Pakistan Needs a KPS Gill

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, has long been one of the more level-headed op-ed contributors in the TOI. His most recent piece about how Pakistan can remedy the situation is convincingly.

In 1992, a new Congress CM told police chief KPS Gill to go after the militants, no-holds-barred. Gill used the extra-judicial tactics the militants themselves used. The Punjab police was dominated by Sikh Jats, just as the militants were. The police was incensed by murders of its officers by the militants. Under Gill, it struck back ruthlessly and efficiently. Militancy ended speedily, and its lack of popular support became plain.

Bhindranwale envisaged a religious war in which Sikhs would beat Hindus. His communal warmongering won him Sikh popular support for years. Indira Gandhi regarded the Army assault on the Golden Temple as a secular necessity, but most Sikhs saw it as a religious offence.

Militancy could be quelled only by a change in mindset. This change could not be imposed by the Army, or by President’s Rule from New Delhi, both of which could be portrayed as Hindu machinations. The change in mindset occurred when militants became so highhanded that they antagonised fellow Sikhs. This paved the way for Gill’s crackdown. What started as a Hindu versus Sikh matter ended only when it became a battle between two sets of Jat Sikhs.

Something similar is needed to end militancy in Pakistan. Americans or other outsiders cannot quell it. Ordinary Pakistanis, who for long have viewed jehadis as freedom fighters, will have to start viewing them as enemies of the state. The process took a decade in Punjab, and will surely take as long in Pakistan. But once that happens, the time will be ripe for a Pakistan equivalent of KPS Gill to end militancy in Pakistan. That outcome is by no means certain, but is what we must hope for.

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