25 former militants freed in Muzaffarabad
14 April 2005
Our Staff Correspondent
Muzaffarabad: The AJK authorities on Thursday released 25 former Kashmiri militants who had been taken into custody by police on April 6, a day before the launch of Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service, to avert 'any law and order problem'. The release followed a six-hour long demonstration by wives and children, other members of the families of the detainees and their supporters, which was staged outside the local press club earlier in the day. Many women had also brought their infants to the demonstration. The demonstrators who assembled at the club at about 10am dispersed in the afternoon after the authorities assured them that the detainees would be freed by the evening after 'necessary paperwork'. Police had literally ringed the main gate of the press club throughout the demonstration so as to block the exit of protestors to the main road where the administration feared they could stage a sit-in. The participants, particularly the children, were carrying placards inscribed with different slogans, calling for the detainees' release. 'Release my father,' read one placard which a 4-year-old boy was holding. The demonstrators were incensed when a young duty magistrate allegedly passed some unpleasant remarks against them while they were shouting slogans against the administration. However, with the intervention of the elders any untoward situation was averted. Speaking to reporters on the occasion, wives of the detainees narrated emotional stories. 'What should I tell my children who frequently ask about their father,' said Aisha Butt, whose views were echoed by other ladies. 'The killers and rapists go scot-free here but the innocent are sent behind bars,' she said. Another participant, who did not disclose her name, said she was at a loss why her spouse and others had been arrested. 'They should realise our problems which we are facing due to the detention of our breadwinners,' she stressed. It may be recalled that the detainees who have long shun militancy and are running small businesses here to earn bread and butter for their families are associated with the Jammu Kashmir United Real Movement (JKURM). Though the group strongly supports Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service, its members were however arrested after the authorities relying on intelligence reports feared they could disrupt the smooth movement of the inaugural bus. The detainees were initially kept in two police stations and from there they were shifted to central jail on Friday. Five of them were wounded the following day when a clash erupted between them and other prisoners. The protestors rejected official claims that the detainees were blackmailing the authorities on some issues. 'It is absolutely wrong. White lies. We fully support the policies of President Pervez Musharraf. Whatever is his stand (on Kashmir) is our stand as well,' one protester said. Human rights activist Farooq A Niazi, who was also present on the occasion, said the administration itself was worsening the law and order situation. When they had already given an undertaking, there was no justification to detain them and aggravate the plight of their families, Mr Niazi said, referring to the detainees' petition to the authorities two days ago in which they had assured to abide by the law. Official sources said the detainees were released at about 7pm after the Muzaffarabad deputy commissioner signed their release orders. A fresh guarantee had also been obtained from them that they would not create any 'law and order problem' in the future, the sources said.