Kashmir: Indo-Pak proxy politics persist despite disaster

Despite Indian aid to Pakistan-controlled Kashmir in the wake of the devastating earthquake which has claimed some 25,000 lives, news reports indicate concerns persist in New Delhi about how the divided region’s militant organizations are exploiting the disaster. An account in The Australian raises fears that such organizations are involved in the relief effort, and that “General Musharraf and his army would be too preoccupied with initially managing the enormity of the tragedy to worry about taking on militants.”

Reports of groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba having launched relief and rehabilitation programs are trickling in from Muzaffarabad, one of the Pakistani cities worst hit by the quake.

Smaller groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammad (Army of Mohammad), which is also financed by al-Qaida, are also believed to have joined the relief effort. For years, these groups were given arms and explosives training by the Pakistani military and the Inter Services Intelligence Directorate. (The Australian, Oct. 14)

The Sydney Morning Herald, on the other hand, cited anonymous Indian intelligence officials saying the militant organizations have been weakened by the disaster:

The officials, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said intelligence reports indicated that between 300 and 400 militants were killed in at least three ruined training camps around Muzaffrabadā€”Pakistani Kashmir’s main city, which was heavily damagedā€”and the town of Rawalakote, which was also hit hard.

They said the estimates were based on radio intercepts made since the quake and previous reports about the location and strength of camps, which Pakistan denies exist.

Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen, the largest insurgent group that on Monday ordered a suspension of attacks in affected areas, is thought to have camps in those areas of Pakistan. (SMH, Oct. 12)

See our last post on Indo-Pakistani tensions and Kashmir.