The Kashmir uprising: interruption of the peace process
In March 1987, a state election was held in Indian-administered Kashmir. The Islamist political parties formed an alliance known as the Muslim United Front (MUF) prior to the election. The MUF comprised 13 parties, led by Kashmirbased Jamat-i-Islami (Mahadevan 2009). Before the election, the Indian intelligence agencies estimated that the MUF would win at least ten seats. The pro-India National Conference (NC) party won 66 of the 75 seats, while the MUF won just 4 seats in the election. The voter turnout was 75 percent, which was the highest ever recorded in Kashmir. Widespread cases of election rigging, irregularities, and mismanagement were reported to have taken place. Many MUF leaders were arrested before the election in Kashmir and on election day, the polling agents of MUF were thr own out of the polling stations during the counting, where they had strong support and “vote-bank.” The rigging of state elections further alienated Kashmiri youth from the Indian state, and this closed off avenues for legitimate political activities in the Kashmir valley (Schofield 2010).
In this situation, the MUF felt dissatisfied by the political process in India and opted for an uprising following the election. The MUF called for protests and demonstrations against the Indian administration. Some activists also attempted to target Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah on his way to his office in May 1987 (Sattar 2010). There was a series of demonstrations and strikes, and even a small number of attacks on government officials, thr oughout 1988. People from all walks of life participated in the demonstrations. However, the New Delhi administration did not take notice of the protests. The MUF said that “the manipulation of election results disappointed the Kashmiris. We were trying to change the political framework by democratic and peacefill method[s], but we have failed in this. Therefore, we should take up the gun” (Schofield 2010). Sumit Ganguly (1996), a prominent expert on South Asian politics, explains:
The early decay of political institutions in Kashmir, which the government in New Delhi did little to stem [and in some cases encouraged], and the dramatic pace of political mobilization proved to be a combustible mix, driving Kashmiris to the armed rebellion that they had previously rejected.
According to the former Pakistani Ambassador to India, Ashraf Jahangir Qazi (interview by author, Islamabad, 19 November 2017),
The fundamental issue of Kashmir is not a problem of Pakistani interference, fundamentalism and/or terrorism there, those are developments which [have] taken place as a result of the fundamental problem which is the Indian occupation of Kashmir in defiance of UN resolution over Kashmir, human rights and political rise of the Kashmiri people who are quite obviously not willing to be part of India, particularly in the Kashmir valley.
On Pakistan’s involvement in the 1990 Kashmir uprising, the former ISI Chief General Asad Durani (interview by author, Islamabad, 22 November 2017) said that:
The Kashmir uprising caught us by surprise. We did not know what happened and why suddenly there was unrest. Later, we found out that it was mostly the youth, educated but unemployed. They were expressing their dissatisfaction with India and this is essentially the cause of the Kashmir unrest. But it was not because of the Afghan mujahedeen or any other Islamists in the uprising.
The Kashmir conflict was basically an internal uprising against India, but it has provided an opportunity for the Pakistani military elite to use the pro-Pakistani Islamists to gain public support in the Kashmir valley. In the beginning, it appeared to be more a case of an indigenous movement striving for Azadi (liberation or independence) from India by engaging in protests and other related political activities. However, it was transformed into an armed uprising for the independence of Kashmir. The frequency of violent attacks increased at the end of 1989, and they had become a regular phenomenon in 1990. India accused Pakistan of sponsoring militancy in Kashmir and said that Pakistan had trained 20,000 militants to increase terrorist activities in Indian-administered Kashmir (Gul 2007). India claimed that the ISI was providing training and weapons to armed militant groups in Kashmir. General Vishwa Nath Sharma, the then Indian army’s chief, expressed his concerns (Ganguly and Hagerty 2006, 90):
Terrorist groups backed by Pakistani agencies were able to attack railway stations and vital installations which could affect any military movement on our side. Therefore, there was [a] need for the Indian army to go in there to take care of the communication lines and other bottlenecks so that if there was a military flare-up, we could conveniently move our fighting forces from locations deep in the country to the border areas.
The Pakistani government rejected such accusations and said that it was an indigenous movement for the liberation of Kashmir and they would continue their moral and diplomatic support for it. Nonetheless, Pakistani support for the Kashmiri uprising was more than moral support. According to Shabana Feyyaz (interview by author, Islamabad, 20 November 2017), “moral support to [the] Kashmir cause is one thing, but Pakistan provided men, material and minds as well.”
The Kashmir uprising was mainly led by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM or Party of Holy Warriors). The JKLF was the core secessionist movement demanding a sovereign and secular united Kashmir, composed of all parts of Kashmir prior to the partition of 1947 (Anant 2009). The JKLF was an umbrella outfit comprising the Jammu and Kashmir Students’ Liberation Front, the People’s League, the People’s Conference, and Al Jihad. On the other hand, HM sought the unification of Kashmir with Pakistan. HM was the military wing of Kashmir-based JI, and the groups that allied with it included the Muslim Students’ Federation, the Allah Tigers, the Islamic Student’s League, and the Dukhtaran-e-Milat (Daughters of Islam). Another group, Operation Balakote, sought to form a united front comprising the JKLF and HM for the liberation of Kashmir from Indian occupation. Despite their differences, these groups worked together and supported each other’s calls for strikes and demonstrations in 1989 (Tremblay 1995). Nonetheless, these groups apparently lacked a clear agenda for independence and thought that the increase in state violence would justify their struggle of liberation to the international community. This would gain recognition for their movement as fighting for a “just cause” and put pressure on India to abandon the Kashmir valley. However, there was no longterm strategy for the liberation of Kashmir (Schofield 2010).
Later in the 1990s, many groups both local and international joined the Kashmiri insurgency, including Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (Islamic Struggle Movement); Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM or Army of Muhammad); Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (Movement of Holy Warriors); Al-Badr (Full Moon); and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT or Army of the Righteous) (Snedden 2015). These groups were also pro-Pakistani and wanted the unification of Kashmir with Pakistan.
In 1989, the Kashmir militant groups adopted a fourfold strategy to mobilize the general public in support of the demands of the Azadi movement. The strategy consisted of regular strikes; targeting government officials, police informers, and security forces; forcing NC party members to publicly withdrew their affiliation with the party; and boycotting the Lok Sabha (state assembly) election in order to delegitimize the Kashmir state government (Tremblay 1995). The strikes that started across Kashmir in January 1989 continued for the whole year. They involved students, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and other civil society activists.
Furthermore, the separatist groups used violent tactics to neutralize the ruling NC party in Kashmir and ensured no public demonstration took place in support of the ruling party. While daily demonstrations demanding the “right to self-determination” continued in the Kashmir valley, the uprising intensified at the end of 1989 when the number of violent attacks in the valley increased. The militants targeted government officials, security forces, and Hindu pundits in Jammu and
Kashmir. In September 1989, militants killed a prominent Kashmiri politician of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and in December kidnapped the daughter of the Federal Home Minister Mufti Muhammad Saeed. She was released when the Indian government agreed to release prominent militant commanders in exchange (Sattar 2010). The supporters of NC were also forced to resign from the party and asked to publish their resignations in local newspapers under the title “Declaration of Disassociation.” This completely disabled the political and civil administration in the Kashmir valley.
In addition, the separatists started celebrating all events related to Islam and Pakistan’s independence. However, they observed complete shutdown strikes when days and/or events related to India were commemorated, such as Republic Day and Independence Day in Kashmir (Tremblay 2009). The “Indian republic day” on 26 January 1990 was observed as a “black day,” and it was for the first time the Indian flag was not hoisted (Schofield 2010). In this situation, another election was held in Kashmir in 1989, and it was boycotted by the separatist groups. The voter turnout for the Kashmir state election was a mere 4 percent (Tremblay 2009). It was a victory for the separatist groups, which meant that the government lacked the credibility to run the administration of Kashmir state.
In response to the Kashmir uprising, India appointed Jagmohan Malhotra as Governor of Kashmir for the second time in January 1990. The chief minister, Farooq Abdullah, resigned in protest due to differences with Jagmohan. Farooq Abdullah said that “he could not cooperate with a man who hates the guts of the Muslims” (Schofield 2010). After taking office, Jagmohan had a one-point agenda to restore the state’s authority by any means and used a heavy hand against protesters and supporters of separatist organizations. He dissolved the Kashmir state assembly in February 1990, explaining that it was necessary to stop political interference in state affairs. The security forces were given a free hand to crush the demonstration and the armed insurgency that broke out after the sacking of the state assembly (Schofield 2010). Moreover, Jagmohan ordered Lieutenant-General Mohammed Ahmed Zaki, commander of the Indian army’s 15 Corps, to ensure the government’s writ was upheld in the state at any cost (Swami 2006). Jagmohan (1991, 518-519) pointed out:
Our first and foremost objective was to assert the authority of the state ... no matter what the costs, no matter what the sacrifices. Our resolve, our will, had to be made clear ... It had ... to be conveyed to all concerned, in no uncertain terms, that ... no soft underbelly of the state would be offered to punch or fool with.
This policy of repression had further alienated the Kashmiri people from New Delhi and militarized the Indian-administered Kashmir state.
In addition, the Indian leadership thought that it was a law and order problem in Kashmir, and it could be controlled with a large police force. Therefore, India deployed a 145,000-strong Central Reserve Police Force in Kashmir. More specifically, India passed the Armed Forces Special Power Act, providing the security forces immunity from prosecution and allowing the armed forces to use lethal force (Sattar 2010). This act gave a free hand to the security forces in Kashmir state. On 21 January 1990, Indian forces shot down unarmed protesters, killing dozens of people in what is known as the “Gaw Kadal massacre.” According to Human Rights Watch, at least 35 people were killed in the massacre, but other reports estimated the death toll at around 100 (HRW report 2006). The victims were gathered for a peaceful demonstration against the state government, despite the curfew. The Telegraph reported that the marchers had chanted slogans such as “Indian dogs go home,” “we want freedom,” and “long live Islam” (Telegraph, 22 January 1990; Siddique 2010). Consequently, there was a complete breakdown in law and order due to continuous demonstrations and government curfews in the Jammu and Kashmir areas.
In this context, the state and militant groups used extensive violence against their opponents, which severely affected daily life in the Kashmir valley. The security forces targeted the civilian protesters, whereas the militants targeted government officials, members of the security forces, pro-government civilians, and Hindu pundits in the valley (HRW report 1999). For example, a prominent Kashmiri leader, Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq, was killed by unknown assailants in May 1990. His funeral was attended by around 200,000 Kashmiris in Srinagar (Snedden 2015). Ironically, the Indian forces targeted the funeral procession in which more than 60 people were killed. This reinforced the perception that the Indian state was behind the assassination of Mirwaiz Farooq (Tantry, Tribune, India, 21 May 2015). As a consequence of continuous violence, civil disobedience, and subsequent state repression, this completely immobilized the state administration in Kashmir.
It is important to note that the use of force against the protesters was a mining point in the Kashmiri struggle for the “right to self-determination.” The brutal force used by the Indian forces provided an opportunity for the separatist and/ or Islamist groups to gain further public support, which transformed anti-India protest into armed militancy (Snedden 2015). Praveen Swami (2006) pointed out that:
For the first time since 1947 ... Jammu and Kashmir did have a genuine mass constituency for the Islamists, hostile both to the National Conference and to New Delhi. Where earlier phases of the jihad had failed precisely because of the absence of such a constituency ... the conditions now seemed right to make another attempt.
So the reappointment of Jagmohan was yet another grave mistake by the New Delhi central government in its dealings with the internal affairs of Kashmir state.
To assist the security situation in Kashmir, the Indian government formed a committee under Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral. The committee noted that “the placid environment of the valley is seriously disturbed and it would be a serious mistake to dismiss it as a periodical outburst or a matter than can be dealt with as a law and order problem” (Wirsing 1993). The situation was out of the control
Military-centred approach in Kashmir 99 of the state administration and New Delhi decided to change its administration and imposed “Presidential Rule” in Kashmir in July 1990, at the request of the governor of Jammu and Kashmir. Girish Saxena replaced Jagmohan as the new governor in Kashmir, and India deployed regular military forces to restore the writ of the state in the Kashmir valley. The Indian military used tactics such as torture, collective punishments, and enforced disappearances throughout the 1990s (Sattar 2010). More specifically, the security forces were involved in widespread human rights violations in the valley. According to an Amnesty International report in 1992 (in Haqqani 2003):
Widespread human rights violations in the state since January 1990 have been attributed to the Indian army, and the paramilitary Border Security Force and Central Reserve Police Force ... Cordon-and-search operations are frequently conducted in areas of armed opposition activity ... Torture is reported to be routinely used during these combing operations as well as in army camps, interrogation centers, police stations and prisons. Indiscriminate beatings are common and rape in particular appears to be routine ... In Jammu and Kashmir, rape is practiced as part of a systematic attempt to humiliate and intimidate the local population during counter-insurgency operations.
Thus, the extensive Indian military force also produced a lot of sympathy for Islamist militant groups around the world, especially in Pakistan.
For Pakistan, the outbreak of the Kashmir uprising provided a favourable situation for the Pakistani military elite to extend its national security state policies in the post-Cold War era. According to Professor Stephen P. Cohen (2004, 104-105),
The prerequisites for people’s war seemed to exist in Kashmir: a worthy cause; difficult terrain; a determined, warlike people [the Pakistanis]; a sympathetic local population [the Kashmiris]; the availability of weapons and equipment; and a high degree of leadership and discipline to prevent [the guerrillas] from degenerating into banditry.
So the ISI found an opportunity to take advantage of the deteriorating security situation in the Kashmir valley and used the domestic compulsion of Kashmir jihad instrumentally to protect its institutional interests. Subsequently, they capitalized on the worsening security situation in Kashmir and attempted to transform the spontaneous and decentralized uprising into a full-fledged insurgency against India (Kapur 2005). In fact, the Pakistani military was convinced that it was an opportunity to liberate Kashmir from India after 1971 debacle.
On the one hand, the primaiy strategy was to engage Indian military manpower and other military resources in internal security affairs. Consequently, it would be more difficult for India to further deploy its military along the border with Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistan would internationalize the issue of Kashmir by highlighting Indian military atrocities at international forums. This would put political and diplomatic pressure on India to resolve the issue of Kashmir (Kapur
2016) . Thus, the Kashmir uprising provided an opportunity for the Pakistani military elite to extend its military-centred national security approach in the post-Cold War era. However, the proxy war undermined the peace process adopted by the political leadership in the late 1980s.
After the 1971 war, the Pakistani military realized that it was difficult to wrest Kashmiri territory from Indian control by military means due to the latter’s greater military power. However, this perception changed after the emergence of the indigenous Kashmiri uprising, and the Pakistani military elite thought they could seize Kashmir from India through an armed insurgency (Kapur 2005). The Pakistani military adopted a protracted “proxy war” in Indian-administered Kashmir. Pakistan has relied and continues to rely on proxy wars to protect its strategic interests under the national security state during and after the Cold War. Unlike in the previous wars with India, the Pakistani military decided that they would not fight a conventional war. The militants would have to confront the Indian security forces on their own. However, the Pakistani military would provide all kinds of support, such as assistance in recruitment, financial payments, and publication of their propaganda materials, as well as military backing in time of emergency (Kapur 2016).
The Kashmiri separatists and Islamists were used to fighting a ‘“proxy war” against the Indian security forces in Kaslunir. The ISI provided extensive military aid to the Kashmiri fighters across the LoC in Indian-administered Kashmir (Hashim 1997). Many young Kashmiri militants fled to Pakistan and were trained in camps on the Pakistani side of Kashmir as well as former training facilities in areas bordering Afghanistan, which had been used by the Afghan resistance movement during the Afghan war. With the ISI’s support, the JKLF was able to establish around 300 sleeper cells across Kashmir (Cohen 2004; Kapur 2016). The trained militants were sent back to the Indian side of Kashmir to increase attacks on the Indian security forces and government officials.
In addition, the Kashmir uprising began at a very crucial time when the Soviet forces left Afghanistan in February 1989. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Pakistani military had conducted a proxy war in the form of a jihad, and this was a very cost-effective strategy to defeat the strong Soviet military forces in Afghanistan. As a consequence, the ISI believed that this was the right strategy to replicate in Kashmir to fight against an overwhelmingly superior Indian military power (Rizvi 2003; Kapur 2005). According to former DG ISI General Asad Durani (interview by author, Islamabad, 22 November
2017) , “we will be foolish if we did not support the Kashmir uprising. Yes, we replicate the Afghan resistance in Kashmir only when the uprising started but it was not Pakistani mujahedeen who initiated the Kashmir uprising.” In fact, Pakistan had a ready-made force of veteran Afghan mujahedeen following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Pakistan was the epicentre of the “Afghan resistance movement,” which had been used as a proxy against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan during 1979-1988 (see Chapter 2). After Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan, Pakistan was left alone by the US to deal with these militants who were equipped with sophisticated weapons. The ISI allowed Islamist militants to operate in Kashmir, which strengthened the Kashmiri militant groups (Taylor 2004). As a result, violence was escalated in Kashmir, which halted the India-Pakistan rapprochement adopted by Bhutto and Gandhi that radically transformed India-Pakistan relations.
Under Pakistan’s national security state, the Pakistani military establishment thought that Kashmir policy was the prerogative of the military, who took the key strategic decisions in the country. Subsequently, Prime Minister Bhutto was kept out of the planning of this strategy to use a “proxy war” in Kashmir. After taking office in 1988, Bhutto called a meeting to discuss the issue of Kashmir, and she was informed by the foreign office and DG military operations General Jahangir Karamat that the military did not favour a military solution to the Kashmir conflict. Nonetheless, the Pakistani military had already started a proxy war in the valley (Nawaz 2009). So the Pakistani military kept Bhutto ignorant about the proxy war in Kashmir. Actually, the military believed that Bhutto could be a security risk due to her past history of anti-military campaigns against General Zia (Chengappa 2000). Furthermore, the culture of secrecy in proxy wars justified the Pakistani military dominant role in Kashmir policy and provided them with an opportunity to escape the civilian oversight.
When the civilian government attempted to change the Kashmir policy, the Pakistani military used religio-political parties and far-right groups to build pressure on the civilian government to support the armed uprising in Kashmir. The promilitary opposition alliance asked the government to take a hard line over the issue of Kashmir against India. Some of the opposition parties called upon the civilian government to pursue a jihad against Indian security forces in Kashmir, while others urged it to go for nuclear war against the external threat from India. Qazi Husain Ahmad, the former chief of Pakistan’s JI, called in 1990 for the observing of 5 February as a “Kashmir Solidarity Day” for the success and solidarity with Kashmiri mujahedeen, while the opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, called for complete strikes across the country in solidarity with the Kashmiris (Shaikh 2012).
Beside opposition pressure, there was also huge public support for the Kashmiri uprising against India. According to a Gallup survey in 1990, about 78 percent of Pakistanis thought that they should support the armed uprising in Kashmir by supplying arms to the separatist militant groups. On the other hand, only 12 percent disagreed with supporting the separatist groups (Tajawar, Gallup Pakistan 2016). Given the strength of public opinion and political pressure, Bhutto was publicly left with little choice but to denounce the human rights violation in Kashmir due to internal political and public pressure. Bhutto highlighted the human rights violation at international forums to increase pressurize on India to resolve the issue of Kashmir (Hagerty 1998). She also said that Pakistan could not distance itself from Kashmir and its people’s struggle for the "right to self-determination” (Malik 2008). More importantly, Bhutto declared Kashmir Day on 5 February 1990 as a public holiday for solidarity with the Kashmiris' struggle for independence. Thus, the domestic compulsion of Kashmir jihad was used instrumentally by the Pakistani military elite to undermine the civilian government in the country.
In a nutshell, the Kashmir uprising provided an opportunity for the Pakistani military elite to continue its national security state policies at the end of the Cold War. In fact, the military has used the Kashmir conflict to maintain its functional dominance over the civilian government in the state affair by using far-right religious groups. Nonetheless, it had brought to a standstill the attempts to find a peaceful resolution to the outstanding issues between the two countries. Both countries accused each other of causing the unrest in Kashmir. The Gandhi-Bhutto talks ended without any major breakthrough despite the positive political will on both sides at the end of the 1980s. They pledged many accords, but these did not materialize due to the continuous hostility over Kashmir between the two countries. More importantly, it brought the two countries to the verge of another war.