Major Setback For Hizbul Rebel Group As Top Leader Is Arrested

3 April 2008
Gulf Times Newspaper

Srinagar: Police in Jammu and Kashmir arrested a top rebel leader yesterday, dealing a blow to the region’s main militant group, a senior officer said. Junaid-ul-Islam, chief spokesman of the Hizbul Mujahedin militant group, was arrested during a raid in a house in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir, police said. The arrest comes two days after two senior members of the group were killed in a gun battle by soldiers in the troubled region. “Hizbul Mujahedin (HM) suffers the greatest setback with its think-tank and chief ideologue being not available anymore,” B Srinivasan, a senior police officer told a news conference. Junaid-ul-Islam had been a spokesman for the group for the last 15 years and is the group’s third most influential figure, Srinivasan said. His real name was Abdul Khaliq Dar, police said, adding that he used two more alias names - Khalil-ur-Rehman and Fazal-ul-Rehman. “He was involved in planning (attacks) and was one of the top Hizbul leaders wanted by the police,” Srinivasan said. “He was dealing with press and was part of Hizbul’s propaganda cell.” The militant group, the largest and most active in Kashmir for nearly two decades, is fighting for the region’s merger with Pakistan. Violence has fallen significantly across Kashmir since India and Pakistan began peace talks in 2004. But people are still killed in daily shootouts and occasional bomb attacks. Early yesterday, two separatist militants and a civilian were killed in a gun battle in northern Kashmir, police said. Yesterday, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee congratulated his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi on taking up office and expressed the hope that India and Pakistan would resume their composite dialogue soon. Mukherjee phoned Qureshi on Wednesday night and congratulated him, external affairs spokesperson Navtej Sarna said yesterday. “In their telephonic conversation last night, it was agreed that meetings under the Composite Dialogue framework would resume at an early date,” Sarna said. India and Pakistan are likely to resume later this month their composite dialogue that includes, among other issues, Kashmir, peace and security and confidence-building measures. Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, a former Indian envoy to Pakistan, is likely to travel to Islamabad later this month to review the progress of the fourth round of composite dialogue with his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Mohamed Khan. The two sides will launch the fifth round of composite dialogue after the foreign secretary-level review of the last round. It will be followed by a visit by Mukherjee to Islamabad in May or June. Qureshi has set a positive tone for the peace process, saying Pakistan wants “friendly relations with India” and there are “signals of reciprocity” from the other side. In his first remarks on the peace process with India after becoming the foreign minister, Qureshi also sought a “just and equitable” resolution to the Kashmir issue. The Cambridge-educated politician stressed that regional and economic security, national defence and a “just” resolution of the Kashmir issue will be among his top priorities as foreign minister. He said the dialogue would be restarted with the formation of the new coalition government led by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated his new Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gillani and expressed the hope that India-Pakistan relations can evolve to become the “best ever” in their history.