The Killing of Burhan Wani in Occupied Kashmir – Home grown Intifada or Pakistan sponsored uprising?

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi
Two days ago when the Indian security forces gunned down 22 year old Burhan Muzaffar Wani, in Anantang, in Indian Occupied Kashmir, they may have, yet once again unleashed a bigger threat then the one they eliminated in the shootout. 

Burhan died in an intelligence laid operation along with two associates. Here is what is known about him. He belonged to Tral, in Southern Kashmir, the son of the Principal of a local government run school in Tral. His mother was also well educated and economically the family were fairly well off.

At 15 he joined Hizbul Mujahideen, a group fighting for Kashmir separatism and strong pro Pakistani leanings. Founded by Mohammed Ahsan Dar, in 1989, following the Indian government hijacking of the election mandate in 1987 and installing a rigged Congress government.

This group was at one time considered the biggest Kashmiri group fighting for Independence,  numbering over 10,000 fighters. The group later developed serious internal differences and it’s original founders were assassinated between 2001 and 2003.  Currently it is lead by Sayed Salahuddin. 

Burhan became a famous Social Media sensation with his pictures in battle fatigues, weapons and videos urging young  Kashmiri youth to join the fight against Indian occupation. He was young, handsome, charismatic and hugely popular, and used Social Media very effectively to the cause of Kashmir’s right of self determination. 

As such he acquired a sort of modern day Robin Hood persona for these angry youth and his exhortations began to attract large numbers of Kashmiri youth to the cause of Independence. 

Conversely this was seen as a big threat by the Kashmiri Government and the Central Indian Government and a decision was taken to kill him, which finally took place two days ago on 8th July.

The sketchy details available indicate that Burhan was killed in an encounter on July 8, 2016 along with two other fighters later identified as Sartaj Ahmad Sheikh and Pervaiz Ahmad Lashkari.

All were killed in Bundoora village of Kokernag, by a joint team after being cornered by Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and 19 Rashtriya Rifles.

From what is known,  Burhan actually had never taken part in any militant actions against Indian Security forces but had become a big thorn in the sides because of his ability to rally people behind the Cause of Kashmiri independence. 

His videos on social media attracted and inspired many Kashmiri youth and hence his elimination became a necessity for the Indian Administration. 

But the events that followed his killing were perhaps unprecedented in recent times, and quite unexpected, certainly by the Indian administration and their security forces.

His death and funeral became a rallying cry for Kashmiris and extreme violence followed with 21 deaths, including an Indian policeman,  and over 400 injured in rioting.

The Indian policeman drowned when an enraged crowd pushed a police armored vehicle into the River Jhelum!

At his burial Burhan’s body was wrapped in a Pakistani flag and buried amid slogans of JEEVAY JEEVAY Pakistan.

So back to the question.

Is this a spontaneous indigenous home grown Kashmiri response to Burhan’s killing, manifesting the festering anger of Kashmiris, especially its youth. Or is it a planned Pakistani lead orchestration?

Clearly the Indian media and government response would be to blame Pakistan, bring in ISI, and the Pakistani military establishment.

This would  then be followed by people like Hussain Haqqani and Tarek Fatah, adding their voices to these claims and once again portraying Pakistan as a base of terrorist activities out to destablise Indian Held Kashmir.

Indian lobbyists and supporters in USA and European governments and media would then join this chorus and drown out Pakistan’s response and position.

Pakistan’s response in such cases, in the past, has generally been poorly worded, disjointed, desultory, stilted, poorly presented and ineffective. Given our history and coupled with ineffective messaging, Pakistan looses the International media narrative battle.

The reason. Two part time Foreign Ministry advisors both pretending to be Foreign Ministers, vying for influence and the PM’s ear. The PM, less said about him the better. A person completely at sea about the finer points of effective governance and foreign policy, and now desperately struggling for political survival.

Advised by an inner circle of close advisers and cabinet members more remniscient of a monarch’s loyalist or a mafia dons close circle of  sycophants.

What else can one expect but a limp, lack lustre, ineffective response, barring a few high sounding statements.

Local Pakistani media talk shows are no better. Beyond superficial rhetoric more for internal audiences, they lack either the intent or the capability for serious deep analysis being presented to the outside world, worthy of their serious consideration and ear.

So how should we take our view to the world?

First the facts.

Based on information currently available about the killing and the subsequent unfolding of events, one thing seems quite clear. This was not a Pakistani planned, supported or orchestrated event or series of events, either at the state or non state levels.

For starters,  Pakistan would not have known of Indian plans to kill Burhan.  It was a secret intelligence based operation carried out by Indian security forces, unless of course they were hand in glove with the ISI!

Two. The spontaneous upsurge of support by Kashmiris at his funeral and the violence that followed did not have the hallmarks of a planned operation.

Three. The Indian mainstream media is also cautioning that his killing may lead to an indigenous uprising. Here are the headlines on this story from The India Express

*”……..In his death, security and political observers say, Burhan could become the rallying point of a renewed indigenous militancy and give rise to a potent theme for fresh recruitment….*

Four. The statement by the current Indian occupied Chief Minister is hugely significant. Reading between the lines is her stark warning of an indigenous uprising ….here’s what she said.

*”……… The pain of Kashmiris has reached a level where the hope of peace is sure to gain substantial local support if tangible confidence building measures are taken to address the issues concerning the state and its people,” Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said in a statement issued on Saturday night*.

Five. The former Occupied Kashmir Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah publicly acknowledged that Burhan’s killing by Indian Security forces are fraught with serious consequences for Kashmir.

…In a tweet, he raised questions on the operation to kill top Hizbul commander Burhan Wani.

*”Mark my words. Burhan’s ability to recruit in to militancy from the grave will far outstrip anything he could have done on social media,”   the National Conference leader tweeted*

*He further  said that he did not recall any terror incident attributed to Wani while he was in office.*

*”………….For all (of) Burhan’s social media activity, I don’t recall any militancy incident attributed to him while I was in office……”*

So one thing is clear. Pakistan is not involved.

Two. It is a very strong indigenous Kasmiri movement fighting for their rights of self determination and independance, unleashed by Burhan’s very tragic and unfortunate killing

But what is even more dangerous for the Region is that once again this completely indigenous uprising in Occupied Kashmiri may be exploited by extreme right wing militants who could easily convert this into a highly militant and violent movement, as we’ve seen in Iraq and Syria.

And in the process this genuine cry for freedom is engulfed in a fire maelstrom, loosing the support of the International Community and their influence to bring India to the table for a workable political solution. 

Pakistan must be very very wary of such a development and ensure that this movement is not hijacked by DAESH like elements.

India must realize that it can never play it’s role in the International community and be seen as a great democracy while at the same time brutalizing a community with Nazi like occupation tactics, which simply wants it’s right for self determination and freedom.

By keeping close to 1 million army and security forces in Occupied Kashmir is no less horrifying than the brutal Nazi Occupation of France and Europe, or the killing, torture and abuse of helpless Palestinians by Israeli security forces.

For India to stand tall as a responsible democratic state, it must give the people of Kashmir their right of self determination.

It is in their own interest in being seen as a responsible nation, and in the interest of the region and peace between Pakistan and India. 
For the longer they keep the lid closed by force the greater the explosion when it will happen.

And the greater the danger of this turning into another bloodbath like Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan, where everyone looses and their are no winners.

And this is the narrative that the International Community must hear!


The author is the current Convenor of The Strategy Study Group, founded by the late Col. S.G.Mehdi M.C. former Group Commander of the Special Services Group (SSG) of the Pakistan Army. Haider is also a former Pakistan Army officer, Corporate leader, serial entrepreneur and Management Consultant. Now based in North America. Deep insights about, Pakistani,South Asian and Middle Eastern Geo Politics.

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