Monday, January 14, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Kashmiri separatists happy over address
M.L. Kak
Tribune News Service

Jammu, January 13
Pakistan President, Gen Pervez Musharraf’s pledge to come down heavily on religious extremist groups, which included his decision to ban the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jash-e-Mohammad, speaks about him being a moderate, modern and liberal Muslim leader of a theocratic country.

Commenting on General Musharraf’s address to the nation on Saturday night a senior police officer, who has been engaged in counter-insurgency operations is the state right from 1988, said “Pakistan President has reversed political history in his country and he needs India’s support in implementing his promises.”

The police officer said India “should not expect anything better from a military ruler who has earned the wrath of fundamentalists. If India lets him down and pushes him to the wall he may become desperate and sow prickly thorns on the soil of India.”

Hitherto no political or military ruler has imposed ban on religious extremist groups and impose conditions on madarsas. There is no doubt that these madarsas had become a breeding ground for extremists but by allowing these to run or open only after getting registration and no objection certificate from the government is viewed as a measure, though soft in appearance, to check the mushroom growth of such centres.

Separatists in Kashmir are happy over General Musharraf’s address are pleased with him over his assurance of political, diplomatic and moral support to the ongoing Kashmiri struggle. Second, with the banning of the Lashkar-i-Toiba and Jash-e-Mohammad Kashmir would be rid of foreign mercenaries. In this context a senior Hurriyat Conference leader, Mr Abdul Gani Lone, had voiced concern over the presence of foreign mercenaries in Jammu and Kashmir as it had maligned the indigenous struggle.

Another senior Hurriyat conference leader Molvi Abbas Ansari said: “We are happy because General Musharraf has promised to lend political and moral support to our struggle.” He said: “We are happy because he has emphasised the need for the settlement of the Kashmir issue through negotiations”. The Molvi, too, has suggested to Delhi to respond positively to General Musharraf’s demand and resume talks with Islamabad. One senior BSF officer was equally satisfied with the tone and tenor of his address. “We need to give him a chance,” he said adding that “while we await the implementation of his assurances we have to remain on the alert to foil any Pak machinations on the border.”

At the same time there are fears and a semblance of disbelief among BJP leaders who say: “We should not show any laxity by believing that the Pakistan President will adopt a pro-Delhi stance.” In support of their contention they said the Lahore peace journey by the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, was responded by Pakistan’s misadventure in Kargil, Agra summit having been replied by the terrorist strike on the Parliament House and the Kashmir Assembly.

Security experts are of the opinion that mere a ban on the Lashkar-i-Toiba and Jash-e-Mohammad will not change the pattern of terrorist strikes in Jammu and Kashmir unless General Musharraf directs the Pak troops to prevent even a single mercenary from crossing into Jammu and Kashmir. These experts explain that these two outfits have changed their nomenclature and the Lashkar-i-Toiba has announced that despite the ban it would continue to fight “the holy war” in Kashmir indicating that if these foreign mercenaries were not prevented from crossing into Kashmir there may not be any change in the pattern and scale of violence.

These experts refer to the arrest of over 350 extremists by the Pakistan police in recent days and say that “It can be a cosmetic exercise because more than 30,000 youths from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the occupied Kashmir have been given training, in camps, in fighting guerrilla war. India could be encouraged to resume dialogue with Pakistan if Islamabad took firm steps in disallowing these guerrillas in sneaking into Kashmir.

Experts also refer to the spurt in military-related violence in Jammu and Kashmir even after Pakistan joined the alliance headed by the USA which launched a war against global terrorism. They point out that either General Musharraf “says what he does not mean” or he had lost grip on the troops that had been deployed on the border.

By announcing a crackdown on extremists on one hand and by pledging to provide moral and political support to the freedom struggle in Kashmir General Musharraf has placed the ball in India’s court. And Delhi may not be in a position to react sharply against General Musharraf’s address to the nation when several countries have welcomed it. The only way for India is to wait for the results of Musharraf’s promises.

Describing the speech as “positive in all respects”, Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat, Chairman, All Parties Hurriyat Conference said it was a welcome address. “The speech was preceded by rain in Kashmir, which is a good omen”, Prof Bhat said. He expressed the hope that it would be followed by a dialogue between India and Pakistan on Kashmir.

The former APHC chairman, and senior leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, Syed Ali Shah Geelani held that it was appreciable address by the Pakistan President. He added that there was no change in Pakistan’s stand on the Kashmir issue. Geelani, while referring to other aspects of the General’s address, said the steps announced to check ethnic violence were the “need of the hour”. He said the President had clearly explained the virtues of the religion and its application.

“A peaceful and meaningful dialogue is the only way to resolve the Kashmir issue”, said Fazal Haq Qureshi, senior separatist leader.Back

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