Reverses in the Valley have further driven the ISI to renew its operations in Punjab and the Northeast.
The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi allegedly “losing” 23 passports of Indian nationals wanting to go on a pilgrimage to Kartarpur, out of 3,800 visas issued recently is disturbing but not surprising. Indian agencies probing the matter asked the Ministry of External Affairs to begin the process of cancelling these passports immediately as they are apprehensive about Pakistan misusing these passports against India in the future. It should be recalled that the Pakistan High Commission has earlier been blamed for not just espionage but also giving visas to persons from Jammu and Kashmir to go to Pakistan for terror training.
In a series of controversies related to the Kartarpur Corridor, one came on December 3 from Pakistan’s President Arif-ur-Rehman Alvi, who, a few days after Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s — “Imran’s googly stumped India” — remark related to the Kartarpur Corridor, called this move a “great chaal”. He said, “This is a very good strategic move. If you know how to play chess, nowadays people don’t play it, but if you know the game then there are chaals (strategies). The player analyses the opponent’s next move and then decides his next chaal. Kartarpur was a great chaal.”
On December 9, 2018, the Pakistan High Commission reportedly stated that it has issued visas to 139 Indian pilgrims to visit Katas Raj Dham, the famous Shiva temple in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Under the framework of a 1974 bilateral protocol on visits to religious shrines, every year Sikh and Hindu pilgrims from India visit Pakistan and Pakistani pilgrims visit India. In 2017, simmering tensions between India and Pakistan, following its kangaroo court death sentence on commander Kulbhushan Jadhav (retd) in Pakistan, intermittent firing by Pakistani forces across the international boundary and the Line of Control and the brutal mutilation of two Indian Army personnel by a team of Pak Army and terrorists, Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs received fewer applications for two annual Urs held in India — that of Hafiz Abdullah Shah from December 21 to 28 in Agra and of Hazrat Khawaja Allauddin from November 30 to December 7 in Kalyar Sharif, Rourkee.
Pakistan’s 24-year overdue offer of the Kartarpur Corridor, closely following a series of events, spread not only over the Kashmir Valley, but Punjab and the Northeast, yet again expose this rogue state’s duplicity. While India decided to build a corridor on the Indian side till the Indo-Pak international boundary to join Pakistan’s corridor leading to Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara, in deference to the faith and hopes of millions of its Sikhs and other citizens following Sikhism, it firmly turned down Pakistan’s yet another overture for “peace talks”.
First of all, the corridor offer was timed with the completion of 10 years of the heinous November 26, 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai by the Lashkar e Taiyyaba (LeT), whose leaders were proved to have planned, organised and directed it with active support by Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and who, instead of being proceeded against legally, have not only been protected but even elevated by the Pakistan government to allow them to contest elections. The latest madness is Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi declaring “As long as we (the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf) are in the government, all those including Hafiz Saeed ‘who are raising a voice for Pakistan and righteousness’, we are with them.” Earlier irresponsible statements like the ones mentioned by Pakistan’s President and foreign minister only strengthened India’s resolve to spurn Pakistan’s call for talks.
The compulsions behind Pakistan’s offers are its terror proxies being hit very hard in J&K, denial by the US to continue its monetary dole and its global image being at the lowest ever. By making much of its purported desire for the corridor and peace talks, even while actively continuing its anti-India terrorist operations, the Pakistani leadership thinks it will fool the world again and get brownie points.
The elimination of over 230 terrorists in the Kashmir Valley till November 2018, including nine out of twelve “commanders” of terrorist groups, leaving only three commanders and 250 terrorists still at large has caused enough frustration to the organisers/directors of terrorist operations in Pakistan and their minions in the Kashmir Valley, the separatists/traitors, S.A.S. Geelani & Co.
November 2018 has been the bloodiest month with over 40 terrorists killed. Some of the top terrorist “commanders” eliminated by the Army in Budgam, were young, highly educated but deadly after their indoctrination/radicalisation at the hands of ISI and Kashmiri separatists. One of them, of the LeT, was Naveed Jatt, who had murdered senior and highly regarded journalist Shujhat Bukhari and many other innocent civilians who were soft targets. Six more were Dr Manan Wani, Altaf Kachroo, Umar Ganai, Waseem Wagay, Adil Lone and Basit Mir.
Three commanders still surviving are the Hizbul Mujahideen’s (HM) operational commander Riyaz Naikoo, Al-Badr commander Zeenat-ul Islam who was earlier with HM, Lateef Tiger who was an associate of Burhan Wani and Zakir Musa, the chief of Ansar-ul-Gazwat-ul-Hind. Reportedly, HM has appointed new district commanders for Shopian, Anantnag and Pulwama. Senior police officers cited in media stated, “In the past two months, there has been no recruitment, but before that, youth were joining militancy… militants in large groups may have managed to sneak in, as we have tough terrain, deep ravines and woods along the Line of Control in Kashmir… No doubt that the militancy in Kashmir has received a major dent this year. This is for the first time since 2007, that such a huge number of militants were killed in a year… Fact remains that unless infiltration stops from across the LoC, militancy can’t be wiped out from Kashmir’s soil… When forces try to clean Kashmir of militancy, militants, Pakistan pushes in large groups to keep the pot boiling. “According to a source in the media, since March 2017, 500 terrorists, including 25 top commanders were killed in various encounters.
Hence comes the Pak Army’s attempt to on the one hand, try for peace talks, and on the other, vent their frustration, target Kashmiris serving in the Indian Army and the J&K Police. The latest of many Kashmiri victims of the terrorists’ and ISI’s frustration, was lance naik Nazir Ahmed Wani, twice awarded the Sena Medal for outstanding bravery. Born in Gund Ashmuji, Kulgam, lance naik Wani, was an erstwhile terrorist, who, realising the futility of terrorism, shunned it and began assisting the Army in anti-terrorist operations in the Valley. His indomitable courage and invaluable knowledge of the countryside and terrorist outfits, contributed to many successes. In January 2004, based on the recommendations of the Army formation commander, he was enrolled into the Jammu and Kashmir light infantry’s 162 Territorial Army battalion and was serving in the Rashtriya Rifles. Survived by his wife and two sons, his funeral was attended by over 500 local people.
Reverses in the Valley have further driven the ISI to renew its operations in Punjab and the Northeast. While much has been reported on the recent and earlier Pakistani terrorist attacks in Punjab, in the Northeast, the ISI’s old tool, the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has got revitalised by it. ULFA (I) under Paresh Barua has been active recently with its signature kidnappings and killings. In October 2018, at least three senior tea gardens staffers were abducted by ULFA from Assam’s Charaideo and Tinsukia districts in Assam and Namsai district of Arunachal Pradesh. In early November 2018, five persons were shot dead by suspected ULFA(I) militants in Tinsukia district. Barua, in a recent interview to a weekly stated that he was getting “international” assistance and then mentioned that Pakistan has good “international connections”. ISI’s connections with ULFA go back to the early 1990s, when ULFA arranged for ISI to enter India’s Northeast and establish contacts with Naga and Meitei insurgent-turned terrorist groups. Earlier, on September 13, Mohammad Kamruj Zaman, was arrested from Hojai, Assam, by the Uttar Pradesh police. From September 14 onwards, Saidul Alom and seven more — all but one from Hojai — were arrested by the Assam police for being part of a group that is trying to set up a base of the Hizbul Mujahideen in Assam.
The writer, a retired Army officer, is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi