April 2002 News

Kashmiris disillusioned with Jehadis

26 April 2002
The Tribune

NEW DELHI: THE "accidental" meeting in Dubai of Kashmiri leaders of Jammu and Kashmir from both sides of the Line of Control during the third week of April has raised a lot of hopes in the State. For the first time in many years the Hurriyat leaders, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone had an opportunity to meet Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan, Chairman of Pakistan's Kashmir Committee and exchange thoughts with him. Present at the venue were US-based Ghulam Nabi Fai and UK-based Nazir Geelani. While the meeting was not expected to result in a break through, the message from Dubai was that the Kashmiri leaders felt that it was high time elements from outside Jammu and Kashmir should stay away from the state. Mr Lone said that because of the presence of the jihadis. "The movement has ceased to be the freedom struggle of Kashmiris. Let Kashmiris themselves take the driving seat. In concrete terms, the message is that it is high time the "jehadis" or foreigners - of Pakistani, Afghan or Arab origin - keep away from the State. Abdul Gani Lone told the media that he was the first leader who had welcomed the presence of foreign militants in Kashmir few years ago. They then were called "guest militants" who had come to Kashmir to help the Kashmiris. "But when they started talking of unfurling their flag on Red Fort and White House, their activities began to hurt the interest of Kashmiris", Mr Lone said. It is a pity that Lone has not given due credit to Pakistan for starting the "movement". It was Pakistan which conceived of a proxy-war in Kashmir in late eighties, invited "disgruntled" Kashmiris across the border, equipped them with guns and grenades and egged them on to rise against India, and promised them that Pakistan would do a Bangladesh in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan expected that Kashmir would fall into its lap like a ripe fruit. Kashmiris, on the other hand, hoped that Pakistan would follow its words in deeds and raised the slogan of "Azadi". Little did they realize that Pakistan was not interested in "Azadi" for the Kashmiris, but wanted the State to become a part of Pakistan. With that objective, Pakistan started neutralizing JKLF cadres and inducting foreign merceneries into the state. Why should the presence of foreign mercenaries in Jammu and Kashmir suddenly become an issue? After all they have been there nearly for a decade. The guest militants of the early nineties have now taken over the "movement" and their major contribution has been to keep up the level of violence in the State. There is a perennial source of supply of foreign merceneries from the thousands of madrassas established in Pakistan. If there is a change in approach the recent past, the reason is the pressure that is put on General Musharraf by the intenational community after the events of September 11. The USA and its partners in the alliance against global terrorism are not in a mood to tolerate mercenaries being trained in Pakistan and pushed into Jammu and Kashmir. As it happened in Afghanistan, the destination could be countries in the West along with Jammu and Kashmir. The USA is determined to end terrorism which has assured the form of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan. Will that happen, and will there be an end to violence perpetrated by foreign merceneries in Jammu and Kashmir? It may, but the process would be gradual. The US Ambassador in New Delhi, Mr Robert D. Blackwill characterised the attack on Raghunath temple in Jammu and killing of innocents in the State as acts of terrorism, and said that the USA would condemn such acts and persuade Pakistan to put an end to these. But Washington also knows that while President Musharraf will make public pronouncements on the issue, his deeds do not match his words. It knows that President Musharraf talked tough about acting against the Al Qaida, but while the US forces were acting against the Taliban, thousands of Taliban men crossed into Pakistan and took shelter in inaccessible areas. The US forces now are engaged in the task of smoking out the Al Qaida from such hideouts. One should not expect any dramatic changes in Pakistan's approach. We already have reports, thai Al-Qaida cadres have started trickling into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and may start moving across the Line of Control. One can only guess what would be Pakistan's policy after the "referendum". Within Jammu and Kashmir, political activities will gather momentum in the coining weeks. Issues like autonomy for the state, the need for more funds for development, and even suggestions to terminate the Indus Waters Treaty if Pakistan continues cross-border terrorism, would be voiced. There would also be increased pressure on the security forces. One hopes that incidents like the alleged rape of a 17-year-old girl at Kullar village near Pahalgam will not be allowed to be repeated and strict punishment meted out to the Border Security Force personnel involved in it. It is very necessary that the proceedings should be transparent and information about the punishment awarded to BSF personnel made known immediately. Union Home Minister, L.K. Advani, has assured that the erring BSF jawans would be punished, and if that is done security forces in the State would gain a great deal of credibility. It is high time that arguments that awarding and publicizing punishments would lower the morale of the security forces are not accepted. People of Jammu and Kashmir also hope. that the Prime Minister would not postpone indefinitely his proposed visit to the state. The state capital is due to shift to Srinagar in the next few weeks and that would be the right time for the Prime Minister to visit.


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