September 2003 News

Pak Withdraws Its 'go-slow' Diktat To Fidayeen

3 September 2003
The Asian Age

New Delhi: Pakistan has withdrawn its 'go slow, be slow' instructions to the fidayeen operating in Jammu and Kashmir and directed them to step up violence following India's refusal to begin official-level talks in the immediate future. Authoritative sources said that the first manifestation of this was the recent incident at a hotel in Kashmir after which violence in the state has increased dramatically. India has definite information, the sources said, that the fidayeen had been asked by Pakistan to go slow on violence following the peace initiative of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. For instance, a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist arrested by the security forces confessed during interrogation that he had undertaken a survey of an area on the Amarnath yatra route but had been clearly instructed by Pakistan to maintain peace in the hope that the talks would resume in the near future. Infiltration, the sources maintained, had never dropped substantially. The shift was in the change of policy, from active violence to a 'wait it out' policy. The fidayeen, despite the apparent calm, held the ground presence, weapons holdings and capability to strike. Pakistan, the sources said, has reverted to the old violence policy, with the instructions now activating the fidayeen. The Inter-State Council meeting, and the presence of chief ministers from the rest of the country, is believed to have acted as the immediate trigger with Pakistan clearly worried that the peace was working to New Delhi's advantage and not its own. The policy shift has also been indicated, rather forcefully, in a Pakistan foreign office statement dismissing the peace initiative as just a 'hand dangling in the air.' The security forces in Jammu and Kashmir have information of stepped-up infiltration in the past few weeks, although the terrorists are still moving in patterns established after the withdrawal of troops by both India and Pakistan earlier this year. The presence of the Pakistan Army is not obvious, the sources said, with the fidayeen moving along and across the Line of Control with the help of guides. The sources said that interrogation of arrested terrorists has established that they are taken to at least one Army checkpost, but have little contact with the Army as such. The guides are the real conduits between the Pakistan Army and the terrorists who are then taken across in small groups of six to eight at a time. Earlier, larger groups crossed the LoC, with the size reduced substantially after tensions were reduced and the troops moved back from a virtual eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation. Kashmiri separatists are caught up in a keen power struggle with the current leadership of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference not being accepted by Pakistan. The sources said that pressure was being applied on the tanzeems in the APHC to support loyalist Syed Ali Shah Geelani who has floated a new outfit and appears to enjoy Islamabad's confidence. The veteran Jamaat-e-Islami leader does not have majority support within the Hurriyat executive of seven organisations, but has a substantial following within the general body, with several organisations expected to join him in trying to make the APHC redundant. Also, the expected release of People's League leader Sheikh Aziz from detention will further strengthen Mr Geelani's position. Pakistan has made it clear repeatedly that it can hold the peace, to some extent, in the Valley only if there was real progress on the ground in terms of official-level talks. The delay is also hurting the general at home, at a time when he is already under tremendous domestic pressure from the Opposition and the growing anti-US sentiment in his country. Stepped-up violence in Kashmir could again invite world attention, particularly that of the US which is at present preoccupied with Iraq, and consequent pressure on India to begin talks before tensions again spiral out of control.


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