I have a most un-mutinous confession to make – there are lots of things in the world I don’t understand, yet I still blog about them. One of these things is the Pakistani government’s continuing support of Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, two Pakistan based militant/terrorist groups that claim Kashmiri independence as their goal. As I mentioned earlier, the Pakistani government has a very soft policy towards these two organizations:
Some security analysts in Pakistan have been critical of the government’s seemingly soft stance in relation to Harkat and Jaish – wondering why they have not been dealt with as severely as some of the other groups. [BBC]These two groups were implicated in the attack on the Indian Parliament that came just a few months after the 9/11 attacks in the USA:
The atrocity of 13 December  when five terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament, killing eight officials and a gardener, has given New Delhi the high moral ground. New Delhi insists that the five were Pakistanis and belonged to two Pakistan-based terrorist groups – Jaish-e-Mohamed (Army of the Prophet Mohamed) and Lakshar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pious). Islamabad has denied the claim and refused to accept the bodies. [cite]They’re also the only terrorist group linked with the first group of British bombers:
Not only is there no clear link between the two sets of suspects, there is no established link between either group and al-Qaeda or any other known terror network, say British officials. There are lots of tantalizing links back to Pakistan from the July 7 gang, three of whom had parents born there. When Shehzad Tanweer — who killed seven on a train near Aldgate station — and Mohammed Sidique Khan — who killed six at Edgware Road station — left Leeds to visit Pakistan in 2004, they were frequently seen with members and recruiters of the banned militant organizations Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, according to several people in Samundri, a town near the village where Tanweer stayed with his uncle. [cite]
Here’s the question – why does Musharraf continue to support these two groups, given the high costs involved?
One answer might be that it’s part of his ideological support for a free Kashmir, or perhaps part of the political necessity of supporting movements that claim to be fighting for Kashmiri independence. But that’s a very limited way to look at it. He could advocate very strongly for Kashmiri independence without providing material support to these groups and letting them roam around. [BTW, I’m assuming that the GoP actively supports these groups – am I wrong?]
Another answer might be that the ISI is committed to supporting Jaish and Lakshar, and Musharraf needs the support of the ISI. This raises yet further questions – why does the ISI support them – is this geostrategic or ideological? How much control does Musharraf have over the ISI?
A third answer could be that they’re a bargaining chip to be traded in at some later date. Perhaps the GoP doesn’t actively support them, but they have enough popularity that they see no reason to crack down unless they get something in return. Right now, the USA doesn’t care about this issue, and even with Afghanistan they reneged on their promises to cut textile tariffs so they have little credibility. Similarly, unless India negotiates harder, there is little reason for the GoP to give them up. In this case, it’s not about actively supporting Jaish and Lakshar, it’s about the costs involved in cracking down. I suspect this third answer is a large part of the story, but I don’t know for sure.
I’m letting my ignorance hang out like a tidh on a middle aged desi guy eating paranthas in a wifebeater because I’m hoping that our readership will constructively enlighten me. That is, I’m hoping that people will excuse my laziness in not researching this further, and each contribute enough in the way of facts and references that this is a mutually beneficial conversation for all.
How much support do Jaish and Lakshar get from the GoP? In what form? What’s the political rationale for the current policy towards them? What would it take for this policy to change?
I’m requesting a mature political discussion here. Ad-hom statements will be deleted, although perhaps not as promptly as I’d like. What say you?
UPDATE: The Council on Foreign Relations has this explanation:
Why did Pakistan support Islamist terrorists in Kashmir? To use them against India in the fight over Kashmir. Through its Interservices Intelligence agency (ISI), Pakistan provided funding, arms, training facilities, and aid in crossing borders to both Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad. Experts say ISI aid, modeled on its support of the mujahedeen fighting the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, helped introduce radical Islam into the longstanding conflict over the fate of Kashmir.
Has Pakistan moved to stop Islamist terrorists in Kashmir?Yes. Under intense pressure following the December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, Musharraf banned Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and banned five other Pakistan-based radical groups, sealing their offices and rounding up about 1,500 Islamist militants, many of whom were later released. Musharraf has also promised to force madrasas in Pakistan to moderate their extremist teachings. In June 2002, after a terrorist attack that killed more than 30 Indians raised the prospect of war between the two nuclear-armed countries, Musharraf said Pakistan would work to end cross-border infiltrations into Indian-controlled Kashmir. However, India says Musharraf has not honored his pledge to end such raids, and urges the United States to view Pakistan as a rogue state that sponsors terrorism.
Why hasn’t Pakistan done more to stop Islamist terrorists in Kashmir? Experts say Musharraf has had to balance international demands to stop terrorists in Kashmir with internal pressures that threaten the stability of his regime, as well as his life. Some Pakistan-watchers note that Musharraf is an unlikely figure to crack down on the Kashmiri militants; he came to power in a 1999 coup triggered largely by the decision of Pakistan’s then-president, Nawaz Sharif, to yield to U.S. pressure after a major Kashmir crisis and rein in the militants. After ousting Sharif, Musharraf’s Pakistan continued to support these groups up through September 11 and the attack on the Indian parliament. Some key Pakistani constituencies, including Islamists and elements of the ISI, remain supportive of Islamist fighters in Kashmir and are livid with Musharraf for moving against them. Moreover, many Pakistanis see a distinction between the international terrorism of the al-Qaeda network and militancy in Kashmir, which they consider a domestic issue and a legitimate fight for freedom.
I’m not quite satisfied with this explanation though, and it feels a bit out of date. I feel like my earlier questions still hold. How much does the ISI support these groups now? What’s the political calculus for Musharraf here? What would it take for policy to change?
India’s army corps commander in the Kashmir Valley says Pakistan has failed to honour its commitment to stop militants crossing the Line of Control. Lt Gen SS Dhillon told the BBC there had been more attempts to cross from Pakistan- to Indian-controlled Kashmir in July than in the past three years.
He said Pakistan had gone back on its assurance that its territory would not be used for militant activities against India. “Infiltration cannot happen without the knowledge of Pakistani troops,” Gen Dhillon said.
Gen Dhillon acknowledged the Pakistani army no longer provided cover to infiltrators by firing across the Line of Control. But he said the infiltration took place close to Pakistani posts. Pakistan has consistently denied providing any material support to insurgents opposed to Indian rule in Kashmir. [BBC]