“This high-profile arrest has provided a rare opportunity to Pakistan to turn and counter the Indian propaganda tide. India’s state-sponsored terrorism should be presented in its historical context – starting from its illegal occupation and oppression of the Himalayan region of Kashmir and direct involvement in the tragic events of the former East Pakistan in 1970-71. All these decades, India continues to support and sponsor terrorism in one form or the other in various parts of Pakistan. Yes, Yadav and likes him have been igniting violence and terrorism for a long time”.
“New Delhi has already officially acknowledged that Yadav was linked to its armed forces, though it claims that he was an ex- Indian Navy officer and has nothing to do with the RAW. The Indian story of feigning ignorance about the reason of Yadav’s presence in Pakistan does not hold ground in the wake of its demand of counselor access to him”.
The recent arrest of an Indian Research & Analysis Wing’s (RAW) agent from Balochistan reminded me of an insightful discussion I had with the late veteran Baloch nationalist leader Abdul Razik Bugti on January 20, 2005.
“The 1970s Balochistan insurgency was leftwing-inspired, which had foreign connections,” Bugti said on that cold, quiet evening in Quetta when asked to explain the difference between the guerrilla fighters of yesteryears and of today. “The current wave of militancy is narrow nationalist and mainly driven by foreign sponsors.”
Bugti – a middle class politician – knew the inside-out of the Baloch nationalist movement. He became part of it in the early 1970s as a young, idealistic youngster and suffered torture, jail and many years exile in Afghanistan because of his political beliefs. On return to Pakistan in 1988, Bugti joined the mainstream politics and emerged as a powerful critic of the oppressive tribal system, highlighting the rights of the downtrodden and the oppressed.
“The militants of 1970s usually fought with old, outdated or crude weapons and almost without money. Yet, their outlook was broad and they weren’t narrow-minded nationalists. Many non-Baloch Marxists were part of that insurgency, which had pockets in almost all the ethnic groups of Pakistan,” said Bugti, who at the time of this interview was the spokesperson of Balochistan provincial government.
“But the narrow-nationalist militants of today are a different breed,” he said. “Their agenda is sabotage for the sake of sabotage at the behest of handful of tribal chiefs and their foreign sponsors. They have no dearth of money and modern weapons and are paid monthly salaries often in foreign currency…. They even have carpets and (power) generators in their camps – a thing unheard of in any guerrilla struggle.”
theuglythe.jpgThose were the times when the then military-led government of President Pervez Musharraf had been moving full-steam for the completion of Gwadar Port and had allocated massive development funds for Balochistan – Pakistan’s largest but most under developed province. It was also the time when many regional and international players resumed efforts to destabilize Balochistan with the help of a few disgruntled tribal chiefs, who always saw education, development and progress working against their vested interests.
These foreign-sponsored insurgents initially targeted security forces, government installations, power supply grid and the natural gas installations in a sporadic manner. But soon they upped the ante and tried to take out the high-value targets. A crucial blow came when three Chinese engineers, working on Gwadar Port, were killed in a bomb explosion in May 2004.
By early 2005, militants were firing rockets at Pakistan’s largest Sui Gas Field on almost a daily basis. They also slammed rockets at nearby smaller gas fields and tried to destroy the natural gas pipelines and wellheads by detonating explosives. Dera Bugti District and its nearby Mari area became the most volatile parts of the province that finally led to a sustained operation against insurgents for the restoration of peace and order in the province.
Bugti had been challenging powerful tribal chiefs, including Nawab Akbar Bugti and Nawab Kheir Bux Marri, since he returned to Pakistan. He also supported the military action against foreign-sponsored insurgents, saying that only development could weaken the “oppressive tribal system and help modernize the society.”
No wonder that this passionate critic of the archaic tribal system and opponent of narrow-nationalism was martyred by terrorists on July 27, 2007 – barely 200 metres from the Chief Minister’s House in Quetta. The tribal chief-dominated Balochistan Assembly – unofficially called the House of Lords because of the dominance of chieftains – refused to offer condolence prayers for Bugti, who despite being in the government, was never accepted by the provincial ruling elite because he belonged to the middle class. However, Bugti’s analysis still hits the bull’s eyes nearly a decade after his assassination, which was claimed by the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA).
Since 2005, the foreign-sponsored acts of terrorism remain part-and-parcel of the security challenge emitting from Balochistan. The Afghan territory is increasingly being used by all shades of militants – from religious extremists, including the so-called Pakistani Taliban and Al-Qaeda and its foreign and local affiliates, to the secular anti-Pakistan nationalist element.
While many foreign countries sponsor proxies and small shadowy terror groups, the Indian footprint remains the strongest among them. According to the Pakistani security agencies, two Indian consulates – Kandahar and Jalalabad – are working overtime to foment violence and instability in Pakistan. A section in the Afghan government – especially during the days of former Afghan president Hamid Karzai – facilitated Indian intelligence and also directly harboured anti-Pakistan terrorist groups. This practice continues even now.
After the surge of terrorism in Balochistan in the last decade or so, our security forces have successfully contained the situation in recent years. But when the epicenter of terrorism and militancy remains across the Pak-Afghan border and is financed, fomented and sponsored by India, it remains a challenging task to root-out this monster for good.
Therefore, the arrest of Kulbhushan Yadav, an in-service officer of the Indian Navy and a RAW agent, should not come as a surprise. The Indians have a long history of sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan and disclosures made by the Indian agent – whose arrest was disclosed on March 24 – only proves what our security forces have been saying for years. Yadav wasn’t just on an espionage mission but orchestrating terror activities through proxies in the nationalist, ethnic and sectarian terror networks operating in Balochistan and Karachi.
His arrest is a huge success for Pakistan, which despite being the victim of terrorism from across the border, is being accused by India of fomenting violence. In fact, India exploited the post 9/11 war on terrorism though an organized propaganda campaign as it attempted to sideline the core disputes between the two countries, including the thorny Jammu & Kashmir conflict, and to give centrality to the issue of terrorism in a skewed manner.
India, while accusing Pakistani non-state actors for the alleged terrorist activities on its soil, is trying to isolate Pakistan internationally. The hardline Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi only escalated these efforts as it attempts to mislead and rally Washington and other important international players against Pakistan.
In contrast to the aggressive Indian propaganda, Pakistan so far has not been able to effectively present its case before the international community that focuses on the price which it paid fighting the homegrown extremists and terrorists on the one hand and those sponsored by neighbouring countries – especially India – on the other.
Will the arrest of RAW’s terror mastermind Yadav help Pakistan to change this perception and put things in their correct context? This is a simple but crucial question for the Pakistani authorities.
According to Sarfraz Bugti, interior Minister of Balochistan government, Pakistan’s stance regarding Indian-sponsored terrorism has been “vindicated.” “Indian intelligence has been involved in destabilising our country using Balochistan’s soil and luring Baloch fighters and fuelling sectarian violence,” he told reporters in Quetta while disclosing Yadav’s arrest.
Few days later, Director General ISPR Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa showed the world the on-camera confessional statement of the Indian agent in which he presented details about the role of India in fomenting violence and terrorism in Pakistan.
New Delhi has already officially acknowledged that Yadav was linked to its armed forces, though it claims that he was an ex- Indian Navy officer and has nothing to do with the RAW. The Indian story of feigning ignorance about the reason of Yadav’s presence in Pakistan does not hold ground in the wake of its demand of counsellor access to him.
The Indian Express in its March 27th issue quoted an anonymous Indian diplomat as saying that “this is, by far, the most high-ranking official – even if he retired some years ago – who has been arrested on Pakistani soil, that too in Balochistan.” Many Indian diplomats expressed surprise as why India in the first place acknowledged that Yadav had any connection with the Indian armed forces. The paper further said that “whenever Pakistan has raised the issue of Indian involvement in subversive activities in Balochistan, India denied it. The only time it found a mention in the official documents was in the Sharm-el-Sheikh joint statement of July 2009.”
The Sharm-el-Sheikh statement – issued after the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with PM Yousaf Raza Gilani – only mentioned that “Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas.”
New Delhi has moved briskly to block any information about Yadav and his family from being reported in the press. The road outside Silver Oak building in upmarket Powai, Mumbai – where Yadav’s family lives – thronged with people including reporters and curious onlookers once the reports of his arrest hit headlines, Indian media says. However, his family members and neighbours have strictly been told not to talk to the press.
Does the world need any bigger proof of India’s state sponsored terrorism?
This high-profile arrest has provided a rare opportunity to Pakistan to turn and counter the Indian propaganda tide. India’s state-sponsored terrorism should be presented in its historical context – starting from its illegal occupation and oppression of the Himalayan region of Kashmir and direct involvement in the tragic events of the former East Pakistan in 1970-71. All these decades, India continues to support and sponsor terrorism in one form or the other in various parts of Pakistan. Yes, Yadav and likes him have been igniting violence and terrorism for a long time. However, through deceit, guise and lies, Indians have been almost successful to make the world believe of their peaceful intentions.
The Pakistani leadership must use each and every world forum to tell the Pakistani side of story objectively and forcefully. It should not allow opportunities to slip by as happened a number of times in the recent past both on the bilateral and multilateral forums. Even the three dossiers submitted at the office of the UN Secretary General on India’s state terrorism in October 2015 proved a whimper due to the mishandling in their presentation and lack of follow-up. This should not happen with Yadav’s case.
Washington and the other western powers – which are only pressurizing Pakistan to do more to combat terrorism, ignoring the ground realities by design or default – must also take into account the role of India in complicating the situation both for Pakistan and the entire region by supporting terror networks. India’s plans to establish its hegemony by destabilizing neighbours are a bad news for world peace in this nuclear-armed region. The world powers must act to rein in India and its mad lust for dominance. India’s huge economic market must not be the only criteria for defining relations in South Asia.
But while we can try to draw attention towards India’s state-sponsored terrorism internationally, the bigger and important task is how well Pakistan is prepared in dealing with the direct or indirect Indian threat? Our Armed Forces need all the support from our civilian leadership, media, academia and intellectuals to counter both the internal and external challenges faced by Pakistan.
The writer is an eminent journalist who regularly contributes for print and electronic media.
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