By Poonam Khatana
The death of Ilyas Kashmiri raised mixed responses in the Pakistani, Indian and American print media along predictable lines. This article attempts to analyze three important questions that have been raised after his death. Is Kashmiri indeed dead? Should the US drone attacks be stopped? What will the situation in South Asia be like after his death, especially in Pakistan and India?
Given the conspiracy theories floating around in Pakistan, it is obvious that someone would have picked up on them and questioned the veracity of the reports surrounding Kashmiri’s death. The Dawn (US and Pakistan authorities dispute Kashmiri’s death, 7 June 2011) reported the differences between Pakistani and American officials regarding the killing. According to the report, the Pakistani government claimed that Kashmiri had been killed, while US officials expressed doubts due to a faux pas in 2009. The Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) however backed the Pakistani claim by issuing a statement confirming their ‘emir’s’ death. But The Indian Express countered this view by directing readers to a jihadi forum where the purported pictures of Kashmiri’s body were revealed to be those of Abu Dera Ismail Khan – a terrorist killed in the Mumbai 26/11 attacks. The New York Times (Pakistani Militant Chief Is Reported Dead, Cartolla Gall, 4 June 2011) also reported that American officials didn’t confirm his death.
The second question that received wide attention was the efficacy of US drone attacks. Pakistanis are against drone and other covert attacks like the one in Abbottabad; according to them, the collateral damage incurred through civilian deaths is too high. Moreover, it is also seen as a violation of a state’s sovereignty.
The Washington Post noted that Kashmiri’s alleged involvement in attacks on Pakistanis would mute the public reaction. Similarly, Dawn (Drone Attacks, 7 June 2011) appreciated the efficacy of American drones in taking out dangerous militants, which has resulted in at least some level of disruption in the terrorists’ ranks.
The Daily Times supported the drone attacks by saying that they have led to the deaths of hundreds of militants who have proved to be a security hazard for not just Pakistan and the South Asian region but the whole world. But The News, in its editorial (Cycle of Death, 7 June 2011) didn’t share the same view and predicted that the number of civilian causalities is bound to increase post the killing of Kashmiri.
Regarding the situation after his death, The Express Tribune, (Death of Kashmiri, 7 June 2011) stated that his killing would come as a relief not just to Pakistan but all countries affected by terrorism. His killing may also reignite the debate over the use of armed drones in tribal areas, and that the military-militant nexus isn’t yet dead is cause for concern. A Daily Times editorial (Ilyas Kashmiri: End of a terrorist, 6 June 2011) supported this view.
According to the Asian Age (Ilyas Kashmiri: Don’t expect any change, 7 June 2011), given that Kashmiri was a former member of the Pakistani Special Forces, his case illustrates the embryonic link between the Pakistan military and the membership of Islamist jihad. In this respect, Kashmiri represents a deeper-rooted phenomenon which implicates Pakistan’s governance system and its descent into chaos and unpredictability.
After Laden’s death, the US media projected Kashmiri as ‘the next bin Laden’ and a contender for the top rank of al Qaeda’s hierarchy, as mentioned by The New York Times (Pakistani Militant Chief Is Reported Dead, Cartolla Gall, 4 June 2011).
According to The Daily Times (Killing of Ilyas Kashmiri a milestone move, Azfar Bukhari, 7 June 2011), the killing of HuJI chief Ilyas Kashmiri, along with his foreign terrorist companions, was a milestone for the national security of Pakistan. There is a need to initiate operations to flush out the so-called jihadists from the country in order to maintain peace, as suggested by the newspaper.
After the killing of Ilyas Kashmiri through a cooperative act between Pakistan and the US (The Washington Post, US: Pak help US target Md Kashmiri, 6 June 2011), would there be any turning point in terrorism or in terrorists’ activities? Dealing with this question, The Hindu (A terrorism turning point? 10 June 2011) was of the opinion that the timing of the operation, soon after Clinton’s visit to Islamabad, was an example of successful cooperation for countering terrorism.
The general opinion that can be extracted from this survey is that the killing of Ilyas Kashmiri was the result of mutual cooperation between the authorities of the US and Pakistan. Considering the killing of Ilyas Kashmiri and his fellow militants, the print media has suggested that it would be worthwhile for the two countries to work towards a more transparent and coordinated drone policy.
Research Intern, IPCS
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