PM’s welcome gift, US moves against Valley’s terror no. 1
3 November 2001
The Indian Express
Srinagar: The Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Lahore-based pan-Islamic group, currently the most serious security threat in the Valley and whose suicide squads have carried out several attacks, could now finally be in Washington’s terror net. Along with the Jaish-e-Mohammed—the group floated by Maulana Masood Azhar which was blacklisted earlier following which Pakistan froze its assets—the Lashkar was designated as a ‘‘foreign terrorist organization’’ with reports that the US State Department had accepted Attorney General John Ashcroft’s recommendation yesterday. Although the formal notification was yet to reach New Delhi, coming on the eve of the Prime Minister’s visit abroad, both External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and Union Home Minister L K Advani welcomed the decision calling it a ‘‘step in the right direction.’’ Singh, speaking to reporters after a Cabinet Committee on Security meeting, said that more than the ban, what was ‘‘heartening’’ was that Washington had acknowledged that the ‘‘fight against terrorism cannot be localised as regional or local.’’ According to an agency report from Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that Secretary of State Colin Powell, in consultation with the Secretary of Treasury and Ashcroft, designated 22 additional foreign terrorist organizations for a total of 46. ‘‘We are taking the foreign terrorist organisation list, which had previously been issued, and all of those organisations that had previously been under various kinds of financial controls, either as foreign terrorist organisations or under other executive orders, and we are moving the remainder of the 22 groups on that list into the new executive order, so that everybody is covered by one set of financial steps.’’ he said. In Srinagar, the consensus today was that although the ban against Lashkar and Jaish would, in no major way, affect their activities but it had a significant symbolic effect. ‘‘It will have a psychological effect on these outfits. It will affect their finances, recruitment and arming,’’ said A K Bhan, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Range. The ban is also being seen as yet more evidence of Pakistan being pushed against the wall. Senior separatist leader and Hurriyat Conference executive Abdul Gani Lone said that since Pakistan is an ally of the US in its war against terrorism, listing of these two groups as terrorist groups will definitely affect them. Said Shabir Ahmad Shah, president, Democratic Freedom Party: ‘‘Ours is an indigenous resistance movement. These foreign militant groups have come here to help the oppressed Kashmiris. So the ban is not going to affect our movement. These groups will adopt other means to operate.’’ Launched during the last days of the Afghan resistance, Lashkar came into limelight in Kashmir in 1997. It’s the militant wing of a purely religious group, the Markaz Dawah-ul-Irshad, led by Hafiz Mohammad Sayeed. Initially, the group used local Kashmiri militants as helpers and guides but now most of its leadership is Pakistani. This is the first group that introduced suicide squad which changed the complexion of militancy in Kashmir. The Lashkar’s ban, therefore, sets the stage for Vajpayee’s trip which begins tomorrow when he leaves for St Petersburg and Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two are expected to sign a ‘‘Moscow Declaration on International Terrorism.’’ Russia and India have a common stand on supporting the Northern Alliance and its future role in Kabul is likely to come up during the talks. There will be a Memorandum of Understanding on the construction of a nuclear power plant in Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu. The Prime Minister then goes to Washington for a meeting with US President George Bush in the White House on November 9. From there he will travel to the United Nations to address the General Assembly. On his way back from the US, Vajpayee will meet Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair for talks in London. Vajpayee will also meet leaders of the US Congress, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the speaker of the House of Representatives, the House International Relations Committee and the Congressional caucus on India and Indian-Americans.