Imran and his backers, the deep state, had been taken by surprise by the Indian decision to abrogate Article 370. They began jumping immediately, without devoting time to think through their strategy and its implications. They moved from one action to the other, only to be rebuked or ignored. Each step they took led to them either being ignored or exposing their own wrong doings.
Imran’s announcement to become the spokesperson for Kashmir meant that he would be only speaking on Kashmir, wherever he went.He at times acted as the Chief Minister of Kashmir, rather than a PM of a nation. However, in most places he spoke, he opened Pak’s own internal shortcomings.
In Geneva and New York, Pakistan devoted all its energy to prove that there were human rights abuses in Kashmir, a large segment of its populace was imprisoned and even essentials including medical facilities, mobile connectivity and internet facilities were being denied. It produced fake videos from POK and other regions to justify its claims. It sought to project Kashmir as the place where the next bloodbath would occur. Imran went on to state that once restrictions are lifted, there would be genocide in Kashmir.
The detention of political leaders was being projected as locking up all resistance. Imran even threatened the possibility of a nuclear war on Kashmir. The picture painted by Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Geneva and Imran Khan in New York was aimed at projecting India as a draconian state. Protests were also organized by US based Pak nationals and Khalistan supporters against India in both Houston and New York. They attempted similar protests during Indian Independence Day celebrations in London. The only fallout of the entire Pak action was the distancing between the two nations and ensuring that there would be no common meeting ground for talks.
Simultaneously, Pak’s speeches and intended projection only resulted in the highlighting their own atrocities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Waziristan, Sindh and Baluchistan. Protestors from these regions set up stalls outside the UN Headquarters in both, Geneva and New York, displaying photographs of Pak’s brutalities, details of missing persons, restrictions on basic rights as also their desperation for world support.
Similar displays were also being projected by people from other regions of Pak including Sindh and POK. Even in London there have been protests on Pak’s treatment of its own population. Photographs even displayed the arrests and brutal treatment to elected representatives of the region for objecting to Pak army’s highhandedness.
Pak faces undecided borders with both, its eastern and western neighbours. Afghanistan refuses to accept the Durand Line as the international border between the two countries. There are regular clashes between both countries and Afghanistan protested Pakistan’s actions of constructing the border fence. The Durand Line was established in 1893 by the British to demarcate the border between Afghanistan and the then British India. Afghanistan claims the area upto the Indus river, which is almost 60% of Pakistan. The Durand line split the Pashtun and Baluchi population with almost 50% on either side. Thus, the Afghan government supports the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), launched by the Pashtun’s in Pakistan.
Baluchi’s, whose population is spilled over in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan claim that Pakistan attacked and forcibly occupied an independent nation in Mar 1948 and forced its ruler, the King of Kalat, to sign a treaty of integration. Over the years, there have been four uprisings by the Baluchi’s while the fifth is ongoing. Presently, the BRA, a combination of Baluch nationalist movements has become a powerful force challenging Pak army might. They have regularly clashed with the Pak army and caused untold casualties.The TTP (Pakistan Taliban), created from the ashes of the Pak army’s botched operation against the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in 2007, has been challenging the Pak army along the Afghan border. On occasions, large numbers of Pak security forcesmanning border posts have surrendered to the TTP.
In retaliation, against both, Baluchi’s and Pashtun’s the Pak army has been employing strong arm tactics with abductions, illegal detentions, enforced disappearances and torture. They have also employed artillery and aerial attacks involving helicopter gunships and air power. There is neither freedom of movement nor communication.
Mobile and internet services are blocked for months with no official communication. Media blackout on news from the region is always imposed. Foreigners are banned from entry. Thus, when the supporters of the oppressed regions displayed their difficulties in Geneva, New York and other parts of the world, it opened eyes to Pak army brutalities.
The latest gimmick of Pak was attempting a march from Muzaffarabad to Kashmir by the supporters of the JKLF to display solidarity with Kashmiri’s. Though cancelled it opened doors for a similar repeat into Pakistan from Afghanistan and Iran. The Pashtuns split between Pakistan and Afghanistan would now have adopted the idea to challenge Pak in a similar manner and walk across the Durand Line. The Baluchi’s are already highlighting the same on social media and would soon be firming up their own plans of marching into Pak from both countries. Such an action, if encouraged and supported by international media would highlight Pak atrocities in the region and open doors for increased international scrutiny.
Internally too, Imran’s actions of marching to block Islamabad when he was in the opposition in Aug 2014 opened doors for him becoming the ‘selected PM’. It is now being copied by the Maulana Fazlur Rehman led Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam. As done by Imran, Rehman plans to employ containers to jam the roads. If supported by the opposition, it would lead to what Imran had hoped to achieve, when he led his march, the ouster of the existing government. It may pave the way for Maulana Rehman to become the next ‘selected’ Prime Minister.
While India has begun easing restrictions in Kashmir, Pak would never do so in regions along its western borders as it will only enhance its own vulnerabilities.
Pak’s action of adopting an unplanned and unthought through strategy opened its own vulnerabilities to the world. India needs to begin encouraging these communities to follow the Pak approach, including marching across the Durand Line in full media glare.
(The author is Major General (Retd)