Militants Threaten To Disrupt Bus Service
17 February 2005
The Times of India
Islamabad: A Pakistan-based militant group on Thursday threatened to disrupt the historic new bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad if it led to more 'atrocities' by Indian forces in the disputed Himalayan region.The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan on Wednesday announced the start of the service as the most concrete outcome yet from a year of peace talks, raising hopes for a permanent rapprochement between the two nuclear-armed countries. The decision was greeted with joy by families separated by Kashmir's militarized border, the Line of Control. It will be first such road link between the two portions of Kashmir since Pakistan and India fought their first war there in 1947. But militant groups fighting in Indian-held Kashmir for independence or merger with Pakistan viewed it as a setback. 'This will weaken the idea of Kashmir uniting with Pakistan. This is a conspiracy by India to weaken jihad,' Mufti Abdur Rauf, a spokesman for the outlawed militant group Jaish-e- Mohammed, said. 'We will see what benefits India wants to get from this bus service. If it infiltrates spies into Azad Kashmir (Pakistan-held Kashmir) and there is an increase in atrocities by Indian security forces in the occupied Kashmir (Indian-held Kashmir), we will certainly try to stop it,' he said. Syed Salahuddin, the chief of Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen, the largest militant group fighting in Kashmir, said the bus service was unimportant and wouldn't improve the plight of people in Indian-held Kashmir. 'The bus service is a failed effort to put ointment on the wounds of Kashmiris,' he said in a statement issued Muzzafarabad, the capital of Pakistan-held Kashmir. The buses will travel along a rutted mountain road in the folds of the Himalayas linking Muzzafarabad with Srinagar, capital of Indian-held Kashmir. Despite the bus service agreement, the two governments remain poles apart on their territorial dispute over Kashmir, cause of two of their three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. Both sides claim the region in its entirety. More than 66,000 people have died since an Islamic insurgency began about 15 years ago, many at the hands of Indian troops. New Delhi accuses Pakistan of funding and training the rebels. Islamabad insists it gives only moral and political support. After talks in Islamabad on Wednesday, visiting Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh spoke positively about the future of the peace process, but he also cautioned that any progress can only be achieved if attacks are curtailed.