Saturday, September 12, 2009
The News on Sunday, 13th September, 2009
Evolution of a war
A book scripting the evolution of Pakistan military's ambition to use civilian insurgents as an instrument of defence and foreign policy
By Nadeem Omar Tarar
The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir
By Arif Jamal
Published by Melville House Publishing, 2009
Pages: 352 (hardcover)
The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir is a myth-busting and brutal exposé of Pakistan's secret war against India. It provides crucial information on the key facets of militancy including recruitment, organisational structure, ideological base, and its transnational character. The author Arif Jamal, a journalist scholar from Lahore and New York, has not only made use of his journalist acumen and scholarly skills but more importantly his personal courage and professional integrity.
Jamal prefaces the book by validating the sources of his information which, given the clandestine nature of the subject, are as important as the findings of the study. He has been successful in interviewing most of the key players in the jihad networks as well as access organisational and popular literature of jihad. His use of first hand accounts and selective use of secondary sources turns it into a highly original work.
The author is especially well placed, to write such a book. Having begun his professional career in Pakistan in 1986 as a journalist with leading national and international media organisations, Arif Jamal has written hundreds of investigative and interpretive articles in English, focusing on Pakistan army and militant Islamic organisations. He holds a Masters in International Relations and has been a fellow at distinguished institutions including Harvard University and the University College of London, UK. He is presently associated with Center for International Cooperation, New York University , USA.
The book has broken the scholarly silence on military's involvement with militant Islamic groups and Pakistan's establishment's proxy war with India as it analyses the history of the jihad in Kashmir and the role of the Pakistan Army in shaping it since 1988. Scripting the evolution of the Pakistan's military ambition to use civilian insurgents/jihadis as an instrument of defense and foreign policy against India in Kashmir, the author provides a rather useful index of the names of the 'principal characters' from the warring regions, India, Pakistan and Kashmir, who would play out the script of jihad in Kashmir, a story which can compete with the best known political thrillers of our times.
In the first two chapters, the author outlines the formative phase of the Kashmir conflict and the evolution of the policy of using cross border Islamic militancy as an instrument of foreign policy, by focusing on Pakistan's first jihad under direct military command. It led to partition of Kashmir into Pakistani and Indian occupied Kashmirs within a year of independence in 1947. Chapter 3 discusses how CIA money, destined for the Afghan mujahideen in the 80s, was funneled to Kashmiri jihadis under Zia, creating a vital nexus of power and patronage of Islamic militants by the Pakistani military. Jamat-i-Islami (JI), provided ideological strength and human resource, in addition to coordinating jihadi network with various brands of Islamic militants across the world, fuelling a more than twenty-five year insurgency. Pakistani government and ISI support for militant groups who left Afghanistan to fight Indian rule in Kashmir has been the cause of much friction with India.
Chapter 4 and 5 demystify the notion of jihad as a selfless struggle for the glory of Islam by exposing the vicious competitions among various militant organisations fighting for share in the spoils of holy war. With the ascent of secular mission of JKLF, the Kashmiri nationalist militants in the 80s, JI fought back to take a lead role in the Kashmir Jihad with the help of ISI in post-Zia period. Chapter 5 builds on the factional struggle within the jihadi network and the hegemony of Hizbul Mujihadeen and its allied organisations on the reign of terror that they unleashed in Indian held Kashmir. They looted shops, bombed cinemas, targeted unveiled Muslim women and kidnapped, tortured and murdered Hindu businessmen and officials. In the process of conflict, Kashmiri society, which largely avoided communal riots at the time of partition, was convulsed into brutal violence, rising fundamentalism and communalism, and the flight of nearly the entire Hindu population from the Valley.
Chapter 6 outlines the military adventure of President Musharraf, the infamous Kargil war, as a logical corollary to Pakistan's policy of using jihadis as a strategic tool in the war against India. As Musharraf claimed it in his biography, it was waged to internationalise the Kashmir issue. On the contrary, it ended up isolating Pakistan internationally and for which Pakistan bore an enormous human cost. The financial cost of the war, met through Pakistani taxpayer's money, excluding the compensation rose to $700 million. Jamal analyses how the role of jihadis was overstated by the military and the sacrifices of Northern Light Infantry (NLI) drawn from Gilgit Baltistan/Norther Areas were ignored by the media.
Musharraf wore Kargil as a badge of honour despite repeated criticism of professional failures even from his very own military quarters. Claiming a degree of success in highlighting the Kashmir issue through Kargil, Musharraf went on to initiate peace process with India, epitomised by Agra Summit in 2001.
Jamal argues in chapter 7 that the failure of Agra Summit to lead to a peaceful resolution of conflicts between India and Pakistan rejoiced Islamic militants. Acquiring another lease of life, they attacked Red Fort and later that year on the Indian parliament, the very symbol of Indian sovereignty. In post 9/11 world, when Arab Islamic militancy under al-Qaeda came under an US-led international scrutiny, ISI tried to protect its jihadi networks in Pakistan and Kashmir by asking them to keep a low profile and camouflaging their organisational nomenclature. They were advised to drop names that smack of al-Qaeda -- Laskar, Jaish, and Sepah -- thereby allowing them to survive despite Musharraf's pronounced commitments to be a close American ally in international war on terror.
Extending the discussion of jihadi network further, the last chapter provides a substantiative account of ISI's official involvement in forming All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) in 1993 in a bid to give a political face to jihad. Tracking its career over a decade Jamal, with profound penetration, analyses its impact on aggravating the Kashmir conflict, while counting its failure to live up to its original mandate.
A net result of shadow war with Kashmir has meant that Pakistani military has trained nearly half a million insurgents as a matter of defence policy, who now pose a grave threat to the peace and security of Pakistan. The nexus of power and patronage that was built up over Kashmir jihad fuels the militancy on Pakistani soil and abroad.
Coupled with threats of increasing "Talibinization" that mar the democratic future of Pakistan, the infrastructure of Jihad factory can not be effectively dismantled without finding solutions to Kashmir conflict. Despite numerous attempts in continuing formal peace talks between India and Pakistan in the last five years, militant attacks continue to hinder progress towards a sustainable solution on Kashmir. Talks are effectively put on hold since 2008 after India accused the ISI and Pakistani authorities of being complicit in the Mumbai Attacks.
Through a thick description of jihadi network, Arif Jamal underscores the global implications of a regional conflict. He argues that global jihad is an off-shoot of Kashmir conflict. Without peaceful resolution of Kashmir conflict, the international terror networks cannot be uprooted. In the light of Jamal's book, Barack Obama's singular focus on battling Taliban in Afghanistan and their sympathisers in Pakistan inherited from Bush administration can prove to be disastrous policy oversight for Pakistan as well as the international community.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Published in The News on Sunday, March, 2009
Every art exhibition, which goes up in the city, leads to an afresh round of skirmishes between artists and critics. Much of it is fueled by the disagreement over how does art communicate. Some critics expect art to communicate to us instantly and directly, in a manner an essay or a newspaper article does. They assume it to be an act of communication comparable to an act of speech or writing. These expectation and assumptions reflect a conflation of two communication activities, which are anything but different. The point of the article is to identify the different nature of communication process at work: in words and in images.
Lets take written/verbal communication first. Every non-visual communication act, be it verbal or non-verbal, involves a mediumthrough which it carries a message and delivers it to areceiver in time and space. An act of writing or speech contains an argument. An argument carries a messageand delivers it to a receiver in a certain amount of time, through the medium of writing or speech. (A dense argument may take more time to deliver). Two things should happen, if a message is to be delivered effectively. The message should lose its utility once it has reached the receiver (otherwise it may involve the risk of non-communication). Second, different receivers should get the same message, if a proper communication is to occur. The present article, for instance, is an act of communication. It contains an argument (a message), expressed through writing (a medium) to be delivered to the readers (receiver) in a certain amount of time. Ideally speaking, in order for an effective communication to take place, the argument should be understood by all readers equally well, without leaving any room for conflicting interpretation. Moreover, once it has reached to the readers, this argument should run out its utility and may lead to another argument or counter argument. This is how we communication through words in daily lives.
An essential feature of an effective verbal or written communication is linearity. Ideally, a speech or writing act is linear and unfold over time in a straight line. It starts from a point A and moves along a unilinear progression (of ideas and concepts) to conclude at a point Z in time. It is because of the linear nature of intellectual activity that even an entire book of 1000 pages can be described in a series of schematic statements. The structure and character of written or speech communication act can now be contrasted with art or visual communication.
The prevailing confusion about what the art objects says lies precisely in the fact that it is not comparable to a speech or written act of communication. If we try to understand or read a work of art as an act of writing containing a specific message, we will end up in frustration. The reason lies less the fact that aesthetic communication leaves the sphere of rational discourse and enters into the realm of untheorised experience and feelings. The fabric of art is the province of subjective feelings, which lends itself to formulation through images. The art or aesthetic communication is an on-going process. It does not start or stop at definite points. It neither contains an essentialmessage intended by the artist, to be communicated to the spectator nor the message will be finished once the communication act is over. The great works of art never finish to communicate to the viewer. Theoretically speaking, a masterpiece should let you discover new meanings and message, every time you look at it. It is mainly because of the open-ended nature of the aesthetic communication that generation after generations can live off the aesthetic experiences of great works of arts, without losing their capacity to generate new messages.
Given these contrasting features of aesthetic communication and non-aesthetic communication, one can begin to understand the conflicting views held by artists and critics. The former tends to see their work, as a part of on-going aesthetic experience and later see it as a product of finished intellectual message. A ’structure of intelligent dialogue’ between critic and artist, can only be established, if the fundamental differences between the two communication acts are placed in their respective contexts. Other social explanations, including curbs on critical thinking in our society, of course, reinforce and split this divide further.