Friday, August 4, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Centre, Hizb agree to set up panels
Militant body sets deadline

SRINAGAR, Aug 3 (UNI) — A day after Kashmir’s biggest bloodbath in the decade, the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and the Centre today agreed to set up committees to negotiate the modalities of a ceasefire and make the atmosphere “more conducive” in the valley.

Emerging from the 80-minute talks with four top Hizb-ul commanders at the historic Nehru Guest House, Home Secretary Kamal Pande said the two sides have decided to set up separate committees to hold further parleys.

While the Indian side would be led by Special Secretary B.K. Kaushal, Hizbul nominated Saifullah Khalid to head its committee which would negotiate the modalities of the ceasefire agreement between the two sides.

Mr Pande said the Indian team would also include Principal Secretary (Home) to the Jammu and Kashmir Government, officials from the Army and the security forces.

The Home Secretary described the meeting as “very cordial and healthy”. The two sides had agreed to meet again shortly, he said.

The committees would talk on how to make the atmosphere more conducive in the valley and find the ground rules for making the ceasefire from both sides effective, he said.

While Mr Pande led the government side, Fazal-Haq Qureshi headed Hizbul to the talks at Nehru Guest House today.

Expressing satisfaction with the talks, Mr Pande said both sides had agreed that the ground rules should be prepared in the right earnest so that elements “opposed to this process” were isolated and defeated.

The secretary appealed to other militant organisations and the Kashmiri leadership (without naming anyone) to help restore normalcy in the state.

“I appeal to the people of Jammu and Kashmir to help us in our initiative to restore peace and normalcy here,” he said.

“I congratulate the Hizbul leadership for the bold and timely decision (for ceasefire), particularly when the people of Jammu and Kashmir honestly want peace.”

Mr Pande said the government would take “this initiative” to its logical conclusion.

The two sides had agreed to work in a spirit of understanding and cooperation for finalising effective ground rules for the ceasefire, he said.

The first meeting between the militant group, which announced a unilateral ceasefire on July 24, and the central team today came even as Hizbul had set a Tuesday deadline for the talks.

According to Reuters, Hizbul spokesman Salim Hashmi said in a statement in Islamabad that if India did not “give a positive response we will review the ceasefire and India will be wholly responsible for the consequences.”

“The Hizb-ul-Mujahideen central leadership will wait for a positive Indian response until 5 p.m. on August 8,” it said.

At the Nehru Guest House here, one of the militant commanders accompanying Mr Qureshi to the talks said: “We have come here to talk to people from the Centre.”

However, he said the core issue would be discussed by the Hizbul supreme commander Syed Salahuddin “as it does not come in our jurisdiction.”


PM’s invitation to other ultras
Tribune News Service

SRINAGAR, Aug 3 — While inviting all militant groups other than the Hizbul Mujahideen to come to the negotiating table, the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, here today said all roads were open for restoration of peace in Jammu and Kashmir.

Addressing mediapersons at the local airport here this evening before his return to New Delhi, Mr Vajpayee asked the Pakistani Chief Executive, General Musharraf, to openly condemn the recent killings in Kashmir. Mr Vajpayee said the “silence on the part of Pakistan on the recent killings” conveyed her involvement in these killings. “Two things cannot go simultaneously”, Mr Vajpayee said while referring to General Musharraf’s “repeated invitation for talks and its support to the militancy in Kashmir.

The Prime Minister had a three-hour-long tour of Pahalgam this afternoon in the wake of the killings of over 90 persons on Tuesday night, including 32 in Pahalgam only, over 22 of them Amarnath pilgrims. The Prime Minister was accompanied by an all-party delegation including the opposition leader, Ms Sonia Gandhi and Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress, the Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, Mr Chaman Lal Gupta, the Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP), Ms Mamata Banerjee (Trinamool Congress), Mr Somnath Chatterjee (CPM) and a Telugu Desam MP.

Without identifying the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), the Prime Minister said it was “ridiculous” on its part to seek a probe into the incident. The APHC here had yesterday claimed that the act of killings was the handiwork of “vested interests”.

The PM outrightly rejected the claim adding that it was clear that the two militants involved in the attack, who were killed at Pahalgam on Tuesday night belonged to the Lashkar-e-Toiba.

The Prime Minister ruled out any tripartite talks saying that his government would have talks with the people of Kashmir, to solve all the issues.

Meanwhile, the Congress President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, who was here as part of the all party delegation led by Mr Vajpayee today charged the NDA government at the Centre for not ensuring adequate security arrangements during the Amarnath yatra and not being vigilant enough to avert the recent bloodbath.


Suspend talks, say RSS outfits

NEW DELHI, Aug 3 (PTI) — Even as the Centre began parleys with Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, various Sangh Parivar outfits today demanded suspension of the peace talks, immediate dismissal of the Farooq Abdullah government and snapping of diplomatic ties with Pakistan, in the wake of the killing of Amarnath pilgrims and other Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir.

In a memorandum to President K.R. Narayanan, Sangh leaders also demanded handing over of the entire state to the Army and Rs 5 lakh compensation to the families of the victims.

The signatories to the memorandum included among other senior VHP leaders Acharya Giriraj Kishore and Vishnu Hari Dalmia, Bajrang Dal’s national convener Surendra Jain and Satyanarayan Bansal, Delhi RSS Chief.

Interestingly, Mange Ram Garg, Delhi BJP President, has also signed the memorandum in his capacity as the President of the Dharmayatra Mahasangh.

They alleged that Pakistan had engineered the massacres to frustrate the Centre’s peace initiatives.

“The attacks on the pilgrims is a challenge to the entire nation. It would be meaningless to have any friendly feelings towards Pakistan. It is high time now to snap all diplomatic ties with Islamabad and pay it back in the same coin,” the memorandum said.

“All peace talks should be postponed till normalcy returns to the state,” it said.

Earlier in the day, Sangh Parivar outfits staged a violent demonstration outside the Pakistan High Commission forcing the police to use water cannons and tear gas. 

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