It is really intriguing that on the one hand Pakistan is proposing peace talks with India and on the other it has recently stepped up its psychological (psy) war operations abusing cyber space and social media in trying to fuel further trouble in Kashmir. Yet this is not altogether surprising. Such diabolical acts on part of Pakistan are its hallmark. Similarly, during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s diatribes on Kashmir were strikingly contrary to Pakistan’s claim of offering an olive branch. Imran is clearly proving to be pursuing a more hardened stance on Kashmir, perhaps a shade or two more than most of his predecessors.
Pakistan’s game plan on psy-war was one it exploited after the September 7 murder of one Asif Nazib Dar, who was found dead outside the campus of Srinagar University. Immediately after the murder, messages were pouring on social media platforms affiliated to the Islamic State (ISIS) that he had been killed by Hizbul Commander Riyaz Naikoo. This was immediately followed by almost nonstop propaganda that Dar was eliminated by the Indian agencies.
Dar alias Abu Anwar al Kashmiri was the third Amir of ISJK (Islamic State Jammu & Kashmir) to be killed after Eisa Fazli in March this year and Dawood Ahmad Sofi in June. His body was wrapped in a black flag of ISIS and importantly a 14-minute long video came into circulation carrying false propaganda. It is reliably known that those complicit in this undesirable act owe their allegiance to ISIS leadership headed by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Meanwhile, the ISJK are visibly unhappy with the Hurriyat leadership amid reports that at Hurriyat’s prompting, Delhi Police had nabbed two activists allegedly for collecting weapons for ISJK on September 7.
Disturbingly, in the meantime, Al Qarar, a ISIS backed social media channel is engaged in a fierce competition with Al Qaeda to air its propaganda through social media campaigns targeting specifically Kashmir.
Continuing its tirade against the government agencies responsible for maintaining peace in Kashmir, Hizbul Mujahideen has issued a threat to kill those working for the government or security forces. Security experts reckon that such videos and aggressive publicity emanate from Pakistani soil and are believed to be conceptualised and executed by the Deep State. One of the videos originating from Pakistan contained pictures of the security forces and the banner of the outfit called Umar Ibn Khitaab. Further, Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin has also appealed to his cadres for intensifying virulent campaign in Kashmir. In sum, therefore, we see a well thought out psy-war as a definite pattern, being launched from Pakistan in an attempt to unsettle things in Kashmir.
Now that everyone knows that Pakistan is the villain of the entire psywar campaign, it is perhaps imperative to examine what can be done to effectively counter it.
Immediate measures need to be taken to stop unwanted publicity material going into the hands of youth in Kashmir whether they are studying in madarsas, or in libraries and educational institutions. A majority of such Wahhabi and Salafi inspired indoctrination and publicity material is published in Pakistan and finds its way to Kashmir to poison the minds of innocent youth. Saudi Arabia, the principal exporter of Wahhabism, is of course a party to propagate religious extremism proxied through Pakistan and a segment of zealots. This, in turn, churns out terrorism.
To contain this malaise, it would be advisable to try and infuse Sufism into the system as part of the efforts to effect changes at the social level. Involving sufi-inclined youngsters to organise programmes to subtly counter propaganda of extremism can be of immense help. Youth could also be exposed to Rehma and other allied healing camps to counter the hostile social media posts.
Also, sufi material merits publication and large scale dissemination in the forms of pamphlets, literature and other means. Similarly, a robust and vigorous counter-campaign through social media must be launched on an unprecedented scale. Videos and publicity-linked YouTube messages must flood and swamp those dispatched from across the border.
The Indian Government, in the meantime, did well by spurning the fake overtures from Pakistan offering Foreign Minister-level talks. Also because of Pakistan being so grotesque as in the recent killing of a BSF jawan as also in glorifying terrorists by issuing postage stamps. So there is a full-fledged war being perpetrated on India using social media which needs to be neutralised at the earliest.
Security analysts, those closely watching Kashmir, are optimistic at this juncture because the security team in place in Kashmir is highly professional and dedicated, especially the J&K state police who are making untiring efforts to see that terror activities are kept well under check. They look inspired and motivated too as the advisor to the Governor has been a top cop himself and is capable of leading from the front.
Also, there is Governor’s rule in place eliminating chances of any political interference coming in the way of police functioning. The Governor himself is known to be people friendly and favourably disposed towards the youth and students in particular. He himself was the president of the students’ union during his time. So there does not seem to be any cause for despair. The team deserves a chance to deliver.
*The writer is a security analyst. The views expressed are personal.