How General Zia’s search for Jammu and Kashmir became the fodder for jihad in Afghanistan

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General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq | Unknown photographer. Disseminated by the Office of the President (Islamabad, Pakistan)., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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P.Akistan’s Cabinet Secretary issued a circular on June 6, 1988 stating, “Although Azad Kashmir is not part of Pakistan under Article 1.2 (d) of the Constitution, for practical reasons it should be treated like any other province in the Federation.” Although it appeared to be a routine announcement about the distribution of work, it contained an important message. PoK should be treated like any other province of Pakistan in terms of control of Islamabad while maintaining the legal fiction that it was a separate territory awaiting a referendum. Of course, this wasn’t the first time it had happened. It should be recalled that Ghulam Ishaq Khan, as cabinet secretary, had issued a similar circular in 1971. The granting of an interim constitution for the territory in 1974 had not changed the realities on the ground.

Zia’s reaction to Siachen was subdued. Brian Cloughley noted in his book A History of the Pakistan Army that “Zia was concerned about his soldiers in the north given the harsh conditions in the region.” “Zia expressed her regret at the futility of the operations in Siachen.” Pakistan has the advantage that it has shorter communication routes to Siachen. Cloughley, who was at Zia’s guest in September 1985, asked him about the solution to the whole Kashmir problem: “What, he was asked if India were offered to have the control line declared an international border? … No, said Zia. He had a political problem with the Kashmiris anyway and didn’t want a riot, as it surely would happen if they thought he was dealing with India behind their backs. ‘

Zia hardly cared about the sensitivity of the PoK people. For much of his rule, there was no elected government on the territory. He wanted to keep the option open to revise the territorial status quo in Kashmir.


Also read: In Pakistan, Gen Zia-ul-Haq’s admirers are growing. They greet him as Shaheed


While Pakistan denied freedom and democracy to the people of PoK, Azadi wanted to promote it in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Amanullah Khan, who had returned to Pakistan from Great Britain, set up the headquarters of his organization JKLF in Muzaffarabad in 1984. This would not have been possible without the support of the authorities in an area where even normal political activity was not allowed.

Pakistan used JKLF to launch a campaign of terror in J&K when the war in Afghanistan ended. The aim was to exploit alleged irregularities in the 1987 elections in the former state. This was ironic as Pakistan did not hold any elections in the PoK for over two decades until 1970. The PoK remained without an elected government for eight years from 1977 to 1985. The Muslim Conference did not participate in the 1975 elections and the PPPAK did not participate in the 1985 elections. The JKLF was never allowed to take part in elections in PoK. But Pakistan managed to hijack Azadi’s story in the international media and in the Kashmir Valley.

General Zia promoted Nizam-e-Mustafa in Pakistan. As mentioned earlier, this continued to move the country towards a theocratic state. Madrasas, which provided cheap cannon fodder for jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir, skyrocketed. According to a report by the International Crisis Group: “When Pakistan gained independence in 1947, there were only 137 madrasas. There was moderate growth until Ayub’s period … The pace slowed [Z.A.] Bhutto and 852 were added by 1979. ‘ Zia only added 151 new madrasas by 1982. “During the next six years, as the Afghan jihad gained traction, 1,000 more were opened.” In 2002, when the ICG report was released, Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs, Dr. Mahmood Ahmed Ghazi, the number to 10,000. There were “up to a million to 1.7 million students who took classes for at least a short time.”

Madrasas have contributed more to the radicalization and spread of extremist philosophy than any other aspect of the Islamization of the Pakistani state. Pakistan’s former Foreign Minister Riaz Mohammad Khan writes: “The curricula of almost all madrasas are strictly religious and in some ways more orthodox and rudimentary than the standard introduced at Deoband more than a century ago.”


Also read: 30 years later, the extremist, military legacy of Zia ul-Haq lives in Pakistan


The graduates of the madrasas “do not have the qualifications to fit into the economic and development sector”. He adds, “Every year dozens of young men across the country have graduated from madrasas. Aside from nourishing the ranks of the Taliban and other militant groups, this phenomenon only increased sectarian divisions in the country. ‘

Zia’s emphasis on religion has had a lasting impact on Pakistani society and constitution, and has further reduced the political space for Kashmiris. Militancy in Kashmir is attributed to alleged electoral irregularities in the 1987 elections. Under Zia there were no elections in the PoK for eight years. When it took place in 1985, it boycotted the main opposition party, the PPP. The JKLF, which stirred up trouble in J&K on behalf of Azadi, was not allowed to participate in this or subsequent elections. Numerous tanzeems, or groups formed during the time to combat jihad in Afghanistan, have been used in J&K.

Zia’s legacy has haunted Pakistan in terms of sectarian clashes. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is seen as a threat to Pakistani civil society and government. But they are only trying to do in Pakistan what Pakistan has promoted in Afghanistan. The spread of radical philosophies has also undermined the Sufi tradition of Islam in J&K. Interestingly, Zia did not have to use martial law powers to dismiss the PoK president. He used Article 56 of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Interim Constitution Act, 1974 to dismiss Sardar Ibrahim Khan. Bhutto had created a perfect control instrument for Islamabad. The interim constitution was never intended to protect the rights and freedom of the people in the territory.

This excerpt from “Forgotten Kashmir: The Other Side of the Line of Control” by Dinkar P. Srivastava was published with permission from HarperCollins Publishers India.

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