August 2000 News

Hizbul To Float Own Party If India Agrees To Talk To Pakistan

23 August 2000
Asian Age
Seema Mustafa

New Delhi: The Hizbul Mujahideen has plans to float a political party. Indications to this effect have been received by separatist groups in Jammu and Kashmir, who are waiting for a formal announcement. Hizb chief Syed Salahuddin, in a statement from Islamabad, has said that he has ''bigger plans'' than just a ceasefire in the offing but that these will be revealed only after India agrees to tripartite talks. Hizb leader Abdul Majid Dar''s announcement of a possible ceasefire after two months is now being linked to this decision as the political wing is expected to take shape over the next several weeks. Syed Salahuddin has, however, claimed that Dar was misquoted by the media. Both the Hizb leaders have been steadfast in insisting that Pakistan should be involved in the peace process. The All Parties Hurriyat conference, which was till date the only credible political outfit amongst these groups, is now likely to be superseded by the Hizb which has better contacts in Islamabad and, till recently, was part of a larger conglomeration of terrorist groups. The Hurriyat leaders are visibly concerned about the move, pointing out that Delhi would like to use this to project Abdul Majid Dar in Jammu and Kashmir as the visible face. Indian home ministry officials and Research and Analysis Wing men have reportedly established a good equation with Dar, who is regarded as a reasonable leader. He is popular with the Hizb cadres and currently enjoys the confidence of Syed Salahuddin, who is supportive of him. Reports of differences between the two over the withdrawal of the ceasefire have not been given credence by either side. Interestingly, Dar has now said that international forces are at work to effect the ceasefire. Hurriyat leaders whose differences with the Hizb are very visible sought to make light of the new decision, pointing out that the credibility of several militants who had laid down their arms to become political was very low with the people of Kashmir. ''There were four commanders, look what has happened to them,'' said one APHC member, naming Babar Badr, Bila Lodhi, Imran Rahi and Mehdi Lone as noticeable examples. The APHC is aware of some moves where the Hizb is being asked to rope in the Hurriyat. The leaders point out ''that this will be a big mistake'' as the Hurriyat is in no mood to concede its position as the chief representative of the Kashmiri people. ''We can never be marginalised,'' a leader asserted. The All Parties Hurriyat conference does not rule out the involvement of Pakistan''s Inter-Service Intelligence in the events leading up to the ceasefire call by the Hizbul Mujahideen. It is pointed out by senior leaders that Hizb chief Syed Salahuddin wanted to visit Srinagar ''to meet old friends'' but was not allowed to by the ISI ''for they wanted to keep their trump card with them.'' Hizb leader Abdul Majid Dar was given the necessary clearance and was whisked away from Pakistan to the Valley via Dubai where he attended a meeting to discuss the peace initiative along with Salahuddin. the Hurriyat''s Maulvi Omar Farooq and others. Mr Dar is still in Kashmir. The arrival of Dar in the Valley was credited to RAW, whose involvement in the entire operation is an open secret in the Valley. The ceasefire was used by Pakistan to establish that the movement in Kashmir is indigenous, Hurriyat leaders pointed out on condition of anonymity. ''Other gains or losses apart, the entire episode ensured that military generals in India and senior political leaders went on the record to say that they are talking to their own people, in other words that the movement is indigenous and not being generated from across the border,'' they said. ''It also demonstrated to the world that the militants are not unreasonable, they want peace and are prepared to lay down their arms if they are assured of a sincere approach towards the resolution of the Kashmir dispute,'' the leaders added.


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