Friday, December 22, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Hurriyat team leaves for Pak on Jan 15
Tribune News Service
and UNI

SRINAGAR, Dec 21 — A delegation of the All-Party Kashmir Hurriyat Conference (APKHC) will leave for Pakistan on January 15 to negotiate with militant leaders and the government of that country.

This was decided at a meeting of executive council members here today.

The gathering, attended by all seven members at the residence of former Chairman Maulvi Omar Farooq, welcomed the extension of unilateral ceasefire by India.

Senior executive council member Mohammad Yaseen Malik read out a brief statement immediately after the day-long meeting drew to a close.

Mr Malik said the gathering, which discussed all issues in detail, appreciated extension of unilateral ceasefire, by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for another month after Ramzan.

The meeting also lauded the Pakistan Government for directing its troops to observe restraint along the border. It was decided to send a delegation to Pakistan to negotiate with militant leaders and others so that the peace process was made more meaningful and result-oriented.

When asked who would comprise the delegation, Mr Malik said this would be known only on January 15.

Briefing mediapersons in Islamabad, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Riaz Mohammad Khan said, “We call for consultations with Kashmiris, particularly the APKHC, and also the resumption of talks between the two countries soon after Ramzan’’.

Informed sources said the decision of the APHC to constitute a team for visiting Pakistan indicated that the conglomerate had received a clear hint from New Delhi that the party leaders would be permitted to cross the border. And if it materialised it would fulfil one of the demands of the APHC.

Meanwhile, militants killed four persons, including a National Conference (NC) leader and a special police officer (SPO) and also abducted two persons in the Kashmir valley overnight.

An official spokesman said militants kidnapped and killed NC leader Siraj Mir Biswal at Rajwara Handwara in the frontier district of Kupwara last night.

Militants lobbed a grenade towards a security forces picket near a bank at Kupwara, injuring two security personnel and four civilians.

Government employee Abdul Majid was kidnapped and killed by militants at Nagota last evening while two persons were injured in a crossfire between militants and security forces personnel at Haiz Kali village last night.

Militants abducted a nambardar near his Narpora Pulwama house this morning while Ishtaq Ahmad Wani was kidnapped from his Kulgam house last night.

SPO Nazir Ahmad Mir fell to bullets near his Mahipora Kulgam residence while Farooq Ahmad Khan was killed at Hapatnar in South Kashmir this afternoon.

JAMMU (PTI): Two Army personnel were killed and five injured when militants ambushed a convoy of Army vehicles in the border district of Rajouri on Thursday, an Army spokesman said here.

Militants opened indiscriminate fire on the Army vehicles when they were passing through the Bimbar Gali sector, he said.Back


India unlikely to reduce troops
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Dec 21 — The Centre is unlikely to take a decision on reducing the troop strength along the Line of Control (LoC) despite Islamabad claiming to have undertaken a partial withdrawal of troops from the border in Jammu and Kashmir.

Both Defence Minister George Fernandes and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah are not in favour of reducing the troop strength along the LoC. Not only are the Indian troops stationed at great heights which would make it difficult for sudden withdrawal, but verifying Pakistan’s claims would also be difficult.

Incidentally according to reports, the Army is also not in favour of India lowering its guard again this time due to Pakistani claims. Having learnt a bitter lesson after Pakistani soldiers made intrusion into Kargil despite the Lahore bus diplomacy, the Army is not in favour of any reduction of troops along the LoC.

In New Delhi the Defence Minister said: “We have to understand the meaning of these claims. How can troops be withdrawn overnight from high up in the mountainous terrain that marks the LoC”.

“How were the troops withdrawn,” the Defence Minister said referring to Pakistani troops withdrawal. “Were they moved by road or aircraft, as the cantonments are far back in the rear. The roads are bad all along the LoC”, he said adding that these facts had to be verified before the government could react to the developments.

He also said that the Pakistan army’s announcement had not mentioned the areas from where the troops had been withdrawn and the strength of the reported withdrawal.

Asserting that an atmosphere could be created for the resumption of peace dialogue with Pakistan, Mr Fernandes asked Islamabad to curb activities of mercenary groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen to prove its sincerity towards peace with New Delhi.

Mr Fernandes said groups like the Laskkar, based and bred in Pakistan were vowed to violence and their continued activities within Kashmir were a “cause of grave concern”.

“These mercenary groups are sponsored by Islamabad. They have their camps in Pakistan and to prove it’s bona fide to peace process Islamabad should control the activities of these groups by putting a curb on them,” he said.

Mr Fernandes said there had been a marked improvement all along the borders since the Prime Minister’s announcement of the ceasefire. “Borders are more or less peaceful with a let up in shelling.”

The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister said it was difficult to verify the withdrawal of Pakistani forces along the LoC. He said if India withdrew its forces, it would be difficult to plug the passes to check infiltration. The security and situation demand that the troops need not be pulled back.

Dr Abdullah, who attended a high-level meeting at the home ministry here, said Pakistan’s ISI was still indulging in the killing of innocent people in the state. His party workers were also being targeted by the militant groups.

The meeting, which was chaired by the Home Minister, Mr L K Advani, took stock of the security situation in the state following extension of ceasefire by one more month by the Centre.

Dr Abdullah castigated the Hurriyat leaders for making a demand to travel to Pakistan. He said “What is the need for them to go to Pakistan? They frequently visit the Pakistan high commission here from where they get directions on what to do”.

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