November 2000 News

Jihad Council rejects ceasefire offer

20 November 2000
The Times of India
Siddharth Varadarajan

Islamabad: The Muttahida Jihad Council, the umbrella group of militant organisations involved in the insurgency in Kashmir, on Monday rejected the Centre''s offer of a ceasefire in the Valley during the month of Ramzan. In a signed statement issued on behalf of the council, Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin said the ceasefire could have meaning only if it was part of a comprehensive political solution that India was offering. Such a solution, the statement said, has to be based on India accepting two conditions: that Kashmir is disputed territory and that there should be tripartite negotiations towards a final solution. The statement added that the previous ceasefire offered (by the Hizbul Mujahideen) in July came to naught precisely because of the Indian government''s refusal to accept these conditions. Though virtually every militant organisation, big or small, has issued statements condemning the Vajpayee government''s offer as a ''trick'' or ''ploy'', it is significant that the Hizb has yet to issue a comprehensive response of its own. Salahuddin gave a terse statement to the Reuters news agency on the telephone earlier in the day in which he said, on behalf of HM, that ''the limited ceasefire...has no meaning or utility unless it is set up to initiate a meaningful dialogue for the ultimate resolution of the Kashmir conflict. Though this formulation was echoed later by the MJC and two concrete conditions added, a prominent leader of one militant group told The Times of India that he did not like what he said was the ''confusion in Salahuddin''s statement. ''Negotiations can only start when all the Indian security forces leave Kashmir,'' he said. ''That is all.'' What has made the Hizb leadership''s position difficult, observers feel, is the statement by Abdul Aziz Moosa, a prominent HM commander currently in jail in Srinagar, welcoming the ceasefire, and also the conciliatory stand reportedly being taken by Abdul Majid Dar and other commanders inside the Valley. Earlier in the day, the Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed told this correspondent that Vajpayee''s declaration was a ''siyasi natak (political drama) which will not fool the Kashmiris. And Mohammad Masood Sarfaraz, supreme commander of the breakaway Hizb faction, Pir Panjal Regiment, said that his organisation would declare war on any Kashmiri militant or group which went along with ceasefire. ''We will eliminate any individual who tries to sell-out the sacrifices of 90,000 Kashmiris, he declared. ''Whether it is Salahuddin, Dar or even G M Bhat (leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami of Jammu Kashmir). Pakistan, meanwhile, also formally reacted to Sunday''s developments in New Delhi. Foreign Office spokesman Riaz Mohammed Khan said that unless India pursued ''the course of negotiations...with Pakistan, with the participation of the Kashmiri leadership, for a just and durable solution and ended ''its repression inside Kashmir, its ''short-term ceasefire offers could only be tactical and part of (its) effort to impose a military solution. Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Lone, however, reacted more favourably to the Ramzan ceasefire declaration. ''By itself the ceasefire is not enough, he told the TOI during the wedding reception for his son and daughter-in-law. ''It should be the start of negotiations. However, the move is to be welcomed.'' Major militant outfits in the Kashmir Valley, including the Jesh Mohammad and Al-Umar Mujahideen, have also rejected the ceasefire offer. In separate statements in Srinagar, the Jesh Mohammad, led by Maulana Azhar, and the Al-Umar Mujahideen, headed by Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar, who were released by the government in exchange for the hijacked Indian Airlines passengers last year, have declined to accept the ceasefire. The militant outfits said they would ''continue to attack the security forces to carry on the ''struggle'' against India.'' One more militant organisation, the Al-Badr, had rejected the ceasefire offer immediately after the announcement by the PM on Sunday. The All-Party Hurriyat Conference is yet to announce its stand. JKLF leader, Javid Ahmad Mir, who is a member of the Hurriyat executive, said: ''The executive members of the Hurriyat are meeting on Tuesday after the arrival of its chairman Abdul Gani Bhat from New Delhi to decide whether to favour the ceasefire or reject it.'' The Border Security Force (BSF), however, has removed some bunkers from the interior parts of the old city here. Inspector-general of BSF G.S. Gill said: ''The security forces have yet to get the communication regarding suspension of combat operations against militants. The BSF has undertaken the exercise of removing the bunkers which cause inconvenience to the people.'' Nevertheless, the people in Kashmir have by and large heaved a sigh of relief at the announcement of the unilateral ceasefire by the PM.


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