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Hoping against hope for peace
SRINAGAR, June 27 — Even though the Kargil conflict shows no signs of ending, people of Kashmir continue to hope against hope that it will not break into a full-scale war between India and Pakistan.

No ‘ban’ on PTV in Kashmir
JAMMU, June 27 — The ban on telecasting Pakistan Television programmes has evoked hardly any response from operators in Jammu and Kashmir.
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Hope brings hostage's wife to Kashmir
SRINAGAR, June 27 — The wife of one of the four foreign hostages, kidnapped by the militant outfit, Al-Faran about four years ago, today made a fresh appeal for information about the fate of her husband.
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Laden's bodyguards in Kargil
SRINAGAR, June 27 — Bodyguards of Saudi billionaire terrorist Osama bin Laden are reported to be fighting in the Kargil and Dras areas, official sources said here today.

Hurriyat activists cane-charged
SRINAGAR, June 27 — The police lobbed teargas shells and resorted to a cane charge to disperse stone-throwing Hurriyat Conference activists who attempted to take out a procession today on the occasion of Milad-un-Nabi defying prohibitory orders, official sources here said.

J&K to recover arrears of tax
SRINAGAR, June 27 — Faced with a financial crisis, the Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to launch a massive tax recovery drive against defaulting dealers and transporters who do not deposit Sales Tax and Passenger Tax arrears in 30 quarterly instalments till July 31.

5 killed in J&K violence
SRINAGAR, June 27 — Five people, including four militants, were killed and four wounded while police repulsed a militant attack on their picket set up to safeguard the minority community in Kashmir valley since last evening.

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Hoping against hope for peace
From A. S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

SRINAGAR, June 27 — Even though the Kargil conflict shows no signs of ending, people of Kashmir continue to hope against hope that it will not break into a full-scale war between India and Pakistan.

"We want peace. There has already been enough bloodshed", is the common refrain here. People hope that international pressure on both countries, especially Pakistan, force them to step back from the brink of war. They have noted that the US President, Mr Bill Clinton and the British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, have already spoken to the Pakistan Prime Minister. "They couldn't be discussing weather in Islamabad", said a Jammu and Kashmir Government officer who would not like to be identified for obvious reasons.

The western powers have already shown in Kosovo what they can do when they mean business. It is unlikely that they will leave the two countries to settle it among themselves with all attendant risks of a nuclear war, it is felt.

It is pointed out that there have been several occasions in the recent past when the two countries almost went to war. In 1988, when Operation Brasstacks was carried out by the Indian Army, the tension between the two countries rose to such an extent that war could break out any time, but this did not happen. Again in 1990, a Pakistani Army unit in brigade strength intruded into Indian territory in J and K, but withdrew before Indians reacted. It could lead to war. Of course, the commanders of the Pakistani unit were later court-martialled.

This time, too, a miracle could happen and war averted. It is argued that India would be deluding itself if it says that the Kashmir issue has not been internationalised. It already is. The trick now lies in avoiding a war.

There are many here who believe that instead of rushing headlong into launching frontal assaults on the enemy positions in the Dras, Kargil and Batalik sectors, it would be better for the Indian Army to take only limited action for clearing the pockets of Pakistani intrusion so as to safeguard the national highway I-A linking Srinagar with Leh. The harsh weather conditions in the second coldest place in the world will take care of the rest. Nobody can survive even with the best of modern equipment in areas like Dras where temperature falls to 40 C below zero in the plains and 60 C below zero in the mountains. The snow level varies between 30 ft and 40 feet.

But this could lead to a Siachen-like situation where the armies from both sides fight it out throughout the year on the world's highest battleground.
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Hope brings hostage's wife to Kashmir

SRINAGAR, June 27 (PTI) — The wife of one of the four foreign hostages, kidnapped by the militant outfit, Al-Faran about four years ago, today made a fresh appeal for information about the fate of her husband.

Probably, Donald Hutchings, American hostage, has been killed but at least somebody should confirm. "I won’t give up and will strive until I am convinced that I have done enough to find out my husband’’, Mr Jane Schelly, wife of Donald Hutchings, said here.

A never-ending and traumatic wait continues for Ms Schelly and families of two Britons, Paul Wells (23) and Keith Mangan (33) and a German national, Dirk Hasert (26), who were abducted with two others on July 4, 1995, while trekking in the Pahalgam woods. There is no word available about their fate till date.

"You may give information (about the fate of Donald Hutchings) to me while I stay in Srinagar, or share this information with officials from the American Embassy, a religious person, journalist, the Jammu and Kashmir police or any person you trust. There is a big reward for this information’’, she said in an appeal in the local newspapers today.

It is Schelly’s fifth visit to Kashmir and she has issued the fresh appeal to people regarding the whereabouts of her "lost’’ husband.

"I met everyone right from the Union Home Minister to the Union Home Secretary, while Hurriyat Conference leaders pleaded helplessness in this case. The police said the case had not been closed. Everyone gave his/her explanations’’, Ms Schelly said.

This time she is alone unlike in the past. "Perhaps the relatives of the other three hostages have given up their hope. That is why they have not visited here for the past two years. But I will continue to pursue this case till I feel satisfied’’, she added.

Donald Hutchings was kidnapped by Al-Faran along with two Britons, a Norewgeian and a German, besides another American, John Childs. Norwegian hostage, Hans Christian Ostro was beheaded by the captors while John Childs was lucky enough to escape from the clutches of the captors.

There has been no news of others since December, 1995, when Al-Faran chief Abdul Hamid Turkey was killed in an encounter at Dabran in Anantnag district.

In an attempt to get some clues about the whereabouts of the hostages, the Jammu and Kashmir Government announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for a person who will provide information about the fate of the hostages.

Even the USA announced a reward of $ 2 million plus rehabilitation of the informer in the USA.
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No ‘ban’ on PTV in Kashmir
Tribune News Service

JAMMU, June 27 — The ban on telecasting Pakistan Television programmes has evoked hardly any response from operators in Jammu and Kashmir.

Whether through cable operators or with the help of dish antennae people of Kashmir valley and parts of the Jammu region continue to remain glued to Pakistan Television, especially during news bulletins and political discussion.

A senior state government functionary said that the state authorities had not received any order banning cable operators from telecasting PTV programmes.

Even after news reached Srinagar that the Government of India had banned telecasting PTV programmes on the plea that Pakistan had launched a vicious propaganda campaign against India, cable operators in the Kashmir valley refused to stop telecasts of PTV programmes. Some operators announced that they would even shut shop if the ban was strictly enforced.

Experts said that even if the cable operators were forced to stop telecasting PTV programmes those with their own dish antennae and powerful external antenna in several areas of the state could still see PTV.

Interestingly some households in Jammu city, whose television sets have cable connections, or intrigued at PTV programmes being relayed on all channels when other channels turn faulty.

There are areas in Jammu and Kashmir where PTV programmes are clearer than those relayed by Doordarshan because of their proximity to Pakistan and occupied Kashmir.

India has succeeded in Jamming the STD and ISD facilities for dialling phone numbers to Pakistan and occupied Kashmir.
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Hurriyat activists cane-charged

SRINAGAR, June 27 (PTI) — The police lobbed teargas shells and resorted to a cane charge to disperse stone-throwing Hurriyat Conference activists who attempted to take out a procession today on the occasion of Milad-un-Nabi defying prohibitory orders, official sources here said.

Police detained 18 activists, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, and Islamic Students League leader Shakeel Ahmed Bakshi, they said.

The Hurriyat procession was dispersed at Abi Gguzar in the heart of the city, they said, adding usually the Islamic Students League, a constituent of Hurriyat Conference, took out Milad processions. But the practice was banned after militancy surfaced in the valley nine years ago.

Meanwhile, thousands of devotees thronged the holy shrine of Hazratbal on the city’s outskirts to celebrate the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammad.

Over 1.5 lakh devotees had a "deedar (glimpse)" of the holy relic in the shrine after night-long prayers. "Shab Khwani (night prayers)" and congregational prayers were held over the past 11 days at city mosques and shrines in the valley, the sources said.

Adequate security arrangements and transport facilities had been made for the pilgrims.

Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Governor Girish Chandra Saxena extended his greeting the people of the state on the occasion of Milad-un-Nabi.

In a message, the Governor said the day commemorates the birth of a great new faith founded on the values of unflinching submission and devotion to the almighty and the equality of human beings.

The teachings of the holy Prophet, the founder of Islam, which has spread the world over contain the message of love and brotherhood for entire mankind and have shown a new way of life which can lead man from darkness to light from hatred and violence to love and peace, and from suffering to spiritual bliss."

He appealed to the people to resolve to uphold the cherished values underlying this religion and to endeavour individually and collectively, to bring about peace, progress and prosperity in the state.
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Laden's bodyguards in Kargil

SRINAGAR, June 27 (PTI) — Bodyguards of Saudi billionaire terrorist Osama bin Laden are reported to be fighting in the Kargil and Dras areas, official sources said here today.

The bodyguards were fighting along with the Harkat-ul-Ansar, the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Al-Bad groups besides Pakistan army regulars, the sources said.

Nearly 500 personal bodyguards of Laden had fled from Jalalabad in Afghanistan after the USA stepped up efforts to arrest the fugitive.

The sources, however, did not rule out the presence of Laden in these areas, but said there was no concrete proof yet. US agencies had given a tip-off about Laden's "presence" in the Kargil area.

Meanwhile, disenchantment is brewing among militants fighting in the Kargil and Dras areas. A wireless intercept said they were asking for money and logistical support from the Pakistan army, the sources said.

Colonel Ali, holed up in the Batalik area, was seeking the immediate reimbursement of Rs 2.5 crore to his family without which he threatened to withdraw, the sources said.

In the meantime, snow blindness had struck intruders operating in Kargil and Dras, the sources said. At least 100 intruders had been affected.

The sources said such difficulties had led to a considerable depletion of cadres in these areas and their morale had been badly affected.

Pakistan's ISI had now started training fresh recruits in Helen and other areas of Skardu. Ex-servicemen had also been asked to be in a state of preparedness.

Besides, Pakistan army officials and the ISI authorities were eyeing madarsas for new recruits.

The sources said some unemployed Afghan youths, who had strayed into Pakistan for their daily bread, had also been forced into the Kargil area with a promise that they would be paid a huge sum of money when they returned.
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J&K to recover arrears of tax

SRINAGAR, June 27 (PTI) — Faced with a financial crisis, the Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to launch a massive tax recovery drive against defaulting dealers and transporters who do not deposit Sales Tax and Passenger Tax arrears in 30 quarterly instalments till July 31.

"The government has decided to give a final chance to the defaulting dealers and transporters to deposit Sales Tax and Passenger Tax within the prescribed period," an official spokesman told PTI.

As per the amnesty scheme, 100 per cent interest and penalty should be remitted in respect of defaulting dealers who pay their arrears accrued up to March 31, 1997, in 30 equal quarterly instalments starting from the first quarter of this financial year. The payment for the same can be deposited up to July 31.

The concession shall be available to those dealers who have been paying their admitted or assessed tax, as the case may be regularly from the accounting year 1997-98 and also to those who have defaulted in the payment of tax during 1997-98 and 1998-99 but pay the entire amount of admitted or assessed tax by July 31 next, the spokesman said.

He said the dealers who have not filed returns or revised returns for any year or quarter shall file the same by the end of next month along with the proof of payment of 1/30th of the total amount of admitted or assessed arrears as the case may be.
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5 killed in J&K violence

SRINAGAR, June 27 (PTI) — Five people, including four militants, were killed and four wounded while police repulsed a militant attack on their picket set up to safeguard the minority community in Kashmir valley since last evening.

Meanwhile, security forces detected a powerful bomb planted by militants at Samba in Jammu last evening. The bomb was neutralised, an official spokesman said here today.

Three militants of Harkat-ul-Jehad were killed in an encounter with security forces at Naga-Doori in Ahlan forest area of Anantnag district in South Kashmir last night. Four civilians, including a woman, were injured in the shootout.

Security forces shot dead a militant in another encounter during a search operation at Surankote in Poonch district last evening. A revolver, four grenades and Rs. 400 in Pakistani currency were recovered from him.

He said militants shot dead a person inside his house at Dhara in Harwan area on the outskirts of Srinagar yesterday.

Militants torched a house belonging to a Kashmiri Pandit migrant at Raghunath Mandir in Karfali Mohalla area of downtown Srinagar last night.

Militants set ablaze a house of a migrant at Laryal in Tral area of Pulwama district last night. Before escaping, the militants fired at police personnel deployed in the area for guarding the minority community. The fire was returned. No one was injured in the shoot out.
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