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August 13, 1999
Skardu populace rise against Mujahideen, Sharief
Ramesh Bhan in New Delhi
Violent clashes have been reported between Lashkar-e-Toiba militants and Balti students in the Skardu region of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir over the large-scale presence of Mujahideen in the area.
Indian Army sources said today that the clashes over the past week have left several militants and civilians injured after large-scale demonstrations were held during which at least 700 people surrounded the Toiba camp and fired in the air.
The Baltis are demanding the eviction of all Mujahideen from the region. Massive protests by the local population led to the closure of Skardu on August 5. Although police were called in to restore order, the situation could not be immediately controlled.
The authorities have deployed personnel of the 5 Northern Light Infantry in the town and district authorities are in close touch with the army.
The sources said a high-level meeting of the civil and military officials was held in which plans were discussed to pull out the Mujahideen from the region as soon as possible under the supervision of the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence.
Meanwhile, at a joint meeting of various political parties, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief, the Pakistan Army and the civil administration came under severe criticism for the misadventure in Kargil.
The meeting which was attended by about 4000 to 5000 people, saw accusations hurled against Sharief for misleading the Pakistani people by saying that only the Mujahideen were fighting in Kargil even as NLI soldiers were dying.
The speakers criticised Sharief for not initiating action to secure the release of Pakistani soldiers from Indian custody, saying he wanted to hide the involvement of the Pakistan Army in the conflict.
Senior political leaders had started visiting the next of kin of those killed in Kargil in a bid to pacify the enraged population, the sources added.
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