Musharraf’s offer of ceasefire can prove insurgent-friendly
14 August 2003
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent
Jammu: It is New Delhi versus Islamabad, once again. If Gen. Parvez Musharraf, tried to steal a march over the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, by offering a ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, the soldier-President of Pakistan seems to have failed to accomplish the target. Gen. Musharraf’s offer, announced at Islamabad in the course of his 90-minute interaction with Indian peace delegation on August 12, triggered a justifiable fear in the power corridors in New Delhi. In the first place Gen. Musharraf made his offer conditional with his emphasis on the word 'if'. He left none in doubt when he publicly offered a conditional ceasefire along the LoC 'if India is willing to reciprocate and reduce the strength of its forces in Kashmir valley'. And his theme that what was happening in Kashmir 'is a freedom struggle not under Islamabad’s control' led to a justifiable protest from New Delhi. Happily for the Vajpayee Government, the main Opposition in Parliament, namely, Congress supported the External Affairs Ministry’s 'no’ to Gen. Musharraf’s ceasefire offer and asked the Government to take with 'a pinch of salt' Pakistan President’s proposal. In Jammu and Kashmir, Congress is a major constituent of the PDP-led coalition Government. If the Congress high command enjoyed freedom while publicly reacting to Gen. Musharraf’s proposal, the PDP leader, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who is heading the ruling coalition, was not to blame as he hailed Pak President’s offer. The Mufti had in his mind the escalating border firing incidents and casualties when he welcomed the offer of ceasefire along the LoC. The J&K PCC chief and chairman of the co- ordination committee of the ruling coalition, Ghulam Nabi Azad, had continuing terrorism in his mind when he remarked on Wednesday in Jammu and Gen. Musharraf’s proposal asking India to declare ceasefire along the LoC had 'no meaning' unless something concrete was done from Pakistani side on terrorism in J&K. Why did the Government of India angrily react to Gen. Musharraf’s offer? An answer to this question is not far to seek. With infiltration of militants and subversives continuing unabated, particularly in Poonch and Kupwara divisions, Indian security and intelligence agencies do not want a mechanism in place along the border in Jammu and Kashmir, which can prove insurgent-friendly in Jammu and Kashmir. Their opposition to the idea of conditional ceasefire along the LoC is not without a basis, if one were to recall the type of freedom and encouragement various groups of militants and insurgents got in 2000 following the Vajpayee Government’s unilateral ceasesfire in Kashmir. There are official reports to prove this and to confirm that the Army and other security agencies, including the Border Security force (BSF), had, after the unceremonious end of the Prime Minister’s ceasefire, voiced displeasure at the restrictions imposed on them even as the militants had been found, in quite a few areas, re-grouping themselves and building stocks of arms and ammunition. Government sleuths have, without any fanfare, already gathered evidence of a large number of beneficiaries among the militant cadres as a result of the 2000 ceasefire. One of them, significantly, was Zulfikar Rana, a Pakistani national. EXCELSIOR was shown an official document, which, among other things, contained 'sensational' details about Zulfikar Rana. In June 2002, the Jammu and Kashmir Police had nabbed him. A top operative of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Rana, who also used the name Mir Hussain, had purchased a large home in Jammu’s Ustad Mohalla area. He spent over Rs 20 lakhs on the home, and for acquiring fake identification papers and State subject status. The three political heavyweights, namely, LK Advani, George Fernandes and Mufti Sayeed can’t be denied freedom for insisting that the situation in J&K is fast returning to normalcy. And freedom need not be denied to the ones who say that facts are to the contrary. There is no denying that the lull in violence soon after Atal Behari Vajpayee’s initiative for talks with Pakistan has been followed by a sharp surge in violence during the past three months. And official statistics for May-July period eclipse those for corresponding periods in 2001 and 2002. And the June report of the Ministry of Home Affairs talked of the Lashkar-e- Toiba’s capability for terror, and of its having acquired a multi- national composition on a scale rivalling even Al-Qaeda. The detection of training camps for jihadi militants in Surankot sector of Jammu region served to confirm the long-term nature of the proxy war. Recent months have also witnessed an increase in the number of suicide missions. At least 12 major incidents were reported during the first seven months of 2003. Failures have not deterred the suicide squads. Gen. Musharraf talks of ceasefire, conditional though, along the LoC at a time when he has also been found sending out signals that he can only rein in the Islamist groups if India makes significant progress in making concessions on Jammu and Kashmir. And the ceasefire offer has surfaced at a time when another ominous development has involved Pakistan’s senior military figure, Lt. Gen. Mohammad Aziz, in anti-India activity. Aziz, who is known for his Islamist leanings, has roped in Major General Mohammad Anwar Khan, the President of Pakistan occupied Kashmir. Both of them are also known to be experts on engineering infiltration into Indian territory.