Sunday, January 7, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Centre gives in to APHC demand
All seven leaders to get passports
From M.L. Kak
Tribune News Service

JAMMU, Jan 6 — The government is said to have decided to issue passports or travel documents to all seven members of the Executive Committee of the APHC to enable them to travel to Pakistan.

Informed sources said two senior APHC leaders, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat and Mr Abdul Gani Lone, who are in Delhi, had held several meetings with mediators. These mediators were candidly told that in case the government did not issue passports to all seven members of the Executive Committee, the proposed visit to Pakistan would be cancelled.

The sources said within the next two days the APHC leaders would be issued the required travel documents. In fact, only five of the seven members require passports because the remaining members, Molvi Umar Farooq and Mr Abdul Gani Lone, already have passports.

Kashmir experts in Delhi, who are acting as mediators between the government and the APHC leaders, had conveyed to the Centre that the APHC leaders were serious in abandoning their plan to visit Pakistan for discussing the Kashmir issue and allied matters with the government and leaders of different militant groups if their condition of passports for all seven Executive Committee members was not accepted.

The APHC leaders had announced that the selection of the team to Pakistan would be made only after all seven members were given the passports. Consequently, the Kashmir experts informed the Central Government and senior bureaucrats in the Home and External Affairs Ministries that Delhi should not provide a chance to the APHC to cancel the visit to Pakistan. Already, Islamabad had on more than one occasion announced its willingness to hold talks with the APHC leaders.

Sources said Delhi had reservations on issuing a passport to Syed Ali Shah Geelani who is treated as a “hawk” in the APHC advocating the merger of Kashmir with Pakistan. The APHC leadership took this as a challenge and decided to contest the government’s plan.

Prof Bhat indicated that in case the passports were issued within a day or two, “I will announce the Hurriyat team for visiting Pakistan.” We may be able to start our peace journey by January 15.


Troops to return to barracks?
From Binoo Joshi

SRINAGAR, Jan 6 — There could be a possibility of the Indian Government ordering its troops managing internal security in Jammu and Kashmir back to the barracks if the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) can guarantee that militant violence in the state shall cease, perhaps after talks in Pakistan, according to well-placed sources.

An APHC delegation is to pay a weeklong visit to Pakistan from January 15 for talks with extremist groups there on restoring peace in the state, a process that was set in motion with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee announcing a ceasefire in the state during Ramzan and then extending this by a month.

But the moot question is whether the terrorist groups operating from Pakistan would agree to end the militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. The Al Badr Mujahadeen, the Harkat-ul-Mujahadeen, the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Lashker-e-Toiba are some of the groups active in the state that have announced that they will continue their operations in spite of the cease-fire.

In fact, the Lashker-e-Toiba staged a daring attack on Delhi’s Red Fort in which three persons were killed while the Jaish-e-Mohammad mounted a car bomb attack at the headquarters of the Indian Army’s 15 Corps in Srinagar in which 11 persons including the bomber, were killed, after the ceasefire went into effect.

These groups are, therefore, critical for any lasting solution in the state. This was made more than evident last August when the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen called for a cease-fire and asked the Indian Government to begin a dialogue.

But when the Indian Government did respond, it changed stance and called for tripartite talks that would include Pakistan, a position that is clearly untenable to the Indian Government. This led to the collapse of the truce after two weeks.

Should the APHC delegation return with a commitment that militant violence will cease and should there be a kind of reciprocation from New Delhi in ordering troops back to their barracks, it would serve to meet a long-standing demand of Kashmiri separatist groups of all hues as well as the Pakistan Government, say the sources. All these groups have persistently asked for reduction of Army deployment in Kashmir, whose estimates are not available but which Pakistan has alleged to be an exaggerated 700,000 troops, to create what they call an atmosphere conducive for dialogue to solve the Kashmir issue.

The idea that Vajpayee’s initiative might just be inching towards fruition gained currency when Pakistan announced on December 2 that its troops stationed along the Line of Control (LoC) would exercise “maximum restraint.” This was followed on December 20 with the announcement of a partial troop withdrawal. However, Defence Minister George Fernandes has already termed this withdrawal as “inadequate.” Thereafter, Pakistan said on January 5 that it had pulled back “substantial” number of troops from the LoC.Back

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