State of the Global
Last September, President George W. Bush declared in no uncertain terms the start of a new global anti-terror campaign. He proclaimed that any nation harboring terrorists would be in peril as part of the campaign. The “you are with us or against us” phrase is memorable from last fall.
It is now seven months hence, and time to check on the state of the anti-terror war. On the face of it, the war has been a resounding success. The Al Qaida is on the run, its Taliban hosts are in hiding, and an internationally approved government is at the helm in Afghanistan. The Al Qaida has been unable to launch any major attacks against US interests since last fall.
However, three articles in this issue of the Kashmir Herald point to a different prognosis. An article by Lalit Koul discusses the fate and prospects of the 400,000 Kashmiri Pandit refugees who were the original victims of the same Islamic fundamentalism menace that later evolved into the Al Qaida. These refugees continue to live in squalid camps, unable to move back to their homeland for fear of terrorist attacks. In fact children of Kashmiri Pandits around the world ask their parents why they cannot go back and visit their ancestral homes.
What can President Bush tell these children? That his global war against terror doesn’t include the Pakistani assault on Jammu and Kashmir? That his terror war is selective, thus people like Yasser Arafat and Pervez Musharraf can be exceptions to the US definition of terrorist hosts, as long as they fall in with the CIA? That thousands of Al Qaida operating from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir will continue to infiltrate into these children’s ancestral homeland and create havoc and undermine return to peace and stability, but the President will look the other way?
An article by Sreeram Chaulia in the current issue brings the farce of the “referendum” by General Musharraf into focus. The so-called referendum is being conducted with politicians and news media forced to fall into line, or else. Rules were changed till the last moment to ensure a positive outcome. Reports of government workers stamping “yes” for Musharraf provide further clues to the validity of the referendum.
How does the farcical self-anointment of a military general for five years aid the global anti-terror campaign? Apparently the Bush administration believes so. The third article, by Subodh Atal, which discusses the new strategic relationship between the US and Pakistan, provides insight into the US thinking. The US acquiescence for bastardization of democracy in Pakistan is a quid pro quo for Pakistan’s help in capturing a few Al Qaida here and a few Al Qaida there.
This mindset is no different from that observed in the Clinton administration, which for eight years ignored what Pakistan was doing on its eastern borders and that as long as the terrorism was directed against another people, it was not terrorism. The result was September 11. The same standard is being applied today, with Pakistan providing spotty cooperation on its western borders with the US, and in return being allowed to continue its 13-year old campaign of terrorism against Kashmir.
This selective definition of terrorism, apart from morally undermining President Bush’s anti-terror campaign, also has a more concrete effect long term. The terrorists, who are denying the right of Kashmiri Pandits to return and live peacefully in their homeland, belong to the same school of thought from which the September 11 hijackers graduated. It is only a matter of time before they turn their attentions back westwards.
US soldier involved in the recent skirmishes in Afghanistan was recently quoted to have said that he hoped the coming battle with Al Qaida in eastern Afghanistan and border areas of Pakistan would "the last big battle". For those more familiar with the ISI's shenanigans and with a much longer and closer experience with the effects of Islamic fundamentalism, it is evident that both the soldier and his commander-in-chief are counting their chickens too soon.