In his book titled ‘Pakistan at Knife’s Edge’, veteran Pakistani journalist notes that “Whether or not Pakistan won anything in the two Jihads of 1980’s [in Afghanistan] and 1990’s [in J&K], many Pakistani Generals certainly became extraordinarily rich and politically powerful.” This pithy but absolutely appropriate observation holds good for another category of unscrupulous people in J&K, the ones who are making a fortune by providing Pakistan based terrorist groups with ‘raw material’ in the form of recruits,as well as facilitating acts of terrorism by providing them information and logistics.
Those who belong to this ilk go by various names- while the establishment and security forces refer to them as ‘over ground workers’ [OGW], locals [till the mid-nineties at least] preferred to call them ‘Jamaatis’ [member of the Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu & Kashmir, [JIJK] a Srinagar based Islamic political party]. Not that all OGWs were [or are] members of JIJK, but it’s no secret that right from 1990 when it abandoned its vision of seeking peaceful resolution the Kashmir issue by joining Pakistan Army’s notorious spy agency Inter Services Intelligence [ISI] sponsored “armed struggle” bandwagon, JIJK has been the prime recruiter of terrorists in J&K.
In Arif Jamal’s well researched book ‘Shadow War- The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir’, the author recounts an interview in which Hizbul Mujahideen [HM] co-founder Master Asan Dar stated that JIJK’s endorsement of violence as a means to resolve the Kashmir issue was the result of its turf war with the JKLF terrorist group in order to “take a controlling role in the struggle”. So, besides strengthening informal relationships with smaller terrorist groups, Dar revealed that many JIJK leaders even took “direct roles in the activities of underground mujahideen”.
JIJK’s new found love for the “armed struggle” was however not impelled solely by the desire for supremacy. Au contraire, it was the lucre and power that made JIJK jettison its decade old principles and ISI quickly identified and exploited these weaknesses. Many analysts believe that buying loyalty of OGWs is one of the major expenditures in ISI fuelled proxy war in J&K, and considering how many locals with limited means have become wealthy overnight, this inference doesn’t appear to be either misplaced or exaggerated.
With lavish payments coming their way and without any fear of bodily harm or arrest, becoming a terrorist facilitator became a popular undertaking in J&K. Thanks to the backing provided by another Pakistani proxy called All Parties Hurriyat Conference [APHC] through protests and shutdowns, authorities would be compelled to release arrested OGWs. No wonder becoming an OGW was dream come true for those willing to sell their conscience without any qualms of pushing their own people into the jaws of death. So, while OGWs continue to flourish, the gullible youth they lure into joining terrorist ranks meet untimely deaths in encounters with security forces-it’s indeed a sad state of affairs spawned by greed.
This is why the government’s decision that “Each act of recruitment will be treated as an act of terror [and] people who incite or facilitate a youngster to join terrorist ranks will be equally liable, if not more,” announced recently by Director General of J&K police RR Swain is path breaking. Within their own social circles, OGWs are known to project themselves as highly principled individuals who are guided solely by their conscience, but the people aren’t fooled. However, few dare to blow the lid off their murky dealings since exposing OGWs invariably invites retribution from terrorists.
Since they make a living by pushing the youth to their graves, OGWs are truly scum of the earth. With the intense hatred that locals have for such loathsome persons, the decision to view motivating and recruiting people into picking up the gun against the state as a terrorist act will certainly be well received by the public. Stern action against OGWs will also ensure that this key component of Pakistan’s proxy war is appropriately countered and this breed of vultures is made extinct if not completely exterminated.
It’s high time that OGWs in J&K are held accountable for their despicable deeds and the era of them enjoying the best of both worlds finally comes to an end!