Growing US-Pakistan tension worries Kashmiris

Srinagar : In the wake of the NATO attacks in Pakistan that killed 28 soldiers, the common man in the Kashmir Valley is worried about the region’s instability and its fallout here.

Kashmiris have always reacted with concern to political upheavals in Pakistan. What has increased the common Kashmiri’s worries about Pakistan is the latest statement by its army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, authorizing ground soldiers “to retaliate with full force without fear of cost and consequences” if such an attack is repeated.

Worsening ties between the US and Pakistan and a statement by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that there was no apprehension of an army coup in the country are being discussed by the locals these days with concern.

“If the US war against terror loses its support from Pakistan the region faces a grave situation. Believe it or not, the instability in Pakistan could have a serious fallout in Kashmir”, said Javaid Shah, a local newspaper editor here.

The common man is keenly watching the developments and hoping things do not come to a showdown between the US and Pakistan.

“It is like an earthquake that has its epicentre somewhere in Pakistan. If Pakistan is jolted by political or security turmoil, we cannot escape the consequences.

“The entire prospect of peace in Kashmir depends upon the stability in the region and better relations between India and Pakistan. Unless the government there is in full control how can it engage in peace talks with New Delhi,” a Nizam-ud-Din, 59, a retired school teacher here, said .

When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged on April 4, 1979, there were violent protests in the Valley during which five persons were killed in police firing. Even the death of the Pakistan dictator, Gen. Ziaul Haq, in an air crash on August 17, 1988, caused law and order problems in Kashmir with protesters blaming the US for engineering the crash of the plane carrying him and the American ambassador.

“Emotions have always run high in Kashmir with the unfolding of events in Pakistan. Today, when that country is placed precariously vis-a-vis its relations with the US, the growing concern in the Valley is understandable. Nobody would benefit if Pakistan comes to harm,” said Professor Muzaffar Ahmad, a college teacher here.

“The undermining of the political authority in Pakistan would definitely affect the future of the peace process between the two countries whose inevitable fallout could be the continuation of turmoil in the Valley,” Ahmad said .

As cable television networks beam commentaries and news about the strain in relations between the US and Pakistan, for a change Kashmiris remain glued to these programmes during the chilly winter evenings.

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