BY RSN SINGH
Two developments in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), i.e. forthcoming elections in region (PoK less Gilgit-Baltistan) and joint patrolling by security forces of China and Pakistan on PoK-Xinjiang region, have vital lessons for India, particularly for Kashmiris, seduced by the military-intelligence establishment of Pakistan.
These two developments stand juxtaposed at a time when the pro-Pak elements in the Valley, are busy inflaming and destroying their own land while lamenting and deifying Burhan Wani, a dead jihadi as martyr. Nothing much can be done about people who possessed by bigoted and imported religious frenzy are adamant on self-destruction.
The pro-Pak elements have been made to believe that Burhan was a freedom fighter, a soldier of Islam, engaged in the sacred duty of waging war against India. They feel India has no right over Kashmir and Kashmiriyat. They clamour for Pakistan in the misplaced notion that Muslims in that country are secure and prosperous. It is their belief that Kashmiriyat at best is an adjunct of Islam. Such a belief automatically excludes the Kashmiri Hindus and hence their forefathers. To tell them that their ancestors were Hindus, invites stoic silence. There is advantage that accrues from that silence. But for that silence, Indianness or Hindustaniyat would reassert and pose a question mark on the very idea called Pakistan. Consequently the militant or jihadi industry would be endangered.
While the pro-Pakistan elements in the Valley pretend to forget their ancestors, there is the opposite tendency in the PoK, the part from which Gilgit-Baltistan has been hived off.
It is just the 10 percent portion of total PoK created by Islamist spin-doctors of Pakistan sliced through with the scalpel of Sunnism, but for strategic reasons.
Elections are to be held in this 10 percent region, that Pakistan calls ‘Azad Kashmir’, as if the 90 percent that constitute Gilgit-Baltistan are slaves. The nationalist parties PML(N), PPP and Imran Khan’s Tehrek-e-Insaf are the main contenders. There are 26 parties, 423 candidates and 26 lakh eligible voters – but no contending ideology. Ironically, the elections are also not being fought on Kashmiriyat, because there are no Kashmiris left in the region.
All political analysts have concluded that voting will be influenced by ‘clan’ rather than any other factor, least of all religion, notwithstanding that the Jamat-e-Islami is also in fray. The Rajputs and Jats dominate the political landscape of Kotli, Mirpur and Bhimber. The other districts are dominated by Gujjars and other tribes. Interestingly, the Rajputs are aligned with Nawaz Sharif PML (N) and the Jats with PPP. Barrister Sultan Mahmud is a key Jat leader. The pertinent deduction is that in absence of Kashmiris, there is no issue about ‘Kashmir Valley’ or ‘Kashmiriyat’. Hafeez Saeed or Maulana Masood Azhar may attract large crowds but have little influence over politics of ‘Azad Kashmir’.
The other inference is that the Valley people have no familial links with people in PoK. Those with links are Gujjars and Pahari Rajputs who are patriotic Indians.
Islam has always to content with ethnicity. In an exhortation, which is reflective of the wide and diverse Muslim cultural milieu on the Indian Subcontinent, Jinnah during his address at the annual session of Punjab province of Muslim League at Sialkot in April 1944 said: “I appeal to Ahrars, Jamiat, Ulemas, Shias, Sunnis, Jats, Rajputs, Afghans – to unite themselves for the cause of Muslim League and the achievement of Pakistan.” The ethnic Jats and Rajputs that Jinnah referred to were those who at some point in history, converted to Islam but retained a fierce pride in their ethnicity. The lesson in the current reference is that in the long run ethnicity triumphs over Islam.
The pull of ethnicity or ‘clan’ is therefore not only restricted to PoK but entire Pakistan. The incontrovertible truth is that Pakistan which in the name of Islam was created as a homeland for Muslim has never transcended ethnicity. Even, as the election results conveyed after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in December 2007, nationalism or Islam could not demolish the ethnic barriers. The PPP’s victory was mainly on account of Sindh and some parts of Seraiki region in Punjab, contiguous to Sindh. In India on the other hand, nationalism swept all considerations in elections held after Mrs Gandhi’s assassination in 1984.
If Islam was the motif force behind Pakistan, then Benazir a Shia and of Sindhi Rajput origin and before that Liaquat Ali Khan a Sindhi and a Jat Muslim, also the pioneer of Pakistan, would not have been victims of Islamists. One factor amongst many for their elimination in 1951 and 2007 at the same location in the Company Bagh in Peshawar was that they were Shias. In Gilgit-Baltistan, the majority status of Shias is being eroded at a furious pace. Because it is a Shia majority region more than 5000 sq km of their area was gifted to China in 1963. Then in the Kargil War the dead bodies of the soldiers of Northern Light Infantry (NLI) was not claimed because they were Shias. Now Pakistan has handed over entire Gilgit-Baltistan to China for China -Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). In total disregard to religious, cultural and ecological sensitivities of the people and in deference to economic greed and strategic compulsions, the region is gradually turning into a Chinese colony.
And now at the prodding China, Pakistan and Chinese security forces are carrying out joint patrolling the PoK-Xinjiang border region to deter Uighur jihadists who have been known to use the area for tra\ining and other activities. More than 100 Uighur Muslims have reportedly joined the Islamic State in Syria. Earlier the Chinese authorities had banned burqas and fasting by government officials during Ramazan. Hafiz Saeed and likes kicked lot of dust but to no avail. The military-intelligence establishment ensures that Pakistani Islam remains India-centric. To placate the fundamentalists, an official delegation from Pakistan was sent to China, and as expected and dictated they had no adverse observations.
President Xi Jinping has urged Uighur Muslims to practice their religion “as part of Chinese society and direction”. Clearly he was emphasizing on Chinese brand of Islam.
Hafiz Saeed and ilk have not objected to this joint patrolling against Muslim brethren from China. Earlier too, Pakistan at the insistence of China had carried out extensive operations to flush out Uighur jihadists, under the banner of East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), who had established bases in Pakistan. Where are the jihaids and suicide bombers against China? What has happened to the cause of Islam and Ummah?
Why do not the pro-Pak elements including Hurriyat speak-up against the Chinese? So, if a Pakistan brand of Islam can be acceptable to them in context of J&K, why should India not insist on Indian brand of Islam and Kashmiriyat for nation building?
Many Islamic countries have expended their vitality in the grind between Islam and ethnicity.
If the pro-Pak elements in Valley and our politicians realize the endurance and supremacy of ethnicity over religion, there will be no problem in the Valley.
(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap. The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Canary Trap or any employee thereof)