Two Feuding Neighbours

Photo Source: New Indian Express

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe UpFront

When a suicide bomber blew himself up near Pulwama, Kashmir in February 2019, in an SUV containing 80 kg high-grade RDX, by ramming into a travelling bus, he caused maximum damage, to his enemy, by killing 40 personnel of the 76th battalion. 

The relations between two feuding neighbours, in the subcontinent, reached a new low. Indian military officials, in their nationalism whims, assured of an answer within 100 hours.

An attack on the Indian army, in this manner, reminded us of the highly volatile war zones, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, where such retaliatory aggressions are common. 

But, a place, such as Kashmir, suicide bombings, making large causalities, have been largely unheard of, and are uncommon too. Although, there have been some previous episodes, where suicide bombings turned up as failed undertakings, in Kashmir valley, especially a failed attempt near the army cantonment near Badami Bagh, Srinagar in 2000.

A similar attack happened on the Indian army in 2010, when Maoists attacked them in Dante Wada, killing 76 personnels. After the Pulwama bombing episode, the images shown of torn bodies, charred pieces of luggage, burned clothes, and a demolished bus were both grotesque and horrifying. An incredible amount of debris had spread over the travelling highway. The ruins of the bus had reached as high as the height of the nearest telecommunications tower. The inner walls of the houses, near the vicinity, developed major cracks, and their window panes were broken. The life in the Kashmir valley came to a standstill, as the tentacles of the conflict clutched common Kashmiris, all over again.

A war was fought in the TV studios. Pakistan was declared a war mongrel state once again, by the anchors and client commentators, almost in an identical manner, that we saw during the 2016 Uri attack. Bollywood actors and high-profile journalists soon joined the long crowd of political commenters, military officials, and made provocative speeches on social media. Infact, it were these Indian journalists, who instigated the jingoism around the nation.

Although the Islamic Republic of Pakistan assured of an investigation, these overtures were undermined in India, and the hate and the political hostility was rechristened. 

However, it was not only the hate that spread. Confusion also spread. Conflicting reports of the exact location of Balakote appeared, as the exact location of the place was not confirmed initially. Balakot was a place where the Indian army launched a pre-dawn operation as a reaction to the Pulwama blast. The observers were confused whether it was a small village near the Line of Control, or in the SWAT valley. But, when Major Ashraf Ghafoor, through Twitter, confirmed the Indian aggression by showing some pictures of a dropped payload, it became apparent that it was Balakote, in Khyber Paktunwala, in the heart of Pakistani territory.

As per reports from Al Jazeera, somewhere in the alpine forests of Khyber Paktunwala, craters were formed, the trees had fallen and some civilians, mostly mountain people such as Nooran Shah, living in shacks, and growing crops such as wheat, maize and rearing livestock, for a living, were injured with dispersed metal shrapnel and travelling stones.

According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, publicly available imagery acquired by European Space Imaging, the day after the strike, suggested that the buildings at the camp were not visibly damaged or destroyed, and also suggested a ‘systematic targeting error.’ The high-resolution picture showed undamaged buildings roofs, where the strike was intended.

A day or two later, it had appeared that no JeM militants were killed, and whereabouts of a sophisticated operating JeM camp was likely a fabricated lie. In this sensitive time, many international news agencies also accused the media of both nations of broadcasting fake videos. However, as per The Hindu, India's Home Minister, Rajnath Singh believed that over 300 mobile phones were active, before the operation, according to inputs given to him, by National Technical Research Organisation.

Although, the Balakote locals believed that there was a mysterious madrassa, which was operated by JeM, and was no longer active. According to them, there appeared no such highly sophisticated operating compound, where militants trained, on the hills of Balakote. However, a Reuters team was denied access to this compound, by the Pakistani army, citing 'security concerns.' The team had visited the area three times in nine days.

As IAF dropped their bombs in hostile territory, Indian media left no stone unturned in propagating lies: in a high profile, largely neutral Indian news channel such as NDTV, conflicting reports appeared about IAF shooting a PAF F16, near Lam Valley of Nowshera. Pakistani media never confirmed of any such incident, and international media also questioned the authenticity of the incident. A US-based foreign magazine concluded that all PAF airplanes were intact.

Disowning your air force men also goes against your own morals. The footages of a captured IAF pilot, Abhinandan were turned down by many common Indians, as for some reason, they believed, that IAF doesn’t allow pilots to keep moustaches. Ironical and repugnant, it may sound, but army generals and other jingoistic commentators, who once threatened Pakistan of nuking them, kept quiet over Pakistan’s gesture of peace, by releasing the captured IAF pilot, some days after. He had been treated well by the Pakistani army, was shifted to a medical facility, and then released soon after.

Infact, there were many infuriated people, including many Kashmiris, who complained why India talked about Geneva conventions, for Abhinandan, and not uttered a word, when a Kashmiri man was tied over a military jeep and paraded by the army in the valley, a while back. One might ask: why do these conventions only apply to Indians?

In places such as Srinagar, shrill sounds of fighter jets were heard, repeatingly, just like in north Kashmir, by some local journalists. These activities concerned the Kashmiri diaspora, and almost everyone wanted to hear their families back, at a time, when local Internet was  getting snapped again and again.  

There was artillery seen getting transported to the border, near places in Punjab, Jammu region and Kashmir valley. An IAF chopper, shot accidentally by IAF authorities, also crashed in central Budgam, Kashmir. After the event, the locals had huddled near the site and chanted ‘Jive Jive Pakistan’ (Long Live Pakistan), near police and army personnel, who tried to drive them away.

But, in their argument, the Indian media believed that 12 Mirage 2000 fighters, backed by 4 Sukhoi 30 MKI and two AWACS (airborne warning and control system) aircraft, fired by Spice-2000 guided bombs and AGM-142 (Popeye-2) missiles destroyed a ‘terrorist facility’ killing 300 militants, as per reports by Times of India.

Despite this strong claim given by Indian authorities, people in Pakistan questioned their sheer audacity, because there were no local stories of dead bodies of militants getting buried. Infact, hoax images and stories were circulated on social media, aiming to mislead people. And, even if people believe the Indian version of the events, then most likely Pakistani government would have collaborated with the ISI, for any kind of secrecy, post-Balakote operation, which, again, will be a highly controversial accusation.

In a New York Times Oped, Pakistani author and political commentator Fatima Bhutto wrote: ‘Pakistan’s recent history has been bloody,  no one has suffered that violence more than its own citizens.’ Factually, not only India, but many other countries, especially in the West, have undermined Pakistan’s political and social problems, lately, including the current problems it faces, as the country is becoming a laboratory for religious extremism and sectarian divide.

Nuclear bullying also started for some days. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had assured: ‘if India talks about war, then Pakistan’s answer will also be war, and if India talks about dialogue, then Pakistan’s answer will also be dialogue.’

There were also speculations of Indian army marching towards Sialkot and Indian navy advancing towards Karachi waters, and people living near the shore had been advised by the local authorities, for electricity blackout, in their communities.

In places like Kashmir, people were seen painting red cross slogans on the hospital roofs.

Pakistan’s railway minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, known for his provocative speeches, threatened India and assured that if a war had happened, it would have been a final war. He said: ‘if anyone gazes at Pakistan with an objection, it will be a reason for an all-out war. Pakistanis are ready to die for their homeland. The country is a fort for global Muslims and is watched by them from all over the world. After the nuclear war, neither will the birds chirp, and nor will the bells ring at the temples after that.’

Former President Pervez Musharraf also talked about the advantage of strike first policy, against India.

But, if a nuclear war happens, between these two feuding neighbours, there will be no holy and kingly warriors, rather this war would eventually ignite a serious catastrophe. It will affect half of the world’s population. Even the laymen around us, know the devastating aftermaths of a nuclear war.

In history, politics has often produced warmongers, bloodthirsty criminals, disguised as leaders. Many see India’s invasion inside Pakistan as an opportunity, by Modi, to cash in Hindutva votes, under bravados of Hindu nationalism. This misguided strategy of revenge will put millions of civilian lives at stake. It has also projected Modi's image, largely, as a failed leader, around many quarters of the globe. 

On the other hand, Imran Khan has been appreciated for his political maturity, for not letting the situation go out of hands, and letting the captured air force pilot return.


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