In an unprecedented move and after a long time, the Pakistani civilian government told the military to act against militant groups decisively and if civil law enforcement acts against those, military-led intelligence agencies shouldn't impede the process. A tall expectation?

 

Before any further introspection, a two-thumbs up acknowledgement is due here to Pakistan Armed forces who have done a commendable job against militancy, especially, in the last two years. Having said so, the fact that certain militant groups unofficially always enjoyed a silent approval from the certain quarters in the military intelligence, has also been an inconvenient truth. And, from time to time, the actions of these groups have caused international embarrassment for Pakistan. On other occasions, their acts nearly brought the Subcontinent to the brinks of another war. To add up, no matter how deep and severe their actions were, they got ignored by using phraseology like ‘non-state actors’ which actually only encouraged these groups over time.

No doubt, every country employs different means to defend itself and deter its enemies. However, history serves a better judge, here. What battle have we won with these militant groups or what area, including Kashmir, have we conquered using this 'force'? The answer is none. Agreed, sometimes these groups have poked the enemy where it hurts the most, but to what end? And no matter how much sacrifices our valiant solders have rendered for the motherland, the international 'do more' demand never dies out.

An average Pakistani thinks, what is wrong with the world out there, what else – or more – needs to be done? The bit that needs to be done is that no modern nation state has achieved its long term policy objectives by fighting proxy-wars through non-state actors. Since the public is fed up with selective truth, not many understand the gravity of the situation Pakistan is facing. The narrative built around militancy may be good for domestic consumption but the outside world looks at it with askance and cannot be persuaded.

This outsourcing of a major policy initiative has also provided much needed arsenal to the other states especially India against Pakistan. India sometimes sweeps its own misrule in occupied areas under the carpet by using this blanket scapegoat made readily available to them. And it doesn’t require a very high IQ to comprehend how it is successfully deteriorating the international image of Pakistan.

The recent move by India to bully Pakistan by keeping some of the SAARC countries away from attending the summit that was to be held in Pakistan was based on a strategy of exploitation. Obviously, it’s against the norms of international diplomacy to back off certain diplomatic commitments resulting in humiliation for the host nation. It is plain wrong on the part of the India, but shouldn’t it also be a moment for us to scratch our heads?

Again, the very reasons for this diplomatic coup were provided by such non-state actors. And, no doubt, the Pakistani establishment wasn’t behind the Uri attack, but, given our track record, it wasn’t easy for us to convince the world that the attack was conducted by Kashmiris themselves as a result of Indian atrocities in the Kashmir valley. India has been aggressively campaigning against certain Pakistan-based militant organisations who, in the past, have been operating, or had allegedly operated, against Indian interests in Kashmir and elsewhere. And there is nothing wrong in admitting that Indian lobbying efforts are penetrating into the heads of the Western Capitals and neutral organisations like the UNO. They have been successful in painting an otherwise legitimate Kashmiri resistance movement as terrorism, by squarely claiming that its source is cross-border unrest. This is wrong and unjust – but it is a de jure situation and there is no escape from it.

The modern times and the rise of international capitalism has knit the world into a giant singular body, whereby it is not possible to sustain any modern state purely on its indigenous resources and achieving prosperity while living in complete oblivion from the events happening around it. Although India and Pakistan are still locking their horns in centuries old traditional warfare or feud based nation-craft, the rest of the world has moved on. Now successful trade has replaced military prowess. To comprehend this scenario, just imagine if Japan with its giant economy were to be engaged in a similar conflict as presently Pakistan is entangled into with India, isn’t it safe to assume that the Kashmir issue would have been resolved – decades ago?

Another issue is with the composition of these groups, since they lack a nationalistic character in their movements. Although they are prominent in Difa-e-Pakistan rallies, they have no nationalistic orientation. As these groups were conceived and hatched during the Jihadi romance era of 80s and 90s, their primary rallying point is religion. But even on religious grounds, they don’t represent homogeneous or all-inclusive religious interpretations. Instead, they overwhelmingly consist of such individuals who follow a stricter interpretation of Islam whereby they alienate other Islamic sects existent within Pakistan. Consequently, many people with different sectarian leanings don’t associate themselves, or are sympathetic to their cause.

Although chiefly they are not involved in sectarian hate crimes, but at the same time they cannot be completely absolved from it. In the past we have seen many episodes where the affiliates of these groups were involved in sectarian killings. And there’s nothing to be surprised about, here: these battle hardened foot soldiers find themselves least occupied during the relatively calmer periods between India and Pakistan, thus their attention gets diverted to other domestic fronts.

There is no denying the fact that it is not an easy task to bring these groups to the national mainstream, given their past, in which they were trained to wage jihad. They live among the civilian populations with a stark difference – they are armed and the general public is not. It provides them a nuisance value, due to which nobody can object to their activities.

But as they say, credit must be given where it is due. Some of these groups have provided commendable humanitarian support during floods and other calamities. Their organizational skills in rendering relief services are exceptional. Despite the mixed baggage associated with these militant groups, the fact remains unchanged: that in the contemporary world, this organizations of this nature are an anomaly. Their very existence proves the state’s bad governance. This issue is not only restricted to Pakistan, but to some extent India is also struggling with vigilante groups wearing saffron colors and imposing their version of morality on others, and sometimes committing excesses with certain sections of the Indian public.

During these times the instructions from the government make a lot of sense. If security institutions don’t do away with these organisations, they can at least disarm them. If then they decide to evolve into a humanitarian organisation and commit to stay non-violent in matters of faith, they should be provided with this opportunity. During this transformational phase, their funding and otherwise activities, should be closely monitored. But at no cost, ever in the future, should the security establishment be allowed to hand over such lofty goals, such as the freedom of Kashmir, to these groups. If the establishment doesn’t want its fingerprints on the regional independence movements or choose to partake in a hot conflict, it should by no means try to enact proxies. Unless these steps are taken in good faith, Pakistan would keep on sinking in the morass of oblivion and face increasing international isolation. None of us wants that - what we want, rather, is to witness Pakistan on the track to becoming a normal country again.