistan. In the aftermath
of the fall of Kabul, many Arab 'Afghans' returned to Peshawar where they
were organized by the Pakistani government to support various Islamist
causes in concert with Iran and Sudan. Many of them returned to Afghanistan
as quality forces and personal guard details. For example, Ahmad Shah Massud
maintains some 70-80 Arab 'Afghans' in southern Kabul for special tasks,
from "help" in political purges to fighting Gulbaddin Hekmatiyar.
In early December 1993, during a state visit to
Pakistan, the Deputy Prime Minister of Afghanistan, Maulana Arsalan Rahmani,
elaborated on Kabul's perception of the Islamist struggles world wide,
and especially in south and central Asia. He hailed Afghanistan's active
support for Islamist armed causes world wide and stressed that "we don't
consider this support as intervention in any country's internal affairs."
Maulana Arsalan Rahmani admitted that Afghanistan was providing military
assistance to various insurgencies because "we cannot remain aloof from
what is happening to the Muslims in occupied Kashmir, Tajikistan, Bosnia,
Somalia, Burma, Palestine and elsewhere.... We are not terrorists but Mujahideen
fighting for restoring peace and preserving honor."
He acknowledged that Afghanistan also played a
major role in a recent major development among the Islamist organizations
fighting in Indian Kashmir, namely, the merger of the Harakat ul-Jihad
Islami and Harakat ul-Mujahideen into the potent Harakat ul-Ansar. This
support for the unity was but part of the active support given by Afghanistan
to the Islamist fighters in Kashmir, Tajikistan, and Bosnia. "There are
about 8,000 members of Harakat ul-Ansar who are supporting the Kashmiri
struggle against Indian occupation," Maulana Arsalan Rahmani stated.
In early 1995, the Harakat ul-Ansar was maintaining
offices in most Pakistani cities, as well as training facilities in Afghanistan
and Pakistan. It expanded its global reach in support for Islamist causes.
"Ours is a truly international network of genuine Muslim holy warriors,"
explained Khalid Awan, a Pakistani member. "We believe frontiers could
never divide Muslims. They are one nation and they will remain a single
entity." Harakat ul-Ansar are known to be fighting in Kashmir, the Philippines,
Bosnia, Tajikistan, and the Middle East.
Meanwhile, the ISI continues to provide the terrorists
with new weapons. In the summer of 1993 the Kashmiri Mujahideen were provided
with long range and powerful missiles ~U air missiles of Afghan War vintage.
At that time, the Kashmiri and ISI crews were being trained in the use
of these missiles in Pakistani Kashmir.
Subsequently, there has been a marked expansion
of smuggling of quality weapons from Pakistan into Kashmir as of late 1993.
There has been a corresponding change in the terrorists' tactics, introducing
hit and run strikes by highly trained and well equipped detachments. Among
the new weapons now used in Kashmir are 107mm rockets, 60mm mortars, automatic
grenade launchers (Soviet and Chinese models), modification of 57mm helicopter
rocket pods with solar-powered sophisticated timing devise for delayed
firing barrages of rockets, and LAW-type tube-launched ATMs (Soviet and
Chinese models). A threshold was crossed in the spring of 1994, when the
ISI began providing the Kashmiri Islamists with Stinger SAMs. Indian security
forces captured a Stinger on 30 April 1994.
As of the fall of 1993, the Kashmiri terrorists
also began using sophisticated communication systems including small radios
(including systems with frequency hopping, selective broadcast, digital
burst communications, etc.) and collapsible solar-panels for reload systems,
as well as frequency scanning devise for detecting and homing on military-type
broadcasting. All the communication systems are of NATO/US origin, with
some components made in Japan.
All of these systems had been used by the Mujahideen
in Afghanistan, having been provided via the ISI. There has been a large
increase in the quantities of small arms provided to the Kashmiris, including
Type 56 ARs (PRC AK-47s), several types of machine guns, long-range sniper
rifles, pistols and RPGs, all of Soviet and Chinese makes. Some of the
Kashmiri terrorist began carrying highly specialized weapons such as pen-guns
The ISI 'Afghan' and Kashmiri forces also assist
the flow of weapons and expertise to the Sikhs in the Punjab. The main
weapon depots for this new surge in subversion and terrorism are in Baramulla
and Kupwara area of the Kashmir Valley, where ISI-trained Sikhs run the
depot. In addition, there is a key depot for the Bhindranwale Tier Force
of Khalistan in Singhpora. The source of these weapons are two Hizb-ul-Mujahideen
officials known to the Sikhs as Al-Umar and Fiaz Ahead.
In early 1994, the ISI already had a force of
2,000-2,500 highly trained mujahideen assigned for Kashmir, including Kashmiris,
Arab 'Afghans' and Afghans. The key force includes 1,000 Pakistani (inc.
Pakistani-born Kashmiris), 500 Afghans, as well as numerous Saudis, Egyptians,
Sudanese, Algerians, Nigerians, Jordanians, Palestinians and other foreign
volunteers. Their main training bases are in Peerpanjal range area. By
the spring of 1994, when the weather permitted the resumption of large-scale
terrorist operations, the ISI controlled mujahideen, most of them non-Kashmiri
'Afghans', were already firmly in control of the escalation. Some of these
ISI-mujahideen ultimately operated as the Al-Mujahideen Force, ostensibly
a "Kashmiri grass-roots" force with allegiance to Sardar Abdul Qayum Khan.
In April-May alone, some 400 of these 'Afghans'
were infiltrated into Kashmir. Shaykh Jamal-Uddin, an Afghan mujahid recently
captured in Kashmir insists that the ISI-sponsored Islamist forces already
in Indian Kashmir are larger. "There are several thousand Afghans/'Afghans'
in the Valley," he stressed. The ISI-sponsored mujahideen operate mainly
under the banners of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Harakat ul-Ansar. Several highly
trained Afghans and Sudanese operatives were infiltrated into the Valley
to assume command over key networks of these operations, as well as impose
Islamism on the local population.
The summer of 1994 was a fundamental turning point
in the conduct of the Pakistan-sponsored Jihad in Kashmir. The change did
not take place on the battlefield. In order to ensure its tight dominance
over all aspects of the escalating Islamist Jihad in Kashmir; Islamabad
organized the 13 leading Islamist organizations into the United Jihad Council
[Muttahida Jihad ('council - MJC] under the leadership of Commander Manzur
Shah, the leader of Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, and under the tight control of
the ISI. Among the member organizations: Harakat ul-Ansar, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen,
Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, Al-Jihad, Al-Barq, Ikhrwan-ul-Mussalmin, Tariq-ul-Mujahideen,
and all other Islamist militant organizations. The declared objective of
the escalating Jihad is to join Pakistan.
In early June 1994, Commander Manzur Shah declared
that the sole objective of the escalating Jihad in Kashmir is to incorporate
it into Pakistan. "The declarations of all Kashmiri militant organizations
have announced [that] Pakistan is their ideal and goal.... The freedom
fighters will surrender [Kashmir] to the Pakistani military and government."
Commander Manzur Shah stressed that "the Jihad has been getting stronger...
The Mujahideen are getting organized now and are attacking the Indian militarystrategically."
He admitted that Indian Kashmiri Muslim leaders were assassinated or attacked
in order to prevent them from reaching an agreement with the Indian government.
"Wali Mohammed would not have been assassinated and the caravans of Farooq
[Abdullah] and Rajesh Pilot would not have been attacked if the climate
was conducive to political action."
Meanwhile, a campaign of assassinations was launched
in order to eliminate the Kashmiri civic leadership that opposed the escalation
of the Jihad. On 20 June 1994, Islamist terrorists assassinated the Kashmiri
scholar Qazi Nissar Ahmed. He was kidnapped a night before and pressured
to endorse the anti-India Jihad. He refused and was killed. A key member
of the assassination squad was Fayaz Ahmad Mir a.k.a. Abu-Bakr of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen.
Ahmed was the 17th Kashmiri Muslim scholar and civic leader to be assassinated
by Islamists for refusing to join the anti-India struggle.
Thus, by the fall of 1994, the ISI was already
successful in consolidating control over the Islamist armed struggle in
Kashmir. The ISI can now ensure that key operations and major escalation
in Kashmir will serve the strategic and political priorities and interests
This marked escalation in the ISI's support for
the Islamist insurgency and terrorism in Kashmir is a direct by-product
of Pakistan's national security policy and grand strategy. Ms. Bhutto has
repeatedly emphasized the centrality of the annexation of the entire Kashmir
for the long-term development of Pakistan. The new rail-line that will
connect Karachi and Central Asia must pass through Indian-held Kashmir
to be engineeringly and economically effective. Ms. Bhutto's Islamabad
considers the opening of the road to Central Asia by using Pakistan as
the region's gateway to the Indian Ocean as the key to the growth of Pakistan's
commercial activities. Kashmir is also Pakistan's true gateway to the PRC
and into Central Asia -- the path of the new Silk Road. And there lies
the future and strategic salvation of Pakistan.
Indeed, Islamabad expresses its support for "the
liberation of Kashmir" in more than words. ISI support for Islamist terrorism
and subversion in Kashmir continues to grow. In recent months, there has
been a noticeable improvement in the professional skills of Islamist terrorists
operating in Kashmir -- the result of the more thorough training received
in ISI-run camps in Pakistan. The is also an increase in the deployment
of high quality Afghans, Pakistani Kashmiris, and Arab 'Afghans' into Indian
Kashmir in order to bolster the local terrorist organizations. Increasingly
using sophisticated and heavy weapons recently supplied by the ISI in Pakistan,
these expert terrorists carry out quality operations. The quality of the
weapon systems available to the Kashmiri insurgents crossing over from
Pakistan also continue to improve. Islamabad is fully aware of the extent
of its active support for subversive operations inside India, and considers
it a tenet of its regional security policy.
Pakistan knows that the active pursuit of the
current Kashmir strategy may lead to an escalation of the face off with
India. Islamabad is ready to deal with this eventuality while increasing
its all out support for the Kashmir is. Indeed, Pakistani officials are
raising the ante of Islamabad's Indian strategy. In mid February 1995,
a Foreign Ministry spokesman warned that "if India carries out another
aggression and war breaks out between Pakistan and India, it would not
be a war of a thousand years or even a thousand hours but only a few minutes
and India should not be oblivious to the potential devastation." (The "thousand
year war" is a reference to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's statement ofthe extent
of Pakistan's commitment to a struggle with India.) Other Pakistani officials
were quick to clarify the statement. They stressed that the statement "warned
India not by implication but in clear terms that the next war will only
last a few seconds and will bring inconceivable destruction and devastation.
This clearly indicates that the Pakistani Government has bravely displayed
its nuclear capability." The officials added that "Pakistan is really in
a position to strike a heavy blow against India through its nuclear capability."
What is most significant in both the spokesman's
statement and the subsequent clarifications is their context. The strategic
logic of using the nuclear factor to offset any deficiencies in conventional
military power has been the cornerstone of Pakistan's nuclear strategy.
Recently, a more assertive element was first introduced to the nuclear
strategy by Islamist politicians. The overall Pakistani strategic confidence
has been expressed in brinkmanship statements coming out of Islamabad since
the fall of 1993. For example, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the Jamaat i-lslami
Chief Senator, urged the Bhutto government "to declare Jihad on India to
save Kashmir Muslims from total annihilation." There is no other way to
resolve the crisis, he declared. "Let us wage Jihad for Kashmir. A nuclear-armed
Pakistan would deter India from a wider conflict," he stressed. Thus, the
statement of mid February 1995 confirms that the Bhutto Government has
indeed adopted the strategy and policy outlined by the Islamists.
As the spring of 1995 draws near and the weather
improves, the ISI is about to unleash a new cycle of terrorism and subversion.
Considering the extent of the training, preparations, and organizational
effort invested in the Kashmiri Islamist insurgency during the last few
years, it is safe to assume that the fighting in the Kashmir will escalate
markedly in the coming year. Numerous additional highly trained and well
equipped Mujahideen, many of them professional special forces and terrorists,
will join the fighting in Kashmir and will even expand the struggle into
the rest of India. They already have in place extensive stockpiles of weapons
as well as large sums of money to sustain and support their Jihad. Their
primary mission, however, will not be the liberation of Kashmir but rather
furthering the strategic interests of Islamabad and Teheran.