May 2004 News

Congress victory delays Kashmir ceasefire

16 May 2004
The Daily Times
Amir Rana

LAHORE: The Congress victory in the Indian elections has delayed negotiations for a ceasefire in Held Kashmir, providing some relief to the Muttahida Jihad Council (MJC) leadership, which was under pressure to announce one, Daily Times has learnt.'Both the Pakistani and Indian establishments were working on the ceasefire between militants and the Indian forces in Held Kashmir, but the Congress victory has proved a setback for the process,' sources said. Sources said India and Pakistan agreed to reach a ceasefire by August at a meeting of foreign secretaries from both countries in February. Sources said both countries were preparing ground for a ceasefire and Pakistan was trying to evolve consensus among Kashmiri leadership. 'The Kashmiri political and jihadi parties recently formed a Joint Policy and Planning Committee to convince Kashmiris on a ceasefire,' sources said. They said the ceasefire issue was on the agenda of the meeting between Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers scheduled for August. Sources said that both countries had also agreed to announce a bus service between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar by August 2004, which could also be affected by the altered political situation. 'Though Congress is sending positive signals about the peace process, Islamabad will take time to develop an understanding with the new Indian government,' sources said. 'The Indian election results has only given some relief to the MJC, which was being pressed to agree on a ceasefire. Some hardline groups were opposing the idea, which led to differences among the MJC components,' sources said. The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front-Yasin Malik (JKLF-Y) left the MJC for backing the ceasefire idea.Dawood Mir, the ameer of the JKLF-Y Base Camp in Azad Kashmir, told Daily Times that the change of government in India might delay the peace process, but 'we hope that the Kashmir talks will continue'. He said the ceasefire announcement had not been far away, but now could take some time. Mr Mir said that the efforts for the ceasefire had now slowed and no one had contacted the JKLF-Y after the Congress won.Hizbul Mujahideen spokesman Saleem Hashmi denied that the MJC was asked to announce a ceasefire. 'No one knows what was decided between Pakistan and the Atal Behari Vajpayee government, so we cannot say that the process has slowed down,' he said.


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