Islamization of the Kashmir dispute; a brief history

Punjab was radicalized far before the creation of Pakistan. Muslims in this region (Pakistani Punjab) were radicalized and took part in protecting the Muslims in Kashmir from their Dogra ruler’s depredation in 1920’s. Majlis Arar Islam, a Jihadist organization was carved out from Indian National Congress in the following years which was led by Mazhar Ali Azhar of Sialkot. To fight against the Dogra police, many bands of Jihadis were sent into Kashmir and, later on Maharaja’s complaint were arrested; as many as 45,000 Ahrars in Punjab and some 5,000 in other parts of India.


After its creation, Pakistan lacked institutional structure and religious narrative empowered radical mindset which heated Indo-Pak rivalry. These radical mindsets engaged in periodic religious violence which was overlooked by the lax enforcement regimes. The Kashmir dispute deepened the roots of extremism in Pakistan and led to state patronage of militancy.

In 1948, the Kashmir dispute led to first war between India and Pakistan. Pakistan needed irregular troops and encouraged the tribesmen from FATA to obtain Jihadis from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Jamaat ul Ulami of Afghanistan declared a fatwa when India pressurized Afghan government, that the call for Jihad by Afghan tribes was illegal which was denounced by Hazrat Shor Bazar, an Afghan Islamic scholar, and ruled the Jihad in Kashmir as a valid Islamic duty of the Afghan tribes.

In 1965, it led to another war between India and Pakistan which grew resentment in East Pakistan against West Pakistan’s obsession with Kashmir. As large sums of money were taken from there to finance the war for Kashmir. This reality later became more frustrating that Pakistan lost East Pakistan to win Kashmir in 1971 in its third war against India.

Then there comes a decade of relative silence over Kashmir as Pakistan got engaged in Afghanistan in the later half of 1970’s. And with Iranian revolution of 1979 an Islamic revolution was being anticipated by the radicals and extremists in Pakistan. In September 1985, twelve small outfits bearing the idea of Islamic revolution came together in Kashmir and they formed a front which was called the Muslim United Front (MUF) which soon claimed to provide an alternative to Farooq Abdullah and his National Conference, who according MUF “sold out” Kashmiris’ interests.

Exactly when Soviet was defeated in 1989 in Afghanistan, an insurgency broke out in Kashmir. Definitely, Kashmir had background and conditions which led to the insurgency in 1989 but the success of Mujahideen in Afghanistan played like a catalyst. In the mid 80’s when Sheikh Abdullah’s National Conference allied to All Indian National Congress, radical groups and parties gained grounds and later momentum and soon an insurgency gripped Srinagar in 1989. Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), a pro-independence Kashmiri militant organization was then replaced by a pro-Pakistan Islamist militant organization, Hizbul Mujahiden.

The insurgency in Kashmir affected militancy in Pakistan. In 1998, Akram Awan rallied for the imposition of Sharia in Pakistan. And in 1999, he formed Al-Akhwan Force to participate in Kashmir Jihad in collaboration with Lashkir-e-Taiba. But for him, Jihad in Pakistan became a higher priority than in Kashmir and he sat in a sit-in in Islamabad in December 2000, to force government over the imposition of Sharia. This precedent of exposing state writ was latter followed by Maulana Ghazi of the Red-Mosque in his stand-off with Gen Musharraf in 2007 and by Maulana Tahir-ul-Qadri in Islamabad in 2013-2014.

Islamization of Kashmir dispute not only radicalized Pakistani politics but it also affected state will/ability to enforce the law against radicals and extremist. And this was evidenced in another alike incident when Maulana Sufi Mohammadd was arrested and later released without sentencing, for leading a Lashkir from Pakistan to support the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Writer is pursuing his MPhil at Iqra University Islamabad. He blogs at and can be reached at @imrankhushaal or

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