Wednesday, January 10, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

50 hurt as blasts rock Kashmir
Attempt to blow up Central Telegraph Office
Tribune News Service and agencies

SRINAGAR, Jan 9 — At least 50 persons, including two CRPF jawans, were injured in two powerful explosions set off by militants outside the main telecommunications office in the heart of Srinagar and in a market at Anantnag today.

The blasts occurred within three hours of each other and six of the injured were in critical condition, an official spokesman said.

He said 28 civilians and two Central Reserve Police Force personnel were injured when an explosive device, kept in an abandoned bag, went off near the boundary wall of the heavily-guarded telecommunications office at around 9.45 am.

The explosion took place when a large number of people had assembled outside the main gate of the office to deposit telephone bills, he said.

A portion of the outer wall between main entry to the CTO and the exchange building was razed to ground. Damage was also caused to the window panes on the first floor of the CTO building and the outer tin-sheets. However, no one was injured inside the building. Entry of public to the CTO was suspended for the day following the explosion. The blast was heard within a radius of 2 km.

A branch of the Syndicate Bank opposite the telecommunications office was also damaged. Panic gripped residents of the area as people, bleeding profusely, ran helter-skelter.

The injured were rushed to hospital, 22 of them were discharged after first aid, the spokesman said.

The blast occurred barely 48 hours after five Lashker-e-Toiba militants made an unsuccessful attempt to enter the high security airport in police uniform.

In another incident, 20 civilians were injured at busy Janglaat Mandi in Anantnag district in a grenade attack by militants today.

Militants hurled the grenade at a security patrol but it missed the target and exploded on the road injuring 20 passers-by, the spokesman said.

Hurriyat Conference leader and senior member of Awami Action Committee. Aftab Hilali, alias Shahid-ul-Islam, escaped unhurt when two youths fired at him at his Dalgate residence in Srinagar on Tuesday.

The unidentified gunmen fired several shots at the Hurriyat leader from point blank range but he escaped unhurt, the sources said.

In an encounter between joint operations group of the security forces and the police at Chornar forests in the Handwara area of Kupwara district, two militants of Lashker-e-Toiba were killed today. Till the last reports came in the operation was in progress. The police said that the patrol party was fired upon by the hiding militants and the two were killed in the shootout. Those killed have been identified as Abdul Hamid, alias Abu Kababa and Abu Saif.

Elsewhere in the valley, five security personnel, including a Sub-Inspector, were killed and four injured in separate incidents as two personnel of the BSF and the CRPF ran amok and allegedly fired at their colleagues, official sources said today.

In one incident, which took place at the heavily-guarded residence of the father-in-law of AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad at Hyderpora on the Srinagar airport road, two CRPF personnel were yesterday killed by Constable Balbir Singh of the 87th Battalion of the CRPF.

In another incident, BSF jawan Subhas lost his mental balance and targeted his colleagues inside their camp at Jamalatta in downtown Srinagar today, killing a Head Constable, a Constable and a cook and injuring three jawans.

Meanwhile, in a major breakthrough, the Jammu and Kashmir police today arrested six activists of the pro-Pakistan Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen (JuM), including its self-styled chief Muzaffer Mirza, during simultaneous raids in Sirnagar and Kolkota, foiling their attempt to reorganise the outfit, a senior police official said here.


APHC Pak trip non-starter
Geelani, Aziz bona fides suspect
From T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Jan 9 — Issuing the necessary travel documents to all the seven executive members of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) slated to travel to Pakistan on January 15 appears to have hit a serious roadblock with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government having second thoughts in respect of Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Sheikh Ahmad Aziz, it is learnt.

“The government is faced with a piquant situation and might have to await the return of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee from his official tour to Vietnam and Indonesia on January 14,” according to authoritative sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It is apparent there is an element of consternation among Jammu and Kashmir strategists about giving the green signal to Geelani and Aziz to travel to Pakistan in pursuit of Mr Vajpayee’s peace initiative.

The Prime Minister unilaterally announced stoppage of combat operations last month against the militants in J and K during Ramzan and extended it by another month till Republic Day on January 26.

Union Home Minister L K Advani told mediapersons this afternoon that “we are considering issuing passports to Hurriyat leaders.” Asked if all the seven executive members of the APHC will be granted passports, Mr Advani responded by saying “Home Ministry officials are looking into the matter.”

The APHC had remained steadfast in its demand that if travel documents were not made available to all the seven members of its executive committee, then it would cancel the visit to Pakistan where a huge reception awaits them. To compound matters, Islamabad has also insisted that Geelani, whose hawkish approach is well known in advocating Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan, must form part of the APHC delegation.

Information gleaned here shows that there is resentment in the APHC about the government applying different yardsticks in making available travel documents to its executive members.

This is hotly contested by the government which maintains “it is not applying two sets of norms. Mr Vajpayee’s and the NDA government’s formulation for taking forward the peace process in J and K is without grey areas. The terrorist violence against the innocent must end and there should be some matching response from the militant outfits to sit across the table aimed at resolving the protracted Kashmir tangle.”

What the Vajpayee government finds rather disconcerting is that some executive members of the APHC are working against the Prime Minister’s proposed peace process which has found an overbearing echo among the Kashmiris. The J and K strategists are worried that attempts are already being made to obstruct efforts to find a peaceful solution.

In this context they are quick to draw pointed attention to Geelani’s provocative utterances that the Jehad in Kashmir should continue and the APHC should not persuade the Pakistan based militants to give up insurgency. These highly inflammatory anti-India statements by Geelani whose passport was cancelled about seven years back has complicated matters for the decision makers.

There is nothing in Geelani’s demeanour to even remotely suggest that he favours a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir problem. On the contrary he is said to be pursuing vigorously Islamabad’s agenda of scuttling efforts to restore peace and calm in J and K. Similarly, sources said Aziz is the founder of the terrorist outfit Al Jihad and there are serious doubts if he has changed tack from talking through the barrel of a gun. It is claimed that there are still several cases of terrorism against Aziz who has received training in Pakistan.

Islamabad wants all the seven members of the APHC, including Geelani and Aziz, to make the sojourn to Pakistan. They have evolved their own plans for gaining maximum mileage from the visit of the APHC delegation.

As of now the proposed high profile trip of the APHC executive members to Pakistan seems to be a non-starter aimed at undermining the Prime Minister’s peace initiative. Considering the complexities of the situation in J and K, sources affirm that they have worked out contingencies to deal with the imponderables that are bound to crop up time and again.Back


Renegade militants form front
From M.L. Kak
Tribune News Service

JAMMU, Jan 9 — Top renegade militants, including Mr Kukka Parrey, MLA and Mr Javed Ahmed Shah, MLC, have decided to form a united front to fight political separatists especially the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leaders.

Mr Parrey and Mr Shah have held a series of meetings with other top renegade or pro-government militants during the past three weeks and decided to float a pro-nation front. Among those who have decided to join the front include Abdul Rahim Khan, Samad Khan, Ghulam Mohammad, Liyaqat Ali, Usman Majid, Jalal-ud-Din and Bashir Ahmed.

These reformed militants were instrumental in sensitising several areas in the Kashmir valley between 1993 and 1996. They created a situation for the activists and supporters of the Jamait-e-Islami that they had to flee from their ancestral villages in south Kashmir besides the Sonawari-Sumbal belt to take shelter in safer areas after the reformed militants targeted them and their houses.

They had played a pivotal role in assisting the security forces in destroying militant hideouts. But after the installation of the National Conference government these renegade militants were neglected and disowned by powers that be between 1996 and 2000. The result was that many of these renegade militants were killed, others fled from the valley and yet others were forced to rejoin militant outfits.

While Kukka Parrey won the 1996 assembly poll as an Independent candidate, Javed Shah was admitted into the National Conference and was elected to the Legislative Council.

Both Mr Parrey and Mr Shah have announced their opposition to government permission to APHC leaders to visit Pakistan. They said that the APHC leaders were not “true and genuine representatives” of the people of the state.

The two leaders want the government to hold talks with genuine representatives of the people who were the elected MLAs. They have dubbed the APHC leaders as a team of opportunists.

The reformed militant leaders are intrigued over the way the Government of India has reposed trust in the APHC leaders who are a divided lot. One set of them wants full azadi for the state while the other is in favour of Kashmir’s incorporation with Pakistan. They said in these circumstances there will be no purpose holding talks with the APHC leaders.

Mr Shah and Mr Parrey have pledged to expose both Pakistan and the APHC leaders.

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