Intriguing developments in Kashmir

Maulana Showkat Ahmed Shah, president Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadees, was killed in April this year in Srinagar by an improvised explosive device (IED). This was the third attempt on his life, the previous two being in 2006 and 2008. Maulana Showkat was known as a moderate Kashmiri cleric despite his closeness to Yasin Malik’s faction of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). In an interesting development, Pakistan-based banned organisation, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), conducted an internal investigation into and admitted that those responsible were from within its ranks. As per the LeT, “Earlier we thought the Indian army or its agencies killed Maulvi [Showkat Ahmed Shah] to defame the movement and create misgivings. We had not even imagined that the murderer would turn out to be our own men.” What is even more intriguing is that the LeT hinted at Pakistan’s hand in the assassination by stating that “it is possible that this order, this message [to kill Maulana Showkat] may have come from Pakistan”. LeT has had overt and covert support from the Pakistan military and the ISI to carry out jihadist activities in Indian Kashmir and terrorist activities in other parts of India. The LeT is also said to be behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks. So, what could possibly be the reason for the LeT to turn against its own men and its handlers in Pakistan?

From 2004 onwards, when General Musharraf started a peace process with India, militant groups that were used against India, like the LeT, were put in deep freeze. When the indigenous movement started in Kashmir back in 1989, it soon fell into the hands of Pakistan-backed jihadis. Their support deteriorated because of hardline views that they tried to impose on the Kashmiris. The armed struggle dwindled partly because of its increasing ineffectiveness and partly because of hardline Islamic views. Last year’s protests in Kashmir were different from the armed struggle. It seems as if killing of moderate Kashmiri leaders is an act of desperation on the part of the extremists to reclaim their lost ground by frightening and intimidating moderate voices. LeT’s claim that men from within its ranks acted alone is hard to believe since members of this banned organisation follow strict discipline. Either it is a cover-up or the reaction against Maulana Showkat’s assassination was so strong that they had to finally admit to it, while at the same time distancing themselves from responsibility. This also points to the difficulties that the Kashmir movement is going through right now. The Indian government should have taken recent developments as an opportunity to seek a political solution to the Kashmir issue but it seems to be sitting complacently. If the Indian government talks to all factions of the Kashmiri leadership and finds middle ground, even Pakistan would not have any reason to argue against it. The Kashmiri people have suffered enough through the decades; they do not deserve any more pain.

(my editorial in Daily Times)


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