Asif Haroon Raja
It is generally believed in Pakistan that like all other terrorist attacks in India or in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), Pulwama suicide attack on a military convoy on February 14, in which 44 CRPF soldiers were killed was also a false flag operation staged by RAW to achieve sinister objectives against Pakistan. This possibility cannot be ruled out when seen in context with the timings which coincided with the high profile visit of Crown Prince M. Bin Salman to Pakistan on 17-18 February and next to India.
The incident became all the more suspicious when a similar attack occurred in Sistan on 13 February allegedly by Jaish-e Adl killing 27 soldiers of IRGC. Both spoke the same language of revenge. There is a school of thought which believes that there could be a third force (CIA or Mossad) who could have sponsored the two attacks to achieve multiple objectives.
Other events connected with Pulwama attack were arrival of Taliban delegation in Islamabad on 18th February for Afghan peace talks and their expected meeting with Crown Prince, hearing of Kalbushan case by ICJ on 18th, meeting of FATF on 18th and meeting with IMF.
True to its past traditions, within minutes of the incident, a narrative was issued by India which read that the suicide bomber Adil Ahmad Dar belonged to Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and its head is Masood Azhar based in Pakistan. It was ascertained that the car was filled with 350 kg RDX explosive which had come from Pakistan. Based on these faulty assumptions, Pakistan was held responsible for the attack without showing any evidence. The accusers didn’t spell out as to what benefits Pakistan gained from executing a terrorist attack at this critical stage when so many important events favoring Pakistan were unfolding in February-March 2019.
Accusers didn’t take into consideration that the RDX explosive used in the car was Indian origin, car was from IOK and the suicide attacker Adil Dar was a son of the Kashmiri soil and not an infiltrator from across the Line of Control (LoC). They forgot that with the fencing and picketing of the entire length of LoC in 2004-06, and deployment of layered defence, not a sparrow can fly across from this side unnoticed.
While Pakistan is blamed for all the terrorist attacks in IOK, very few in India bother to contemplate the reasons which impelled Adil to hit his explosive laden car into the bus and kill himself as well as the Indian soldiers. They were targeted because the State they served has wreaked bloodshed in IOK. Modi’s so-called ‘muscular’ policy of use of brutal force, ethnic cleansing and changing the demography of the Kashmir Valley has alienated even those segments of the Kashmiri population that appeared willing to talk to New Delhi.
Since 1990, 750,000 Indian security forces equipped with license to kill and rape have unleashed a reign of terror against the Muslim Kashmiris and have pitilessly killed over 100,000 people. They have been carrying out wide scale destruction of properties, abductions, detentions, torture and humiliation. Rape is used as a tool to subdue the Kashmiris. Despite breaking all records of state terrorism and human rights, India has failed to quash the freedom movement. It has also utterly failed to balm the wounds of the people of Kashmir and win them over by addressing their genuine problems, and above all granting them the right of self-determination.
Instead of carrying out introspection and taking concrete steps to correct its abnormalities, India has been scapegoating Pakistan in order to hide its failures and to cover up its sins against humanity. Fencing of the LoC and banning of Kashmir focused Jihadi groups by Pakistan had helped India to break the momentum of armed resistance put up by the Kashmiris. Instead of thanking Pakistan, India started gloating that it had crushed the Pakistan supported insurgency.
When armed resistance movement turned into unarmed movement in 2008 led by the youth, and in 2010 the children joined the liberation struggle with stones in their small hands, India instead of noticing the change that the stone-pelters enjoyed full support of the local population, felt contented in blaming Pakistan. When Burhan Wani became a symbol of resistance to Indian tyranny, and his martyrdom in July 2016 activated a spontaneous movement against Indian occupation by the people, India failed to see the building inferno and blamed Pakistan. When Indian forces tied a Kashmiri to the bonnet of a jeep and drove around the city of Srinagar, when they tied the body of a Kashmiri martyr to their vehicle and dragged it in the streets, when they forced young schoolboys like Adil Dar to draw lines in the dirt with their noses to humiliate them, India failed to see the indignation on the faces of the oppressed and drew satisfaction in blaming Pakistan.
If there is outrage in India over the deaths of 44 Indian soldiers, it is nothing when compared to the lava of hatred simmering in the hearts of the Kashmiri population. They have been burying their murdered sons and daughters for three decades. There are countless unmarked mass graves. There are thousands of half widows not knowing whether their husbands are alive or dead. Parents see their children getting blinded by pellet guns and the children see their parents maimed by custodial torture. They see their sisters and daughters getting raped and at times gang raped. Their sustained oppression has welled their hearts with hatred for India and alienated them to the point of no return. Hearts of the alienated Kashmiris are gushing with love for Pakistan. These two trends are being openly exhibited. Possibility of many Pulwama like suicide attacks cannot be ruled out. Likewise, India will continue to oppress the Kashmiris and indulge in false flag operations to blame Pakistan.
Immediately after the suicide attack in Pulwama, in accordance with the preplanned program, Indian media started making hue and cry and Hindu goons mostly belonging to notorious RSS spun into action and went berserk. They started killing Muslims in Jammu and other parts of India mercilessly, torching cars, shops and houses of Kashmiris and kidnapping Kashmiri girls. War hysteria has been stirred up and all the hawks in India want to avenge the attack by teaching Pakistan a lesson.
Modi tasked the military commanders how best the revenge could be taken. Multiple options are under discussion ranging from missile, drone, jets, artillery and heli-borne commando attacks on a selected target (s). Contemplated targets as gathered from Indian media are a madrasa in Bahawalpur, termed as JeM HQ under Masood Azhar, Jamaat-ud-Dawa HQ in Muredke (university and charity centre) run by Hafiz Saeed, AJK which acts as the operational base for freedom movement in IOK. IOK based JeM and LeT and JA have no existence in Pakistan.
Since the day of occurrence, India is ratcheting up tensions constantly and several political and economic steps have already been taken to satiate the thirst of revenge. These include cancellation of MFN status given to Pakistan, increasing trade tariffs to 200%, cancelling participation of Pakistani actors in Indian films, putting off Pak TV channels from Dish TV, removing photos of Pak cricketers, and trying to exclude Pak cricket team from next world cup. Latest is the threat to stop flow of water from eastern rivers to Pakistan. Indian media is busy demonizing Pakistan as the villain of peace, and inciting the Indian public as well as gaining the sympathies of the world.
Underlying purpose behind this drama was to checkmate the increasing pressure of the world over excessive human rights abuses in IOK, divert the attention of the world from the record breaking atrocities perpetrated by Indian security forces in IOK and to justify their excessive use of force and cruelties by projecting the Kashmiri freedom movement as terrorism duly abetted by Pakistan.
Other than the worry of constantly deteriorating situation in IOK, the other upsetting development was the ongoing Afghan peace talks between the US and Taliban in which Pakistan is playing a key role, and the US has decided to pullout troops from Afghanistan after arriving at a political settlement. India felt the need to throw a spanner in the peace talks since peaceful Afghanistan is not in its favor.
CPEC has also become an eyesore for India, Iran, Israel and USA. The Indo-US-Afghan nexus based in Kabul have been trying hard to disrupt CPEC with the help of paid proxies and are also carrying out malicious propaganda war to spoil Pak-China relations and to undermine CPEC.
As is well known, due to mishandling of Yemen crisis in 2015 by Pakistan, miffed KSA and UAE had veered toward India. UAE minister had retorted that Pakistan will pay a ‘heavy price’. India took full advantage of the strained relations and hastened to get closer to the two Arab States by signing several agreements in the fields of defence, security, counter terrorism, economy and culture. UAE troops took part in the Indian military parade. With its strong presence in Afghanistan and Iran, cultivation of special ties with Arab Gulf States helped India in strategically encircling and isolating Pakistan.
Gen Qama Javed Bajwa had to work hard to allay their apprehensions and restore brotherly relations with the two Arab Muslim States. Gen Raheel Sharif’s appointment as Commander of Muslim Alliance and change of government in Islamabad helped in easing tensions. Riyadh was re-assured that Pakistan is committed to safeguard the integrity and sovereignty of KSA whenever threatened.
News of investments in Pakistan by KSA, UAE, Qatar (about $ 40 billion) gave nightmares to India. It would not only give a big boost to CPEC, but also would uplift the economy of Pakistan and make it self-reliant. Equally, it would brighten the chances of China to become the leading economic power of the world. Prince Salman’s intention to establish an oil refinery at Gwadar was not to the liking of India, Iran and the puppet government in Kabul since the trio is tied to Chahbahar Port accord. Something had to be done urgently to dampen the high profile visit of Prince Salman to Islamabad and to color his perceptions about Pakistan. Sistan and Pulwama attacks provided an excuse to disrepute Pakistan and to disrupt work on CPEC by creating a warlike situation.
Much to India’s disappointment, the visit of Prince Salman was a roaring success since for the first time emphasis has shifted toward building state-to-state strategic relationship rather than personal relations. Never before the Saudis had invested so heavily in Pakistan at the state level.
Restoration of cordial relations with KSA and UAE and upgrading it to strategic relationship has unnerved India. The enemies of Pakistan are already perturbed that their concerted efforts have failed to denuclearize and isolate Pakistan and to melt its economy. They are unhappy that Pakistan has controlled terrorism, Afghanistan is slipping out of the hands of USA, and IOK is slipping out of the hands of India, and Pakistan’s fortunes have surprisingly begun to surge up under the new leadership.
Gen Bajwa’s successful diplomacy, Crown Prince Salman’s dynamism and IK’s charisma had a lot to do in bringing this noticeable change of relations based on mutual understanding and respect. This was discernible when Prince Salman promptly ceded to IK’s requests concerning immigration of Hajis and release of over 2000 Pakistani prisoners interned in KSA, stating that he cannot say ‘no to Pakistan’. He signed $20 billion worth agreements and MoUs and added that it was the first instalment. And this amount was not a charity but investment.
When Prince Salman landed in New Delhi, Modi and his team bent over backwards to woo the visitor with a view to extract few words of sympathy over the Pulwama tragedy followed by censure of Pakistan so as to strengthen their narrative of victimhood and be in a stronger position diplomatically to undertake limited military action against Pakistan. Sustained efforts were made to add a line in the joint communique favoring India and disfavoring Pakistan, but the visitor refused to get swayed by Chankyan tactics and didn’t budge. He truly acted as the ambassador of Pakistan as he had stated in Islamabad on the 18th.
It was a huge disappointment for India since it had never experienced a diplomatic failure in the past. All the visitors from USA and Europe to Pakistan and India have been favoring India’s narrative. Indian media rightly lamented that Prince Salman’s refusal to play the game of India had broken the hearts of 1.3 billion Indians and left them disconsolate. Further diplomatic blows were delivered by the UNSC and Turkey by rejecting Indian accusation against Pakistan in Pulwama attack. Trump voiced alarm over evolving dangerous situation but didn’t point a finger at Pakistan and advised both sides to show restraint. Support of Indian Sikhs to the Indian Muslims and Kashmiris in duress added to Modi’s woes.
As if these diplomatic setbacks were not enough, PM Imran Khan’s curt, credible and unambiguous address to the nation in which he stated that “Pakistan will not think to react but will react” deflated the jingoism of Indian hawks. Imran Khan followed it up by authorizing the military to react with full force whenever attacked. Gen Bajwa further warmed the hearts of the people by saying that Pak Army’s response will be beyond Indian expectations and will stun India. The message was loud and clear; “don’t mess up with nuclear Pakistan”!
The situation is so far tense and requires vigilance. While Pakistan seeks peace, India cannot afford to go to war with Pakistan due to nuclear factor. But Modi who has become unpopular wants to keep Pakistan on the tenterhooks in order to win elections. The US also want to keep Pakistan under pressure since it is convinced that it can force the Taliban to arrive at a political settlement of its choice and to facilitate safe and honorable exit of US forces from Afghanistan.
The writer is retired Brig, a war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member CWC PESS. [email protected]
Brig. General Asif Haroon Raja is on the board of advisors for Opinion Maker. He holds an MSc war studies degree. A second-generation officer, he fought the epic battle of Hilli in northwest East Bengal during 1971 war,
He served as Directing Staff Command & Staff College, Defence Attaché Egypt, and Sudan and Dean of Corps of Military Attaches in Cairo. He commanded the heaviest brigade in Kashmir. He is tri-lingual and speaks English, Pashto, and Punjabi fluently.
Currently, he is a defense analyst and columnist and writes articles on security, defense, and political matters for numerous international/national publications. He is chairman at the Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, & Member CWC PESS & Veterans Think Tank
He is also the author of many books; ‘Battle of Hilli’, ‘1948, 1965 & 1971 Kashmir Battles and Freedom Struggle’, ‘Muhammad bin Qasim to Gen Musharraf’, and Roots of 1971 Tragedy’. His latest book is ‘Tangled knot of Kashmir : Indo-Pakistan antagonism: vol. 1 and vol. 2″