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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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Abortive attacks on Ayodhya temple by terrorists belonging to Lashkar-e-toiba group have been followed by another suicide bomber attack in Srinagar killing six soldiers and injuring fifteen others. These terrorist outrages clearly indicate that Pakistan has even now kept the option of terrorism open. Earlier, the Defence Minister had categorically stated that incidents of infiltration across the border in Jammu and Kashmir are again rising, and the terrorist infrastructure across the LOC also remains intact. According to a report (Published in Herald) training of the terrorists in training camps at Mansera in Pakistan is going on in full tilt. The major militant organisations, like Hizbul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and others have regrouped themselves, and are raring for action.

Indeed, terrorism continues to lurk in the shadows. During his visit to India in May, 2005, President Musharraf was clearly told how Intelligence Agencies, just a few days before his visit, had foiled a series of planned terrorists attacks on the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, RSS Headquarters at Nagpur and an Infotech firm in Bangalore. Such terrorist operations, if successful, would have had disastrous consequences on Indo-Pak peace processes. This point has also been clearly stressed by the Indian Prime Minster. Though the joint statement issued by the Indian Prime Minister and Pakistan President mentioned that, “Peace process is irreversible” and terrorism will not be allowed to “impede the peace process”, recent signs are not at all very encouraging.

The Joint Declaration and President Musharraf’s diplomacy in India has been pilloried by many in Pakistan as simply capitulation. Many in Pakistan fear that India was seeking to enmesh Pakistan in a spider’s web of minor accords without tackling the central dispute in Kashmir. Columnist, Ayaz Amir writing in Dawn said, “Musharraf has done a Mini Munich in Delhi, effectively agreeing to an Indian position on key issues and getting bland words and good intentions in return”. Aijaz Afzal, the head of Jamat-e-Islami in POK, was no less minatory. He said that Musharraf plans to finish the “National Kashmir Policy”. General Hamid Gul, also declared that the Army has kept Kashmir issue alive to achieve self determination for the people of Kashmir and now an Army ruler has ignored the sacrifices of the Pakistani Army and the Kashmiri people.

This brings to the fore the approach and thinking of Pakistan Army on the issue of Kashmir and peace processes with India. This is of crucial relevance because Musharraf’s real constituency is Army high command, which puts its own institutional interests above anything else. In his classic account of Pakistan’s Army American academic Stephen Philip Cohen (Pakistan’s Army) has identified three generations of officers. First, there was the British generation when Pakistan’s Army was set up. Its men were all products of British and Indian Army. Senior Army officers traditionally came from loyal westernized families, and for the most part, did not hold strong religious views. But after the Second World War when Britain was not in a position to provide the type of aid young Pakistan Army badly needed, General Ayub Khan looked to the United States for support. This spawned American generation of officers who had secular attitudes and unIslamic lifestyle. But after the 1971 defeat in Bangladesh the rakish American generation of officers were discarded and replaced by a third generation of officers described as Zia generation. General Zia’s Islamization campaign affected both Pakistani society and Army.
Zia tried to build a more puritanical and devout Army and allowed some religious groups like Tabligh-e-Jamat, to become active in the Army. He was also the first Army Chief to attend the annual conventions of this group. Zia wanted religion to be integrated into the syllabus of the staff Collage and encouraged the study of Islam’s teachings regarding the conduct of war. Young men joining the Army now are basically conservative in their views, hostile to western ideas, and more receptive to religious influence. Though Stephen Cohen argues that Pakistan Army is unlikely to become Islamic, there are indications that religious and fundamental elements within the Army are gaining ascendancy. One of the compelling reasons for believing that Army is getting increasingly radicalized is the ever-closer relationship between the military and the jihadi groups. It is just not a one-way street, Pakistani soldiers aiding and training jihadi groups are also influenced by their experience. The radical Islamic sentiments of Pakistani soldiers can be seen reflected in the Tanzeemul Ikhwan movement. Based in a madrassa, 90 miles from Islamabad, the organisation is made up of retired Pakistan Army personnel. The supreme leader of the movement, Mohammed Akram Awan campaigns for radical Islamic reforms within Pakistan and enjoys the loyalty of many Army officers and soldiers. In December 2000 he threatened to storm Islamabad so as to bring about an Islamic revolution.

Army believes that it is Pakistan’s guardian and will remain its most important institution for years to come. It alone has the professional capabilities to handle national security and interests and so Pakistan is likely to remain under some form of military regime for many years. Army still continues to view India as a threat and its policy towards India is not likely to change soon. Opposition to India and obsession with Kashmir goes at the heart of official identity of Pakistan as promulgated by the Army for about 50 years. It is doubtful if the Army can be induced or pressured to change this policy easily. Pakistani officers no longer boast that one Muslim is worth five or ten Hindus. But the dominant view is that Pakistan can continue to harass “soft India”. With nuclear arms and missiles and a tough army Islamabad can withstand considerable Indian pressure. The former US Ambassador in India Blackwill, has said that Pakistan has not yet made a strategic shift from its long-time policy of territorial acquisition and cross-border terrorism.

Entente cordiale between the Army and the radical Islamic groups continues. Musharraf who had earlier pledged, and now again reiterates, that he will eradicate religious extremism and sectarianism and transform Pakistan into a moderate Muslim state has done the opposite in the interest of retaining power. Even with mild pressure he beats a retreat. His one-step-forward and one-step-backward approach to educational reforms and civil rights has allowed conservative Islamic groups to spread further their tentacles. The International Crisis Group has listed an exponential increase of Madrassas and Mullahs in Pakistan. This lack of resolve comes from the Army’s decision to keep all options open in Kashmir, as the Army may need the help of its former allies again.

During my recent visit to Srinagar some perceptive security and law enforcement officers during interactions expressed the view that though at present Pakistan will not be able in view of international scrutiny and pressure to encourage brazenly cross-border terrorism, it has not, however, discarded its goal of wresting Kashmir for Pakistan. Once India gets committed to an open border between the two halves of Kashmir, Pakistan is likely foment some sort of Intifada movement in Kashmir demanding autonomy and whip up mass frenzy. Pakistani networks in the valley will stir up agitation and capacity of Kashmir government to tackle that type of massive agitations with religious overtones remains in doubt.

Some of the American policy-makers including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, are of the view that hard-liners in Pakistan Army and ISI are fomenting cross-border terrorism and indulging in sub-rosa activities without Musharraf’s knowledge. During his visit to India, Musharraf also acknowledged that, Pakistan is not in full control of these terrorist groups and pledged to fight terrorism together. This however needs to be tested and verified. India should not lower its guard and become complacent.

- Sankar Sen, IPS (Retd.)
Former Director General, National Human Rights Commission
Former Director, National Police Academy
Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences

The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

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