The Moral Complexities of Supporting the Armed Struggle in Kashmir

Source: Indian Express

Source: Indian Express

The mind of a modern, liberal, enlightened youth in Pakistan is boggled with the moral puzzle of the armed struggle in Kashmir. Should Pakistan stop backing the Jihad in Kashmir? Or should Pakistan provide support for the freedom movement in Kashmir? What a world of a difference do these words make.

In a world that is unforgivably anti-Jihad since 9/11, and very rightly so, backing Kashmiri Jihadi group sounds like a recipe for diplomatic suicide. This could possibly isolate Pakistan, cost valuable alliances with the West and jeopardize economic prosperity and trade partnerships in the future.

But suspending the lifeline of the Jihadi struggle in Kashmir also sounds like an unacceptable option to many, especially the Pakistani establishment. Other than their political designs, it would effectively mean that a Kashmiri would probably never be able to see the face of a military grade weapon again.

It would mean that all they would ever have to respond to the occupying force of way more than 500,000 strength military is sticks and stones. It would mean the death of the Kashmiri freedom struggle, which is somehow acknowledged as legitimate by people who condemn the Jihad in Kashmir at the same time. No other country in the world is going to come to support the supposedly peaceful Hurriyet leaders.

Which route is easier? Certainly the former. It would make Pakistan less unpopular and who knows India would grace us with a bilateral cricket series. It could improve Pakistan’s image as the state recovering from hiding Osama Ben Laden right next to its military academy. Why should a Pakistani go out of their way to help a Kashmiri anyway?

Alright, a lot of Kashmiris live in Pakistan. They are our next door neighbors, relatives by blood, friends, and colleagues. So what? Even the Pakistani Kashmiris apparently do not seem to be too bothered with what is going on across the Line of Control. Why do we need to replicate the misery of the Indian Kashmiris in our lives?

However, with every mutilated unarmed Kashmiri teenager, and every raped Kashmiri woman and wounded mother, something stirs the conscience of a nation that is notorious for ignoring everyday atrocities within its own borders. A nation which cherishes a law that is designed to make its religious minorities suffer in constant terror. All of a sudden morality becomes much more complex than sheer self-interest. Even though it should not. It does not make any sense.

So would a Pakistani support the armed struggle in Kashmir or not?

It’s a question with a rather simple answer. Either you do or you don’t. But if you do, then it’s important to embrace the cause and defend its moral grounds. There was a time when the Pakistani state used to openly embrace it. And since when have we stopped referring to Kashmiri militants as freedom fighters? But it was a different world. Still, hanging somewhere in the middle reminds the world of the policy Pakistan has been adopting from selectively targeting Taliban factions to continuing old partnerships with the likes of Ben Laden from the days of the Afghan Jihad and pretending that we are fighting terrorism. The Americans have moved on, but our security leadership has been having a very hard time.

Of course, it is perfectly legitimate to defend the Kashmiri armed struggle on moral grounds. Are the Kashmiri Jihadi freedom fighters terrorists just because they are Islamists? Does the secular character of a freedom struggle immediately makes the cause legitimate? Surely, you cannot expect the Kashmiri freedom movement to turn secular overnight, not that it would ever have any such intention. Is targeting soldiers, even if sleeping, an act of terrorism or an act of war? Especially when the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen is not exactly very friendly to the Indian State. But then there are Mumbai attacks, Parliament attacks, Hindu Pandits. Innocent lives. What to do?

With the exception of those who committed these atrocities, our intellectuals get played at the hands of the textbook Indian diplomatic rhetoric when they declare the Kashmiri freedom fighters terrorists. They end up endorsing foreign state propaganda in an effort to avoid the local one. Though they speak the truth in their own right. Pakistan has had enough of fighting other people’s wars and lying about it. Enough of freeing Afghans from the Soviets, or restoring Saudi custody of the Ka’aba, or sending pilots to fly Syrian planes or handing over bases to the United States. All for nothing but to make our generals richer, who, let’s face it, would have grown richer anyway. But we need to build our country. Who gives a damn anymore?

How do you harness an out of control Jihadi who is raised on hate? How do you expect that they would never hurt citizens? Does this effectively mean that supporting armed resistance in Kashmir is not any different to supporting and apologizing for terrorism? And India is surely justified in believing that any country that is supporting an armed movement in its borders is its enemy. Granted, but should Kashmiris be abandoned to their conditions of a whole state turned into almost an internment camp? Simply expressing solidarity will not get them anywhere.

India does not win the diplomatic battle for Kashmir out of any moral virtues or for having a clean human rights record, but simply because of the leverage it enjoys for being a sheer heavyweight. Anyone who does not recognize India as an emerging global power is sadly mistaken. At least, it’s the strongest military presence in the Asian continent after China, and not doing too bad in terms of economy either. So why pick a fight with India when we can avoid it?

But calling a Kashmiri freedom fighter a terrorist still is a resounding slap on the face of every Kashmiri who idiotically risks his life to needlessly wave a poorly sewn, incorrect Pakistani flag on some obscure building. It’s an insult to the desperate Kashmiri who shortens his misery by exposing himself to the pellets because he has to choose between a life of humiliation and a not-so-distant inevitable death. How is a Kashmiri to fight back? Does anyone bother answering this question? Are the Naxalites not fighting back?

The biggest moral problem is that if a Pakistani would not stand up for the plight of the Kashmiri, who else in the world will? Because the fellow countrymen of Kashmiris pretty much consider them expendable second class citizens and a distant border state with delicious produce and exotic vacation destinations. Still, it is a battle that would take anyone taking this road on a tough, treacherous ride.

It only takes a hypocritical Pakistani to realize the plight and it only takes a brainwashed Jihadi to fight this fight. And well, there is plenty of hypocrisy to go around. Neither our generals nor our Jihad backing secular liberals would have the gut to fight for anything, let alone Kashmir. So you can only count on Islamist fanatics. It’s just stupid.

Though as far as the right of an oppressed people’s armed struggle is concerned, it would be a betrayal of history not to recognize it. Just pray that you are not in their way. And the inherent, incurable hypocrisy of Pakistanis should not sabotage this right of the battered citizens of Kashmiris.

Let it be the humiliated Yazidis, the frustrated Palestinians, the courageous Kurds or the brutalized Balochs, it is almost insensitive to ask them to become Gandhi at the face of continual aggression. Walk up to the gas chambers in obedience. However, how they make their point tells a lot about a people. You would be judged differently when you blow up a civilian building instead of retaliating against an army camp.

Every liberty seeking individual should welcome India’s new stance to support the freedom movement in Baluchistan, even though more out of animosity with Pakistan than the love for the Baloch, and should welcome them to the club of “terrorist states” or “backers of terrorism.” Just like the United States and allies are backing the Syrian rebel army to overthrow the despotic Assad regime. Just like the British backed the Arabs to bring the Ottoman Empire down to its knees. Perhaps Pakistan’s role in Kashmir is not too odd after all.

Sometimes, you have no choice but to be a “backer of terrorists” to fight oppressive tyrants.

You get no extra bonus points for turning the other cheek anyway. All it does is get you crucified.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.
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The Libertarian Case for the Baloch Resistance

Source: balochistanpoint.com

Source: balochistanpoint.com

No resistance movement is popular in the State against which it is initiated. The Baloch resistance to Pakistan is not any different.

But do they have the right to resist the tyranny of the State and struggle for freedom? And does that also extend that right to the Taliban? It is illegal, but arguably, yes.

This pertains to their fundamental rights, which should be covered by the Constitution, even if they are not currently.

The resistance movement would prove very sound from a Libertarian viewpoint as well, but from the standpoint of the defending State, it would be rightful to enforce law and order and curb it. So in terms of warfare, it is a violence for violence battle. But what is the limit?

While there is little doubt about the Baloch right for the secession, what should the State do to win the hearts and minds of the Baloch people?

Should the State continue to rule a people like a colony, as an alien ruling class, or should it start allotting more aid to the province? Should the State take measures to free the local people from the tyranny of local Baloch nobles and feudals or would that be the tyrannical intervention of the Federation on one of its independent units or States?

How should a civil war be treated? Is it justified to use violence, or any means possible, to preserve the Union?

There are arguments on both sides, but the dissidents are arguing beyond Pakistani nationalistic fervor here. Their opinion may not necessarily be liberal, but would reach out to the violated individual liberty of the freedom fighter.

The Libertarian case for the Baloch resistance would be the recognition of their right to bear arms and engage in an armed struggle against an oppressor. It would be the recognition of their right to life and liberty and protection from any unwarranted searches, detention and unlawful killing. It would be the recognition of their right to free speech for expressing dissenting views against the State and rejecting the Constitution.

This is where the Pakistani state law enforcement and military agencies are making a big mistake.

Pakistani agencies are allegedly detaining Baloch citizens on the suspicion to be a part of the treasonous resistance, which is both illegal and unconstitutional. An extrajudicial killing after torture would be even worse.

Now there would be a lot of Pakistani nationalist friends who would defend this act, which is supporting the idea of curbing the resistance by all means necessary.

But if this sort of behavior were to be given legal approval, then the State could detain any citizen for any given cause, without warrant. If it does not alarm a citizen, then they need to be more aware of the excesses of the government that could threaten their liberty.

I am not saying that the State has no right to curb an uprising by force and to enforce law and order. What it cannot do is to alienate its own people. So while it is curbing an uprising, it is up to the State how it treats its own people.

But above all, it is the responsibility of the State to not violate the liberty of an individual based on suspicion, instead of a legal warrant based on reasonable doubt.

This is not how a democratic republic should curb an uprising. Of course, a military dictator or monarch could use any means at their disposal, but surely that would be the wrong way of doing things. In another words, not the democratic way.

Now arguably all the rights for the Baloch resistance also apply to the Taliban. Which is true, like it or not. So let it be the Baloch cause or the Taliban, the liberty of the individual citizen must not be violated.

Surely, it would be outrageous for some for me to mention both of the different resistance movements together, considering the different morality of their ideologies. But then again, morality of ideologies is relative.

Of course, all that makes Baloch cause any better to that of Taliban is that the latter is fighting to enforce the authoritarian Islamism on an unwilling population. While others could have the same distaste for the Baloch resistance if it were Socialistic or Anarchic in nature.

While you could talk about just about any resistance movement regardless of the ideology or cause, there is a reason to present the case of the Baloch resistance. At least in the context of Pakistan. At least when we have inspirational people like Mama Qadeer marching all the way from Quetta to Islamabad to make this point.

The Baluch people have allegedly seen brutal assaults from the State elements and have had their liberty violated.

This is the perfect way to make enemies of already dissenting and defecting citizens.

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Disclaimer: The post does not reflect my support of or opposition to any of the resistance movements anywhere.

The Destruction of Ziarat Residency and Rational Criticism

Source: AP/Express Tribune

Source: AP/Express Tribune

It takes the simplest of incidents to illustrate the most obnoxious behaviors and opinions. There could not have been a better one than the destruction of the Ziarat Residency at the hands of the Baluchistan Liberation Army.

I have used the words of rational criticism in the title, because this post would mainly address the otherwise rational critics who think that the loss of Ziarat residency is some kind of a heroic act, or perhaps one that must not be condemned because some people are not condemning worse incidents, such as loss of human lives, since people in our country are always so concerned about who is condemning and not condemning something.

A lot of interesting comments about the destruction of Ziarat Residency have been appearing. The likes of, people are worried about that building and not worried about the deaths of the Balochs. People are worried about a colonial building in which Mr. Jinnah was held under “house arrest”. Why the hell are you upset about a destroyed building. There is no mention of the other terrorist attack killing college going girls in Quetta.

First of all, it is unfortunate that political ideology prevents people from seeing things the way they are. This is why I am sickened by jingoistic ideologues on both sides of the fence as far as the matter of the Ziarat Residency attack is concerned, that is, the Pakistani nationalists and anti-Pakistan nationalists.

To me, this is not a matter of patriotism at all, unlike most Pakistanis. But I must observe that the stance of anti-Pakistan nationalists defending the destruction of the Ziarat Residency is ridiculous when compared to that of their counterparts.

The prime logical fallacy in their arguments is that they think that one wrong act should be ignored just because other greater evils are taking place or, in other words, the appeal to worse problems. This deserves a round of applause.

I personally see the Ziarat Residency as a historical colonial building that stood there way before Mr. Jinnah ever set foot in it and before his belongings were ever placed there. And its destruction is an irreparable and irreversible loss.

The point is that Ziarat Residency is just a building, and that too, a historical one. So what if it is colonial? And so what if Mr. Jinnah stayed here during his last days?

The general secretary, that is the mouthpiece, of the Baluchistan based Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Akram Shah made a statement that the Ziarat Residency is nothing more than a colonial structure and a symbol of slavery.

You know what, I agree with him. But the impression that Mr. Shah is trying to create over here is that the loss of Ziarat Residency does not matter.

Now isn’t that charming? I have a huge list of symbols of slavery all over India and the world to be burned down for that matter. Because such structures are so evil that the world would be a better place without them.

My problem with his statement is not that he rejects the connection of the building with the Pakistani national heritage and Jinnah, unlike most Pakistanis, but that he thinks that the loss of a colonial structure does not matter at all. Instead of apologizing the failure of his coalition government’s failure to save this historical landmark, he is offering excuses for the attack.

So the historical heritage of the building makes it important, whether or not it had anything to do with Mr. Jinnah or anyone else. And even if it was about Jinnah, so what? Have the citizens of Mumbai destroyed Jinnah’s residence, Jinnah House, at Malabar Hill? No. Can’t figure it out? Because they are apparently not stupid.

Historical structures, whether secular or religious, are important because these are not only important landmarks and sources of wonder and inspiration for generations, but also a record of human civilization. Therefore, to me, the destruction of the Bamyan Buddha statues is as painful an incident as the looting of the Baghdad National Museum, or the damage to the heritage structures in Aleppo, Syria, or the rioting inside the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo or even the destruction of the Ziarat Residency.

And destruction of such structures in troubled states where people are dying only adds insult to injury. It would not offer any solace to the mourning.

I detest people justifying these stupid acts in the name of politics, religion and freedom.

Ziarat Residency Before Destruction  Source: Express Tribune

Ziarat Residency Before Destruction
Source: Express Tribune

The Baluchistan Liberation Army destroying this building is certainly a sign of defiance of the state. It’s probably good for them as a statement, but it really proves their stupidity to me, now that they are targeting historic landmarks of Baluchistan instead of focusing attacks on the Pakistani military. So this is what it has come down to? For a neutral observer, this rather unnecessary act of terrorism damages the image of their campaign.

Indeed, I am guilty over here of claiming to have a more superior opinion to my critics in this post, but not a moral or a righteous one please, just objective and common sense. I am prepared to be declared an immoral man for holding this opinion. Because it is the people I am criticizing who bring morality into it, not me.

I am least concerned with the jingoistic political morality surrounding this incident, which is just another case of criminal arson. The loss of a historical structure is the loss of the entire humanity, not a loss of any particular people or state.

The argument over here is not left versus right, Pakistani colonial rule versus liberation fighters and state nationalists versus ethnic nationalists. The argument over here is common sense versus nonsense.

For those considering  the destruction of Ziarat Residency a heroic act, this post is not an apology for ambiguous ideals such as Pakistani nationalism and patriotism. It is just to explain why you are stupid.