Though he has not said anything that reveals new information, former president Pervez Musharraf’s ‘confession’ in an interview with a leading German news magazine that Pakistan had trained militants to fight in Kashmir is the first admission to this policy by someone who has been head of state. It is also a reflection of the prevailing mindset of the ‘establishment’ in Pakistan that Musharraf has largely defended the training, to which he says the government turned a blind eye because the world had neglected the Kashmir issue. The use of militants was intended to keep pressure up on India to put Kashmir on the negotiating table. There must be some doubt as to whether the tactic has had greater effect on pressurising India, or, like a boomerang, turning back to add to that which Pakistan itself faces. The accusation that Islamabad has endorsed terror has rung around the world for a very long time. The candid words from Musharraf will add to this and come as an embarrassment for those now running affairs.
But what the interview also highlights is that we cannot, without tackling Kashmir, really hope to address the issue of terrorism. The unresolved dispute has led to the growth of militancy in the area. Assistance from Pakistan has built on the anger that exists amongst Kashmiris and other forces who back their cause. It has not created this anger. To undo militancy the rage in Kashmir needs to be eased, and solutions found to settle the dispute. It seems likely third party mediation will be required. But New Delhi, Islamabad and the world need to be persuaded that a realistic settlement is vital as a means to make the world a safer place. Compromise formulae have been put forward in the past to move towards a realistic settlement to a dispute which, as Pervez Musharraf’s latest interview highlights, played a huge part in spurring on militancy and violence which has now emerged as a huge threat to stability and peace.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2010.
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