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Musharraf Showing Afghan-based Militants the Way to Kashmir

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    Musharraf Showing Afghan-based Militants the Way to Kashmir

    Musharraf Showing Afghan-based Militants the Way to Kashmir
    0226 GMT, 000215

    Pakistan’s leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, visited Pakistani Kashmir on Feb. 5
    for Kashmir Solidarity Day and pledged his support to insurgent groups. Calling
    on them to unite, Musharraf is publicizing the insurgent movement to attract
    Pakistani militants from the conflict in Afghanistan to the one in Kashmir.

    On Feb. 1, Musharraf met with a top Taliban leader and urged the Taliban to
    open a dialogue with its rival the Northern Alliance, reported Radio Pakistan.
    Musharraf also announced Feb. 7 that he would visit Afghanistan “soon” to meet
    with Taliban leader Mullar Mohammad Omar to discuss terrorism and the
    expulsion of Osama bin Ladin.

    On the one hand, Musharraf is attempting to quell the conflict in Afghanistan. By
    helping to decrease the Taliban’s activities, Pakistan gains the favor of China,
    which is wrestling with its own insurgencies. The strategy in Afghanistan mirrors
    a broader foreign policy: attempting to gain foreign legitimacy, as well as foreign
    investment. U.S. President Clinton has scheduled a visit to India next month, but
    has revealed no plans to meet with Pakistan.

    But the regime cannot afford for Pakistani militants simply to de-camp from the
    Afghan civil war and return home. If the war in Afghanistan quiets down,
    Pakistan faces the possibility of large numbers of Muslim fundamentalists
    moving across the border. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistanis reportedly
    trained and fought in Afghanistan between 1994 and 1999. Musharraf, a secular
    leader, cannot afford the spread of fundamentalism and the fundamentalist’s call
    for Islamization that would likely weaken the economy.

    The Musharraf government so fears a fundamentalist backlash that it has
    already tried to control activists. Authorities announced on Feb. 9 that they had
    restricted the movement of Mola Masood Azhar, an Islamic cleric who returned
    to Pakistan after his release from an Indian prison. His release brought an end to
    the Indian Airlines hijacking in December. The restriction placed on Azhar
    followed his widespread campaign to rally support for a fundamentalist Kashmiri
    separatist movement.

    Actions such as quieting Azhar may help stem the current spread of
    fundamentalism in Pakistan, but Musharraf needs to take further steps to
    prevent a strong Muslim influence filtering in from Afghanistan. Musharraf hopes
    to redirect these militants to Kashmir, keeping them occupied in a centralized
    area. If he can succeed in driving the Afghan veterans into Kashmir, he may be
    able to keep the two militant factions – the original militants and the newly
    arrived ones – at each other’s throats. This, in turn, would serve another goal of
    the regime: keeping the Kashmir conflict from spilling into open war with India.

    You mean the history repeat itself.

    Fata Morgana