Sunday, July 9, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pak PR exercise on PoK fails
From T.R. Ramachandran, who was recently in Muzaffarabad in occupied Kashmir

The Pakistan military establishment’s exercise in presenting an outlook that “Azad Jammu and Kashmir or AJK” was not a pawn in Islamabad’s gambit of keeping “Indian-held Kashmir” constantly on the boil through its unrelenting proxy war came a cropper.

For the first time, a battery of hard boiled-Indian mediapersons were taken to the capital of PoK to ram home the point that Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) desire “independence.”

The highly political briefing by the army focussed on the often repeated demand for a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir and the United Nations resolutions on the subject. There was no mention of the 1972 Shimla accord or the 1999 Lahore declaration.

It was also sought to blow out of proportions that refugees from “Indian held Kashmir” were trooping into AJK though in small numbers because of alleged atrocities against them. Coupled with this was the cacophony that it was impossible for “a bird leave alone the Pakistan-trained militants or “Jehadis to infiltrate because the LoC is very heavily mined.”

There were too many gaping holes in the presentation made by the Pakistani military establishment to even carry conviction with their own junior colleagues leave alone the Indians. The Pakistani officers went through their motions as directed and conveniently forgot to make available photocopies of the promised statistics pertaining to the LoC violations by India and the staggering number of civilians killed in the shelling by the Indian side.

They found themselves entrapped in responding to questions like how was it that during the Kargil conflict Pakistani army regulars and militants including foreign mercenaries had penetrated at least 6 to 8 Km on the Indian inside the LoC. Who reached these heights and areas first, the Pakistan backed militants or their army regulars? The only way out was to take a leaf out Pakistan-chief executive, Gen Pervez Musharraf’s book and resort to rebuttals.

As expected there was a command performance at the camp for refugees from Indian-held Kashmir. Interestingly these Kashmiris from Baramula and Kupwara had been living in the refugee camp for nearly a decade.

All the pious averments by the men in of the Pakistan army was skewed up though not deliberately by the acting Prime Minister of PoK Sahibzada Mohammed Izhak Zafar who filled the breach in the absence of the head of government Barrister Sultan Mohamed Chaudhry who was away on a foreign tour.

Mr Zafar firmly believed that war was not a solution and sought an impartial plebiscite. That appeared to be more for the sake of record even though he realised the futility of this demand. He said he did not believe in the sanctity of the LoC. Therefore, the LoC should not be converted into an international border. He dismissed as an eye wash the talk of greater autonomy for Indian held Kashmir.

“We don’t want a war with India. Let India pull out all its forces and pave the way for a tripartite dialogue,” he said. He favoured Azad Jammu and Kashmir becoming a part of Pakistan. “It should be left to the Kashmiris to decide whether they want to be with Pakistan or India or prefer the third option. However, if the people of Jammu and Kashmir want to go with India, then I will have to fall in line,” he observed.

Mr Azar had a mischievous glint in his eyes while denying that militant outfits aided and abetted by Pakistan had offices in AJK. There were clear signboards in this town of the existence of militant outfits like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Hizbul Mujahideen.

Barrister Chaudhry was in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur attending the meeting of the OIC contact group on Kashmir. In Pakistan, PoK is referred to as Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Jammu and Kashmir as Indian-held Kashmir.)

At the brigade headquarters, senior officials of the Pakistan army — Maj Gen Rashid Qureshi and Brig Khalid Nawaz — claimed without conviction that the 50,000 strong Pakistan army was in PoK at the specific request of the “independent AJK government.” This, according to them, was in contrast to 650,000 Indian troops and paramilitary forces in Indian held Kashmir to quell what they described as an “uprising” in Jammu and Kashmir.

The four hour drive from Islamabad through the picturesque hill resort of Murree minus the frills of an army escort to PoK was smooth with hardly any traffic on the mountain roads. There was negligible army presence with the distance to Srinagar prominently mentioned in all the milestones as 280 odd Km. This was the trade route during the days of the British rule and the distance from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar was about 150 km.


Kulsoom Nawaz arrested

LAHORE, July 8 (Reuters) — The Pakistani police today detained the wife of deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after preventing a rally she was expected to lead, their daughter said.

Ms Maryam Safdar said a car carrying her mother Kulsoom Nawaz was stopped and then towed away after it was blocked by the police, about 15 km from her home.

“She somehow managed to leave the house, but when she got to the Mall road they stopped her and lifted the front of the car up and towed it away while she was still in it,’’ Ms Safdar said.

The car was towed to the nearby civil officers’ mess, where Ms Safdar said her mother refused to leave the vehicle.

“It is ridiculous to do something like that while she was in the car. It’s stupid,’’ she said.

Earlier, the roads leading to the Lahore home of Sharif were barricaded and people stopped from leaving or entering the area.

Despite a ban imposed by the military-led government on public rallies and marches, Ms Kulsoom Nawaz had vowed to lead a motorised procession some 500 km over two days from Lahore to the north-western town of Peshawar. Officials from Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League, said the rally was being held to collect funds for drought victims.

ANI adds: Four persons were killed on Friday in bomb blasts in Lahore and Gujranwala.

The explosions took place with a gap of five minutes and targeted crowded areas of Lahore and Gujranwala. The Gujranwala blast, which killed a five-year-old boy, his three-year-old sister and a woman, and injured six others took place on the GT Road at 12:30 p.m. After minutes of the explosion, another device planted under a bus ripped through Lahore’s main bus terminal, killing a vendor and injuring four persons, including two women.

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