May 2003 News

Kashmir truce only if India pulls back: Hizb chief

13 May 2003
The News International

MUZAFFARABAD: Militants fighting Indian rule in occupied Kashmir will consider a truce only if India agrees to a list of demands including self- determination for Kashmiris, a guerrilla leader said on Tuesday.'When they accept the disputed status of Kashmir, reduce their troops, release the detainees, halt operations, then at that time if we have to lay down weapons, there is no harm in it,' Syed Salahuddin, the Pakistan-based commander of the Hizbul Mujahedin guerrillas, told AFP in an interview in Muzaffarabad.Hizbul Mujahideen, the militant wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, was placed on a United States watch list of terrorist organisations this month. It is the largest of the more than one dozen guerrilla organisations waging an insurgency against Indian rule in held Kashmir for 14 years.'As a goodwill gesture, India should reduce the numerical strength of its troops in Kashmir to pre-1989 positions,' Salahuddin said, referring to the year Muslim militants launched their insurgency.'India is also required to abolish draconian laws and operations by its forces held in Kashmir and release all detainees. But the foremost thing India needs to do is to accept that the whole of Kashmir is a disputed territory, and that its settlement is pending, in accordance with the wishes of its people. If these steps are taken, it will be an indication that they are sincere and serious and mean business. In response, we will reciprocate positively.'The guerrilla supremo said a positive response meant, 'we can take such a step that will be conducive for the success of dialogue'. 'But I stress that it is possible only when we see all those things on the ground.'India has deployed hundreds of thousands of army troops and crack police commando groups in held Kashmir to suppress the insurgency. Pakistan puts the troop strength at 700,000. Pakistan and the militants accuse Indian troops of extra- judicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests and widespread rape. They say 90,000 Kashmiris have been killed by Indian forces since 1989.


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