Thursday, July 27, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Hizb move eclipses autonomy
From M.L. Kak
Tribune News Service

JAMMU, July 26 — Will the National Conference succeed in securing the restoration of the pre-1953 constitutional status to Jammu and Kashmir ? This question was being hotly debated in political and public circles in the troubled state during the past over one month. It is over now.

Will the ceasefire announced by the Hizbul Mujahideen usher in peace in Kashmir ? This is the question that has pushed the autonomy issue in the back seat.

There was an element of suspense and indifference among people as far as the autonomy issue was concerned. But the latest Hizbul Mujahideen move has generated excitement despite the fact that many in the state are not prepared to accept that guns and grenades will fall silent following the ceasefire announcement. The expulsion of Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salahuddin from the Jehad Council in Pakistan has raised doubts.

The Jehad Council’s action is a clear indication that the Pakistan government has not supported the ceasefire call given by the Hizbul Mujahideen. The Pakistan government’s opposition to the Hizb move became apparent when Pakistan’s electronic media excluded the news item on the ceasefire announcement.

In the fast fluctuating political and security scenarios in Jammu and Kashmir the majority does not seem to be interested in the autonomy issue. The Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, has planned a tour of some eastern states to explain to political leaders and the people the merits of the restoration of greater autonomy to the state.

The Hizb decision has been welcomed by the Congress, the People’s Democratic Party, the BJP and other social and religious organisations. But the National Conference leaders seem to be apprehensive of the Hizb plan though Dr Abdullah was the first leader to welcome the ceasefire announcement. There has been no other comment from even vocal NC leaders. Mohd. Syed Akhoon has dubbed the Hizbul decision as “yet another gimmick of the Central government for replacing the National Conference.”

This one line statement from Akhoon, who is considered to be very close to the Chief Minister, is indicative of the mood of the National Conference leaders who had earlier tried to stall the proposed Centre-Hurriyat talks by raising the autonomy issue.

Several National Conference leaders had harboured fears that the offer of talks with the Hurriyat was a step in elbowing out the National Conference Government. In case the Hizb-ul Mujahideen lends support to the Government-Hurriyat parleys at least the level of violence may fall. Once Hizb-ul Mujahideen activists lend help to security forces hideouts of foreign mercenaries could be smashed with speed.

These possibilities have seemingly unnerved the National Conference leadership. The ruling party leaders feel that it would be yet another act of treachery if the National Conference was not involved in the proposed talks between the Central Government and the separatists.

Kashmir watchers do not support any move of the Central Government which would isolate the National Conference. They opine that one should not ignore the relevance of the National Conference even if talks with the separatists were needed to end violence.

It is widely accepted that the political situation may become difficult once the National Conference was pushed to the wall. The National Conference in the Opposition could be more dangerous to the national interest. As such during any proposed talks with the separatists the National Conference leadership should be involved.

Farooq meets Laloo

PATNA, July 26 (PTI) — Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah today met his Bihar counterpart, Ms Rabri Devi and RJD President Laloo Prasad Yadav as part of an exercise to build a consensus in favour of autonomy for the state.

Dr Abdullah, who arrived here this morning by a special aircraft, handed over copies of the autonomy resolution passed by the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly to Mr Yadav and Ms Rabri Devi.

Dr Abdullah criticised those dubbing the autonomy demand as a prelude to secession and said the report contained nothing that was violative of the Constitution.

“It is sad that some union ministers have slammed the report without even going through it,” he said, adding that today’s meeting with the RJD president was aimed at clearing the misgivings about the report.



Hizbul expelled from jehad council

ISLAMABAD, July 26 (UNI) — The United Jehad Council, an umbrella organisation of 16 militant groups fighting in Kashmir, today broke ranks with the Hizbul Mujahideen and vowed to continue its armed struggle against Indian forces in the valley.

The Hizbul Mujahidden (HM), one of the most active pro-Pakistan groups in Kashmir had on Monday, announced a three-month ceasefire of hostilities.

“The United Jehad Council, rejecting the ceasefire declaration, announces it will continue fighting Indian forces in Kashmir,’’ the council said.

Muhammad Usman, acting head of the council, told a press conference in Islamabad today that the Hizbul Mujahideen had also been suspended from the council. “The council in a unanimous decision, removed Syed Salahuddin (HM chief) from the chairmanship of the council and suspended the membership of the HM,’’ he said.

“As long as Indian forces are there, we will not weaken the jehad by a unilateral ceasefire,’’ Usman said.

Yesterday, Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar had said that Kashmiri leaders should decide the future mode of their struggle. “I can say only one thing at this moment. That whatever they decide will be in the best interest of the Kashmiri people and their freedom movement.’’

Syed Salahuddin, during a press conference in Islamabad last night said the decision to declare a ceasefire had been taken as India felt that the HM was coming in the way of talks.


Ceasefire by Hizbul ‘fallout’ of Kargil
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, July 26 — The Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, today attributed the unilateral ceasefire announced by the Kashmiri militant organisation Hizbul Mujahideen to the direct fallout of the Indian victory over Pakistan in Kargil last year.

Speaking to newspersons after inaugurating the exhibition of arms and equipment used by the Indian forces in Kargil, besides those seized from Pakistani intruders, Mr Fernandes said the declaration from Hizbul Mujahideen was a positive sign. He pointed out that the people of Kashmir had suffered because of the militancy and that they were now disillusioned with Islamabad’s policy of engineering disturbances in the area.

Mr Fernandes said the aim of today’s nationwide ceremonies were a warning to Pakistan not to indulge in another misadventure. “This is more than a celebration. We want to send a message that our armed forces will go to any length to defend the country,” he said.

The lesson learnt from Kargil was that no one should be trusted as far as the security of the country was concerned. In this context he also referred to the 1962 episode with China.

The Defence Minister was of the view that troops were better equipped than at the time of the Kargil conflict. If at all there were any shortcomings it was not because of finances but other factors like procurement and production schedules. He said as per the recommendations of the Subrahmanian Committee equipment was being updated.

When asked about the implementation of the committee’s report, the Defence Minister pointed out that the government was waiting for the report of the Group of Ministers which had been constituted to look into the report.

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