February 1998 News

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Hizbul chief ousted for causing "setback to militancy"

18th February 1998
Indian Express

JAMMU: The supreme commander of the pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen, Salaudin alias Pir Sahib, has been removed from the top post of the militant outfit by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan, following recent bloody clashes between the Kashmiri and foreign militants in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Besides, over 40 Kashmiri militants owing allegiance to him have been disarmed and detained in their training camps at Muzaffarabad, highly-placed defence sources said quoting reports received from across the border. The move has sent shock waves among a little over 100 Kashmiri militants staying in various training camps in the PoK, with many of them showing inclination to return home in Kashmir Valley.

However, they were not allowed to move out of their camps, sources said. The disarming of Kashmiri militants followed pressure from the local people who asked the authorities to take away weapons from all of them. However, the ISI responded only by disarming the Kashmiri militants.

Sources attributed the removal of Saluadin to the emergence of another power centre within the Hizbul under the leadership of Masood Sarfaraz, who hails from PoK. Though both are Kashmiris, Salaudin had more inclination towards militants from Kashmir as he himself hailed from the Valley.

As a result, the Pakistani militants and other foreign mercenaries within the Hizbul started joining hands against their Kashmiri counterparts under the leadership of Masood. The ISI, which was already perturbed over the fading away of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, also started patronizing the group headed by Masood.

However, things took a turn for the worse for Salaudin after the successful Assembly polls in the State during 1996, as the Kashmiri militants failed to deter voters from exercising their franchise. This hed led the ISI to decrease the flow of funds to him and his group.

The ISI's discriminatory attitude towards Kashmiri militants increased the wedge between them and foreign militants, with both sides accusing each other of causing a setback to militancy. The two Hizbul groups even had bloody clashes recently, resulting in many casualties on both the sides.

Now, after the unceremonious removal of Salaudin by the ISI, Masood was making all-out efforts to occupy the top Hizbul post. However, the ISI was yet to take a decision on the matter.

Sources attributed the delay in appointment of the new supreme commander to the apprehensions within the ISI about the likely resentment among the Kashmiri militants. They wanted to avoid such a situation which would make it difficult for even the die-hard foreign mercenaries to carry out their subversive activities in the Valley.

However, Masood is reported to have suggested the ISI to form a separate outfit comprising only the Pakistani and other foreign militants for induction into the Kashmir Valley. However, the ISI was reportedly apprehensive of foreign mercenaries getting local support without the cooperation of local Kashmiri militants, sources added.

Sources said the reports received from across the border revealed that the Kashmiri militant leaders staying in PoK have already conveyed to their cadres in the Valley to raise money for themselves on their own, in view of the shortage of funds. In this connection, sources referred to a recent communique from across the border telling militants in Kashmir Valley that they may not be able to get money for the Id festival as the funds available with them have been "completely exhausted".


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