Pakistani assistance for the anti-Government of India activities of alienated sections of the Indian society was not due to only its revanchist spirit following its loss of the then East Pakistan in December 1971, as is often presumed by many analysts.
It was initially the outcome of an assessment made by the Pakistani intelligence community in the early 1950s that keeping India destabilised and its military preoccupied with internal security duties would be one way of neutralising, at little cost, the superiority of the Indian armed forces over their Pakistani counterpart.
This assessment and the political implications of Pakistani support to Indian insurgent and terrorist groups had often been questioned by the Pakistani political leaders whenever they came to power – by the late Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto in 1972, by Benazir Bhutto in 1988 when she feared that Pakistan’s playing the “Sikh card” against India might force the latter to retaliate with the “Sindh card”, and again in 1993, when the US started pressurising Islamabad to discontinue this policy, and by Nawaz Sharif during his two tenures as Prime Minister.
The post-1971 revanchist spirit provided further justification to this policy, which was projected thereafter as also a means of repairing Pakistans injured pride due to the humiliation of December 1971…
On each occasion, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the military leadership managed to convince the political leadership that keeping India destabilised and the Indian military preoccupied with internal security duties would be equivalent to the “Pakistan Army having two extra divisions at no cost” as Lt Gen (retd) Hamid Gul, the Director-General of the ISI in the 1980s, once put it to Mrs Bhutto and, that giving up this policy would entail a further increase in their defence budget.
The post-1971 revanchist spirit provided further justification to this policy, which was projected thereafter as also a means of repairing Pakistan’s injured pride due to the humiliation of December 1971, preempting any Indian move to further break up Pakistan and frustrating what Islamabad regards as India’s hegemonistic ambitions.
Even after Pakistan achieved, in its mind, a psychological parity with India following its acquisition of the military nuclear and missile capabilities, the need to prevent India from emerging as the paramount military and economic power of the region by keeping its army bleeding in internal security duties has become the obsessive preoccupation of its military leadership.
Before seizing political power on October 12, 1999 General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s self-reinstated Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), self-styled Chief Executive and self-promoted President, had himself underlined on many occasions the need to keep the Indian Army continuously bleeding just as the Afghan Mujahideen, with US and Pakistani assistance, had kept the Soviet troops bleeding. It is apparently his calculation that such a policy would ultimately weaken the unity and integrity of India just as the bleeding of the Soviet troops in Afghanistan contributed to the USSR break-up.
Pakistans proxy war against India in the State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) has to be studied against the background of this mindset of Pakistans military-intelligence establishment.
Azhar Abbas, the reputed Pakistani columnist, wrote in the May 1999 issue of the Herald, the monthly journal of the Dawn group of Karachi, as follows:
- “The army appears convinced of the wisdom in keeping India bleeding in Kashmir. As long as India is busy in Kashmir, it cannot have a three to one ratio, which is needed for an aggressive force.”
General Musharraf told the Karachi branch of Pakistan’s English-speaking Union on April 12, 1999 (Nation of April 14) that even a bilaterally-negotiated solution to the Kashmir issue might not normalise relations with India since Pakistan would continue to be a thorn in India’s side by frustrating its hegemonistic ambitions and this would make India continue with its policy of weakening Pakistan.
Pakistan’s proxy war against India in the State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) has to be studied against the background of this mindset of Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment.
How the Proxy War began
In 1979, a committee set up by General Zia-ul-Haq, the then military dictator of Pakistan, had estimated the total number of madrasas (Muslim religious schools) in Pakistani Punjab as being over 1,000. Today, in Punjab alone, the number exceeds 2,500; there are an equal number in the rest of the country. Of these, about 200 are controlled by the Ahl-e-Hadith sect and about 100 by the Shias. The remaining are equally divided between the Barelvi and the Deobandi sects.
Afghanistan marked an important landmark in the evolution of covert action techniques.
In 1979-80, after the entry of the Soviet troops into Afghanistan, the United States (US), Government sought Zia-ul-Haq’s assistance for training the Afghan Mujahideen groups and Arab mercenaries and for raising a clandestine Army of Islam to fight against the Soviet troops with arms and ammunition to be provided by the US. Zia gladly accepted this role in return for US military and economic assistance to Pakistan.
A special US team flew to Islamabad and finalised this package – military and economic assistance to Pakistan in return for its help in making the Soviet troops bleed in Afghanistan. Included in this team was an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), under the cover of a State Department diplomat named Mrs Wendy Chamberlain.
She has now returned to her old turf as the present US Ambassador to Pakistan and played a leading role in negotiating with the present military junta led by Musharraf, a similar package of assistance in return for its help in destroying the remnants of the Islamic warriors trained in the 1980s, who have, after spreading their jehad to India, China, the Philippines, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Russia, taken it to the heart of the US, with their horrendous terrorist strikes in New York and Washington DC on September 11, 2001 killing over 6,000 innocent women, men and children.
When Zia accepted this job of contract killing of the Soviet troops for the Americans, he chose for the task Musharraf and the present General, Mohammed Aziz, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee since October 7, 2001. Musharraf is a Mohajir, a migrant from India, and Aziz is a member of the Sudan tribe of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).
…Pakistani support to Indian insurgent and terrorist groups had often been questioned by the Pakistani political leaders whenever they came to power…
The two worked out a plan, which provided for a clear division of responsibilities – the Afghan Mujabldeen and the Arab mercenaries, including Osama bin Laden, to be trained by the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment with American-British-French assistance, and the clandestine Pakistani Army of Islam to be raised and trained by the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment without any external assistance, but to be equipped by the CIA.
For training this Army of Islam, Musharraf and Aziz, assisted by Maj Gen (retd) Mahmud Durrani, selected 100 of the then existing madrasas, almost all Deobandi, and introduced military training by serving and retired officers of the Pakistan Army attached to them.
The most important and the most active of these madrasas chosen by them were the Jamiya Uloom-e-Islami in the Binori mosque, Karachi, set up by Maulana Yusuf Binori soon after Independence in 1947; the Darul Uloom Akora Khattak in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and the Jamiya Ashrafiya in Lahore. Most of the Mullah leading-lights of the clandestine Army of Islam, including Maulana Masood Azhar, originally of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) and now of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), graduated in terrorism from these three madrasas, with Maulana Azhar himself passing out of the Binori mosque madrasa. In the 1990s, many of the Taliban leaders also passed out of this madrasa.
Musharraf and Aziz included in this Army of Islam as many mutually conflicting groups as possible so that while they kept the Soviet troops bleeding, none of them would subsequently emerge as a threat to the primacy of the Pakistan Army in the local power structure. Keep them fighting the Soviet troops while they can and fighting among themselves when they should, so that no single group became too big for its shoes inside Pakistan itself – that was the objective of Musharraf and Aziz.
Musharraf and Aziz included in this Army of Islam as many mutually conflicting groups as possible so that while they kept the Soviet troops bleeding, none of them would subsequently emerge as a threat to the primacy of the Pakistan Army in the local power structure.
The result: Blood flowed not only inside Afghanistan, but also inside Pakistan due to sectarian and other quarrels amongst the various components of the Army of Islam. Since the Army of Islam drew all its recruits from the Sunnis, mainly Deobandis, the blood that flowed in Pakistan and continues to flow is largely that of the Shias.
Afghanistan marked an important landmark in the evolution of covert action techniques. It was a proxy war, partly overt, partly covert, to make the Soviet troops bleed through the use of surrogates, without the direct involvement of US troops.
Conscious encouragement of religious fanaticism was for the first time used as a covert action tool. Whereas, the past covert actions of the Western intelligence agencies were projected in ideological terms (democracy vs communism), those in Afghanistan were projected in religious terms (Islam vs communism). Jehad was brought out of the closet of medieval times and sought to be used against the evil empire of communism, without a careful examination of its long-term implications for peace and stability in the world.