Echoes from Pulwama

On 16 December, 2014, six gunmen affiliated to TTP, entered an Army school in Peshawar, Pakistan, killing around 150 children. It shook Pakistan to depths. Not just Pakistan, the entire world  rattled in horror. Pakistan – state and society – came face to face with the monster it fed for decades.

What was thought of as complex, nuanced, and layered, suddenly appeared naked, stark and hard. The evil itself spoke through this act, leaving no room for others to throw explanations, and create room for denial. The aftermath of this incident was a near permanent closure of the societal spaces nurturing violent ideas. the state’s response was a direct war on TTP and its ilk. Zarb e Azb announced a significant departure from the earlier policies.  Pakistan began to clear the menace of armed groups on its western side. The old Afghan experiment came to a close.

When terror finally spewed its venom into the face, Pakistan was left with no other choice than to kill the snake. Peshawar incident finally woke up the state, and the society, to the enormity of the challenge. From that point onwards new thinking, and new action plans rolled out.

On 14 February, 2019, a suicide bombing woke up this region into what Kashmir is heading to. The sadness and grief in India was shared by all in the world. Even the Kashmiris, who in this case are seen as enemies, expressed grief over the loss of lives. Unlike the response of the Pakistan state to the Peshawar incident, the neurotic response from the state and the society of India added to the crisis. The reason for this is the difference between how Pakistan finally relates itself to Peshawar-Afghanistan, and how Indian  looks at Kashmir-Pakistan.

In the aftermath of the Pulwama bombing, the Indian state intensified its operations against the political, and societal leadership of Kashmir. It also risked a war against Pakistan. The aerial incursion into the Pakistan space is an arrival of new pattern of action in Kashmir, and may be extended to Pakistan as well. The initial reaction from Pakistan did make India hold back, but this might not be seen as the end of it. The rise of new forces in India, and its collaboration with some similar minds in the global space, will have its consequences.

This brings us to the point. Pakistan is right now in a phase of rebuilding itself. The way Imran Khan behaved all through this crisis, and the way Pakistan’s armed forces backed him, reflects a deep urge, and a deeper commitment to put the house in order. This country can not afford taking its eyes off the economic crisis. This country seems to have finally decided to clear the debris of Afghan experiment. So this country can not escape another imperative: reorient its Kashmir policy.

Certain things are very glaring. The appetite of Pakistan’s society for armed groups has decisively waned. The willingness of the state apparatus to consider these groups as strategic assets is sagging. The external pressure from the global community is mounting. Not just this, even the friendly countries impress to close down non-state armed actors. Beyond this, the religious narrative that supported this armed enterprise is faced with a deep, serious, and refreshing critique. The Ghamidian reformation and restructuring is slowly, steadily, but unmistakably taking roots in the Muslim mind of Pakistan. Though it’s just the beginning, but the seeds are sown.

If the National Action Plan of the state of Pakistan, its new economic initiatives, and the emergence of new mind, are any indicators, the echoes of the Pulwama suicide attack would ring down into the deeper structures. The groups like Jaish, and Lashkar cannot sit comfortably with the state structures of Pakistan anymore. Take it slightly further. There is a good likelihood that groups like Hizb would also feel the heat.

What does this all mean to Kashmir. It means the character of the Resistance Movement cannot afford to remain unchanged. It must change; not cosmetically, but radically. Here certain other developments need a mention.

The tumult in the Indian society, and the consequent violence in its politics, has shown what New Delhi can resort to in Kashmir now.  The changes, both in India and in Pakistan, put a pressure on us, as a society, to rethink. This rethinking needs clarity, and courage. Many darling presumptions would clash with this thinking. The choices we make at this point would decide the future of our children. It is a crucial moment. We can emerge, or we can perish.

Here Responsibility is the key. God bless Viktor Frankl, who “recommend(ed) that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.” In Kashmir the Idea of Freedom needs to be supplemented by the Idea of Responsibility. The time for recklessness is over. The time for non-violent, transparent, responsible and independent politics is here. A super-politics, with supreme responsibility.