The idea of a Sikh homeland is a fantasy that exists only due to the backing of Pakistan to Khalistan extremists, says the author of an explosive report detailing Islamabad’s role in fomenting terrorism in Punjab and keeping the issue alive abroad.
Veteran Canadian journalist Terry Milewski, who wrote the report Khalistan: A Project of Pakistan, also asserted that the so-called Referendum 2020 will only be voted on by those who are already separatist elements and thus may result in skewing the outcome.
“I believe that without Pakistan they (Khalistanis) wouldn’t have much to live for. It would be all rhetorical, all performative, with no substance,” Milewski told Hindustan Times in an interview.
“This thing isn’t real, it’s just a fantasy. Pakistan gives them something, gives the Khalistanis an illusion that their dream might become a reality,” said Milewki, who spent decades with Canada’s national broadcaster CBC, including years as a prime time news host.
Milewski, who spent decades with Canada’s national broadcaster CBC, has often faced attacks over his reporting on Khalistan issue.
Image courtesy: Terry Milewski
Milewski said his objective behind bringing out the report at this time was because the Punjab Referendum 2020, organised by the separatist group Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), is scheduled for November.
He pointed out that election results in India have clearly shown that Khalistan has little popular support, and that even within the Sikh community in Canada, the vast majority will not participate in the process.
However, that will ensure the results of the referendum are skewed in favour of those that actually support Khalistan. “The problem is, it’s a referendum of the people that support the referendum,” he said.
The results, however insignificant they may be, “is designed to rally supporters” of a waning Khalistan cause, he added.
Milewski’s report was released by the think tank MacDonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) in Ottawa. It places the focus sharply upon Pakistan’s role in the Khalistan issue, which it fanned since the 1970s and continues to till this day.
It traces the origins of the Khalistan project to Zulqikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistani prime minister in the early 1970s. It was fomented further by military dictator Zia ul Haq. The report also points to the links of Canadians involved in the movement to Pakistan, including the visits of Talwinder Singh Parmar there.
Parmar is considered the mastermind behind the bombing of Kanishka, the Air India flight 182, in June 1985, which claimed 329 lives and remains the worst incident of terrorism in Canadian history.
However, many Khalistani elements refuse to believe that fact, or continue to consider him a martyr. Milewski said this “fosters denial and rejection of the Canadian court system” and creates a conspiracy theory catchment like QAnon in the US.
“The problem is not they’re planning assassinations and terrorist attacks in Canada, they are telling their children Parmar was a martyr that he was innocent,” he said.
Milewski has often faced attacks over his reporting on the matter, including the argument that there was no violence associated with the Khalistan movement in Canada since the mid-1980s. That argument, he said, isn’t completely valid since “death threats against witnesses in the Air India case are still in operation today.”