When will Kashmir get rid of terrorism?

India-Pakistan: Collateral Benefits

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President Musharraf takes advantage of the anti-terror hour ...

... and gets rid of conservative Islamic generals who helped him to power. Now he is looking for a dialogue with Delhi

By Ursula-Charlotte Dunckern

During the night the first snow fell in large flakes on the high mountain ranges and a cold wave swept through the plain. Paradise is said to have once been in this valley with its gently rising green slopes. Today it is the most dangerous place in the world: Kashmir.

The American government proclaims that Kashmir is more dangerous than Afghanistan. That is the reason for Foreign Minister Colin Powell's lightning visit to Islamabad and Delhi: Kashmir is threatening - once again - to become the focus of an escalation between Pakistan and India, and Powell is coming to pacify the quarreling neighbors before it is too late. After all, they are - unique in their short history - as allies of the US-led anti-terrorist front, both on the same side. But that is only correct in theory.

Print from India

In reality, the Indian government remains firmly convinced that it is America's most suitable partner in war and is doing everything it can to prove that Pakistan is the real enemy of the war. She presents documents that show that Pakistan's secret service is training, equipping and deploying thousands of Islamic fundamentalist mercenaries from all over the world in its numerous hidden military camps, including in Kashmir.

India's offers of cooperation and evidence were politely ignored from the start and kept at a distance. They did not fit into the American strategy concept - a concept with a remarkable move: The US government put those in Pakistan under so much pressure that, despite all its closeness to the god warriors it created and protected, it decided to end the anti-Taleban. Join Front. Forcibly used as an American front post against Kabul, Pakistan was effectively neutralized - and the USA gained an ideal war partner.

India, however, continued to insist on its - quite correct - position and had to be warned several times to calm down and not endanger the Afghanistan operation, which crucially depends on Pakistan's cooperation. When a terrorist attack by Islamic extremists on the parliament in Srinagar was carried out on October 1st, killing 38 people, the Indian government was finally pushed into an untenable position from which it sought to break free by means of aggressive diplomacy. "Our patience is running out," wrote Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee to President Bush, and Lalith Mansingh, Indian Ambassador to Washington, threatened: "An attack by India on Pakistan can no longer be ruled out."

Fight in Kashmir

To appease India, the American government finally recognized that the attack in Srinagar was an act of terrorism and blacklisted Jaish-e-Muhammad, the Islamic extremist group responsible. An investigation revealed a direct connection between the head of Jaish-e-Muhammad - the terrorist leader Masood Azhar, who was freed from an Indian prison by a plane hijacked in 1999 - to the head of the Pakistani secret service. It was then that the American government began to consider Kashmir to be more dangerous than Afghanistan, and Secretary of State Powell announced his trip to the subcontinent.

When it lands on Tuesday morning, Indian border troops have already launched an attack on Pakistan in the snow-covered mountain ranges of Kashmir. While the holy wrath of the orthodox is plundering and throwing stones in the streets of Islamabad amid a thousand-voiced roar, the headquarters of the Pakistani secret service is burning down quietly and undisturbed some distance away. Nothing is left but charred foundation walls, especially not a single sheet of paper. Transformed into brittle white flakes of ash, secrets have forever eluded human grasp.

General Parvez Musharraf had carried out his second coup on the previous Sunday. With the stroke of a pen he ordered the dismissal of four high-ranking generals. Among them also General Mehmood Ahmed, Director General of the Secret Service and up to that moment the second most powerful man in the state, a colorful personality who held many strings in her hand. He was the governor of the mujahideen and the religious organizations in the secret service, maintained excellent contacts with many terrorist leaders, including close confidants of Osama bin Laden. He had his hand in a money transfer that went to WTC assassin Mohammed Atta a few days before September 11th and covered the Srinagar attack. As leader of the Pakistani delegation in Kandahar, instead of persuading the Taleban to surrender bin Laden, he delivered military strategies in the event of an attack, and sent arms to Kabul. It will never be known whether Ahmed undertook all of this single-handedly or was ultimately made the scapegoat for joint actions that at the time were aimed at keeping a path back to the fundamentalists open. But it's not very important either. What is important is that an era ended here in which a nexus of intelligence generals and Islamic terrorists ruled Pakistan.

Turn in Pakistan

The four distant generals have some things in common: they are central figures in conservative Islamic circles and have significant reservations about Musharraf's turnaround, and they were once his close confidants and members of the conspiratorial group of coup plotters who brought Musharraf to power in 1999. There may be many reasons to want to get rid of these men. It is crucial that that Sunday night the reactionary core of the army leadership was removed and replaced with a team of tried and tested liberal and secular Musharraf loyalists. This prank paved the way for the liberalization of the entire military, which is an influential factor in society in Pakistan.

General Musharraf has started to build a secular, democratic and modern Pakistan that seeks to combine its Islamic origins with freedom and progress like Kemal Pasha's Turkey in the early 20th century and Nasser's Egypt after the 1952 revolution. Ataturk is Musharraf's personal role model, he has often emphasized. But after a few attempts to steer his country towards progress, he soon had to bow to the influential mullahs, who are traditionally the mainstay of Pakistani military dictatorships. Now he has started to use the freedom that the extraordinary situation offers him with courage and determination. Beyond the Rubicon he had no more fundamentalist sympathies to lose or to gain.

After a prank against the generals, Musharraf called Prime Minister Vajpayee that night and invited him to continue the unsuccessful dialogue in Agra a few months ago. While shooting in the snowy mountain ranges of Kashmir seems to begin a hopeful new chapter in Indo-Pakistani history.

From: Friday, No. 43, October 19, 2001

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