February 22, 2001


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Pak-based outfits reject cease-fire extension

Most Pakistan-based separatist organisations have rejected outright the Centre's third extension in its unilateral cease-fire in Jammu and Kashmir.

However, the people living in border areas welcomed it and described it a ''hope to restore peace'' in the trouble-torn state.

A spokesman of the Pak-based Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen described the cease-fire as a ''conspiracy to derail the freedom struggle'' in Jammu and Kashmir, and said it was ''merely to mislead the world as custodial deaths, fake encounters and torture of innocents continued in the valley''.

He said while on one hand India was declaring that they wanted peace, on the other New Delhi was ''purchasing tanks and making missiles''.

He said if India was sincere in its peace efforts, it should have released all detenues and initiated a dialogue with the concerned parties to the dispute.

The pro-Pakistan ''Al-Omar Mujahideen'' chief Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar also rejected the extension and said it would intensify attacks on security forces and their camps in Jammu and Kashmir.

''We reject it yet again and warn all those who will try to make any compromise on Kashmir issue,'' said Zargar, released by India in 1999 alongwith two other militants in lieu of passengers held hostage aboard the hijacked Indian Airlines IC 814 plane.

Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen have already rejected the cease-fire.

A silver lining among the clouds was the welcome accorded to the cease-fire extension by residents in areas along the Line of Control.

''We were praying to God that the cease-fire should be extended for ever as it has brought us relief for the first time after ten years'', many residents told UNI.

''This is for the first time in ten years that we could sleep in our houses without any fear that Pakistani shell may hit us.''

But, the people in Srinagar and other major towns did not show any enthusiasm this time.

"This is a very good effort on the part of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee," a vegtable seller at Lal chowk said but referred to recent alleged fake encounters, custodial killings and firing on processionists as dampners on the peace process.

He said there should be a total halt of all activities of Special Operation Group of the state police and all surrendered militants working in tandem with different security agencies should be shifted to Jammu during the cease-fire period to get good results.

People in Ajas, Bandipora, Baramulla, Pulwama and Badgam alleged that of late security forces have again started harassing people by checking vehicles and frisking passengers.

Meanhwile, in Srinagar the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Thursday said extensions would be of no use until some concrete efforts were forthcoming above and beyond the government's peace gesture.

Reacting to the decision, APHC Chairman Prof Abdul Gani Bhat told UNI,''We have made it clear time and again that mere extension of the cease-fire will not resolve the 53-year-old vexed Kashmir issue, but can prove a beginning towards the goal if carried forward and utilised properly.''

Former Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani while addressing a meeting in Baramulla Wednesday however said that the only lasting solution to the Kashmir issue was ''total withdrawal of Indian security forces from Jammu and Kashmir''.

He said extension or no extension, there would not be any change in the prevailing situation in the state.

Lasting peace in the sub-continent would remain a distant dream until the core issue of Kashmir issue was addressed, he opined.

Bhat said,''Let us hope the government will now spell out the rationale behind it so as to dispel doubts about the move in Kashmir.''

He said the cease-fire remained unilateral even after two extensions as ''no efforts were made to make it both-ways''. As a matter of fact, a meaningful dialogue between all parties concerned should have followed the declaration of cease-fire, the Hurriyat chief said.

The people of Jammu and Kashmir, Bhat said, saw a ray of hope after Vajpayee announced the cease-fire and Pakistan responded positively. '' However, the steps which should have been taken to make it more meaningful were yet to be set in motion,'' he complained, suggesting that now the cease-fire and dialogue should go hand in hand.

Criticising the earlier announcements on the cease-fire, Prof Bhat said they could not produce the desired results as ''heads of innocents continued to fall, houses were torched, and custodial and fake encounters continued''.

Bhat said the Hurriyat had decided to send a delegation to Pakistan to hold talks with Islamabad and various separatist groups across the border so as to make the cease-fire more effective.

However, the APHC's sincere peace efforts were defeated by hardliners in the government, he charged.

There were some people at the Centre who wanted that everybody should contribute to efforts on restoring peace in Kashmir but there are others who did not want to see the success of the peace process, Prof Bhat remarked.

On the nomination of a five-member delegation, including two former APHC chairmen Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Moulvi Omar Farooq, besides Moulvi Abbas Ansari, Abdul Gani Lone and Sheikh Abdul Aziz for the Pak visit, he said the team's selection was the Hurriyat's decision and there was no question of following the dictates of anybody.

''Why should anybody in India or Pakistan tell us who should visit Islamabad,'' he asked and said the matter should be left to the APHC to decide.

When his attention was drawn to the statement of some central leaders that only moderates would be issued passports and other travel documents, Prof Bhat said, ''Why should we change any member of the delegation when we had taken a decision in the interest of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.''

Pointing out that barring former chairman Moulvi Omar Farooq, not a single Hurriyat leader had the travel documents or passport to visit Pakistan, the Hurriyat leader said, ''If the Indian government is opposed to any of our member's visit to Pakistan, let them give us the reason,'' adding these were ''mere excuses to derail the peace process.''

The visit to Pakistan, fixed for January 15, however, could not take off as the team members were not issued travel documents by the Centre.

Abdul Gani Lone was issued a country-specific passport to visit Pakistan to attend his son's marriage with the daughter of Kashmiri separatist leader Amanullah Khan. The document was valid for three months only.

Moulvi Abbas Ansari's passport was impounded by the government some time ago. However, he along with Moulvi Omar Farooq was allowed by the Centre to visit Qatar to participate in the Organisation of Islamic Conference held in November last year.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Sheikh Abdul Aziz do not have any travel document.

The Hurriyat leaders have said its talks with the militant leaders and the Pakistan government will have a positive impact on the peace initiative taken by India while announcing the unilateral cease-fire, and followed up by Islamabad by ordering its troops to observe 'maximum restraint' along the LoC.


The Kashmir cease-fire: The complete coverage

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