Kashmiris are ‘expendable’ in Pakistan’s dirty game

The latest incident of a burka clad lady hurling a Molotov Cocktail at a CRPF post in Sopore area of J&K has once again brought to focus the repugnant side of what separatists and their supporters euphemistically refer to as ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. The comforting part is that no one was injured in this attack as the petrol bomb missed it’s target, and the J&K police deserves a standing ovation for having quickly and accurately identified the perpetrator from a CCTV footage as Haseena Akhtar, a 38-year-old lady and arrested her.

As per police reports, there are three FIRs under Unlawful Activities [Prevention] Act [UAPA] registered against Haseena and she was out on bail when she carried out the petrol bomb attack. While she was definitely involved in terrorism related activities in the past and she wasn’t directly involved in any violent act of terrorism earlier, the police statement rightly termed her “an OGW [over ground worker] of terror outfit LeT”. However, even after having hurled a petrol bomb at a CRPF security outpost with an obvious aim to cause bodily harm, it is unfortunate that J&K police continues to refer to her as an “OGW”.

Debate on this incident has been mostly confined to the issue of terrorists using women for carrying  attacks against security forces, with some opining that this incident indicates a paradigm shift as regards terrorist strategy in J&K. While this is undoubtedly an unusual occurrence, yet to draw any hasty inference from just one instance invariably results in missing the wood for the trees, especially since terrorists in J&K have been taking full advantage of impractical laws governing search of females, and have therefore been using women as accessories while carrying out acts of violence.

In the 90s, ladies [and even school going girls] were often used by terrorists as messengers, ferrying small weapons like pistols, hand grenades and ammunition. Due to non-availability of requisite number of lady police women, as well as fear amongst security force personnel of being falsely implicated in contrived sexual harassment cases, not only the use of females as carriers but even wearing of burkas by male terrorists to avoid apprehension is not uncommon.

In this instance, some contend that the LeT may have used Haseena to hurl a Moltov Cocktail at a CRPF post since its male cadres couldn’t come close enough to the target due to surveillance being maintained by those manning this bunker. However, CCTV footage of this attack belies this argument as one can clearly see people freely moving to and fro, without any restrictions. In fact, a young person can be seen calmly walking past the lady and even looking back out of curiosity as she struggles to take out the petrol bomb from her purse and ignite it. So, the question arises- why did LeT put a woman’s life in danger to do something that its male cadres could have easily done?

The answer is not hard to find. In Kashmir, it’s not local terrorists but Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] of Pakistan Army which plans attacks, and it does so with military precision. Knowing that very high intensity of terrorist activities could attract global censure, ISI is ensuring that while violence levels in J&K are maintained at a level that causes pain to India, it doesn’t outrage global sensitivities or enrage the international community. So, while waging Pakistan Army’s proxy war in J&K, the ISI is ensuring that phases of well-planned violent activities are suitably interspersed with short spells of uneasy calm.

The ISI has realised that perpetrating acts of terrorism without owning responsibility is a convenient way to kill two birds with one stone- bleeding India without inviting international criticism. For example, despite causing civilian deaths and injuries, terrorists continue hurling grenades at security force personnel in crowded areas. Contrary to popular belief, their main aim is not inflicting casualties on security force personnel, but provoking them to fire back in self-defence and cause collateral damage. Any civilian casualties that occur due to such action can easily be passed off as the cold-blooded murder of innocent shoppers and pedestrians by security forces.

Coming back to the incident of the petrol bomb attack on a CRPF checkpost by a woman. As this is a crude and rudimentary type of attack, its potential to cause serious damage is very low, and that’s why there’s much more to it than what meets the eye. So, this attack wasn’t planned solely with the aim of inflicting casualties on security force personnel- it had a far more sinister objective. The real aim of this attack was to provoke CRPF personnel to retaliate and since the lady who hurled the petrol bomb was literally at a stone’s throw away from the bunker, the probability of her being killed was extremely high.

Imagine just what would have happened in the unfortunate eventuality of Haseena being shot dead during or after her botched-up petrol bomb attack. Even though she had brazenly committed an undeniable violent act of terrorism, the pro-Pakistan lobby would have portrayed her as an innocent victim of excesses by CRPF and thus succeeded in arousing public ire against the establishment and security forces. With a host of rights activists in India, who for reasons unknown, are ever-ready to jump in and without even caring to investigate the truth, join pro-Pakistani groups in maligning the government and security forces.

The suggestion that terrorists had lured a young lady into a dangerous situation wherein she could perish may sound outlandish. However, the fact of the matter is that for terrorists, their ISI masters as well as its proxies like All Parties Hurriyat Conference [APHC], Kashmiris are ‘expendable’– an inference supported by hard facts, like terrorists provoking security forces to retaliate in crowded places. A classic example concerns the Indian Parliament attack facilitator Afzal Guru who was awarded capital punishment.

While APHC sheds copious tears on his execution, readers would recall that a US cable released by WikiLeaks mentions- “Moderate Hurriyat Leader [Mirwaiz Umar Farook] told PolOff (political office) candidly that his faction of political separatists was remaining as quiet as possible about the issue because they do not feel strongly that India should pardon Afzal [Guru]”.

The Mirwaiz washed his hands off Afzal Guru, not on grounds of principles or ideology, but only because for the ISI and the pro-Pakistan cabal, a dead Afzal, was far more valuable as a propaganda tool than him being jailed for terrorist related activities. Similarly, other APHC leaders including stalwarts like late Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik too have not only been silent spectators as far as killing of innocent Kashmiris by ISI backed terrorists is concerned, but on several occasions even defended such killings.

As per reports, Haseena is an ardent follower of ‘Dukhtaran-e-Millat’ [DeM] founder and chief Asiya Andrabi and while she is well within her rights to follow whatever ideology she believes in. However, this doesn’t give her the right to indulge in violence and so she must face the consequences of her crime. It’s not known whether Haseena has any progeny, but if she has any, then going for them will be particularly rough because Haseena’s husband is also currently behind bars on charges of stone-pelting.

So, while cooling her heels in jail, the Sopore petrol bomb attacker may take solace from the fact that Andrabi too is currently in jail on terror financing charges, the thought that unlike Andrabi’s son who’s living up life in Malaysia, her own kids would have to fend for themselves, will surely come to haunt her!

Nilesh Kunwar
Nilesh Kunwar
Writer is a retired Indian Army Officer who has served in terrorism-infested areas of Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. He is a 'Kashmir-Watcher' who keeps a close tab on the state's developments.

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