After Pathankot

Published January 10, 2016
The writer is a member of staff.
The writer is a member of staff.

RIGHT. The bright side first. At least nobody’s pretending this didn’t originate in Pakistan. It’s all about actionable intelligence and resolve and whatnot. But it isn’t about denial.

That’s a kind of progress. Remember when Mumbai happened? False flag! Kasab was an Indian, and a Hindu to boot. It’s impossible for a bunch of armed men to get in a boat and sail to Mumbai. More Indian lies!

This time it’s been different. Sure, there was the usual derisiveness when Pathankot began. The smarty-pants logic was quickly trotted out: how can the Indians already know who did it when they weren’t even able to figure it was about to happen?

After all, every good citizen loves a good jihadi. New friends could be regaled with wondrous stories in the corner teashop at night.

But the pantomime seemed half-hearted. If it looks like it’s from Pakistan and sounds like it’s from Pakistan, then it’s probably from Pakistan. The powers-that-be haven’t been keen to push a different story or line of denial.

Pathankot originated here and talk has quickly turned to what we’re going to do about it. It is a kind of progress. Same goes for the other side.

Go over it again. Some chaps hopped across the international border — the international border! — and waged war on a full-fledged Indian military base and India hasn’t threatened to wage war on us.

Instead, Indians are beating up on their government for its incompetence in killing off the attack. And still the Indian government — this Indian government! — hasn’t tried to deflect attention by beating up on Pakistan.

It makes so much joyous sense that you can scarcely believe it. Two mature responses by two sides from whom you expect anything but. Now, to the not-so-good news: nobody really knows what to do about this.

The possibilities are several, but also rather straightforward. The chaps who hopped across the border did it on their own. Mad men, angry and feeling betrayed. Wanting to let the world know they weren’t going to get away with this fake peace business.

Or they had help — someone, somewhere in the state apparatus either helped them or looked the other way while they went about their business. A rogue, ideological operation — Modi is a thug and Kashmir will never be forgotten.

Or it was authorised directly. The damn civilians are up to their tricks again and they need to be put back in their place. Hence an attack on a hard target; hit something soft and there may be all kinds of backlash everywhere.

But those possibilities also don’t really matter. It could be any of them and it still wouldn’t address the original problem: what do you do about the anti-India lot running around the country?

To assume it’s just a matter of will is to miss the point. Even if the will is there, there’s no real thinking been done about it. You can’t exactly NAP your way out of this one.

So far, the best the state has been able to come up with is cold storage. It is a halfway house, an approach forged by necessity in the Musharraf era. It works until it doesn’t — or it’s decided otherwise.

So you have long dry spells. Then, sometimes, you have a Mumbai or a Pathankot or a slight ratcheting up or down of cross-LoC infiltration. Cold storage works as long as the dry spells are long enough and the breaks aren’t too long or too damaging.

But it isn’t a policy. The policy options are two. The first is the one that you hear about occasionally: mainstreaming. Get them into politics, make them run after votes and office and the like and, in time, politics will do its magic.

You can see the lure of it. Politics makes you think you can influence policy while it forces you to shed the more overtly unpalatable stuff. So you can howl about religion and Kashmir being in the country’s DNA, but you can’t run training camps in plain sight.

The problem is that it’s hard to get them to bite. The jihad lot look down on politics and think poorly of democracy. Plus, they don’t want to be part of the mainstream — they want to make bend the mainstream to their will.

The other option is dissolution. The groups that we have out there, get the majority of the rank and file to slip back into society. Make them go back to their families. Give them a job or a stipend. Let society work as a balm.

Respect and honour would come their way. After all, every good citizen loves a good jihadi. New friends could be regaled with wondrous stories in the corner teashop at night.

For the leaderships, dissolution would mean keeping most of what they’ve collected. The money and funds and front offices. But not the literature and the training manuals and the stuff to execute it with. That would have to be deposited with the state.

But dissolution can’t be done by stealth. It would have to be something grand. Not an amnesty — that would be a humiliation. Something akin to a grand jirga — where past sacrifices are eulogised and future peace is welcomed.

See anyone around who can make that happen? Nope.

Which is why we’re still stuck with cold storage. Independent, rogue or directed — it matters only to the extent of what Pathankot was.

Beyond that is the bigger problem — if we ever do come to the point that we have to wrap up Jihad Inc, how the hell are we going to do it? And who’s going to do it?

The writer is a member of staff.

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2016



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