ISI trying to derail Kashmir peace talks
5 June 2000
The Asian Age
New Delhi: The Centre is sure that the recent attack on a prominent Shia leader in Srinagar is an attempt by Pakistan's ISI to derail the Kashmir peace process by widening communal polarisation and targeting emerging centres of power. Sources in Union home ministry said that there is a change in focus of the Pakistan-backed militants and they have started targeting the state leaders to instil a sense of fear, so that they do not participate in the ongoing peace process. Pakistan, according to the sources, is not in favour of normalcy being restored in the Valley and wants to have a say in the dialogue which the Centre has broached with various groups in Kashmir. Sources said that Union home minister Lal Krishna Advani will be briefed by the J&K home department as well as intelligence agencies about the likely fallout of the attack on Shia leader, Maulvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, which led to sectarian tension in the state. Mr Advani will halt enroute to Leh where he will inaugurate the Sindhu Darshan festival. Eleven persons had died and several others were injured, including the Maulvi, in the bomb blast during a Shia religious ceremony at Khawaja Gund Qasim near Magam in Srinagar on June 2. The Union home ministry officials feel the attack holds other portents and ulterior designs as well. The ISI attacked the Shias, as the community was never a supporter of militancy in the Valley and has always opposed it, sources said. The blast created communal tension in the Valley, as it was first time where a religious or a political gathering was attacked by militants, who prefer to aim at the security forces and government establishments in the post-Kargil era. According to rough estimates, the total population of Shias in Jammu and Kashmir is about 3 lakhs. Out of that, about 1.25 lakh Shias are scattered in Ladakh, Leh and Kargil areas. 'The attack is a reflection of the Shia-Sunni divide in Pakistan and the ISI wants to perpetrate the same in this part of the border as well,' commented an official while hinting at the motive behind the attack. Sources said that the blast is the handiwork of the pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen group, as intelligence agencies have intercepted their wireless messages claiming responsibility. The Hizbul Mujahideen has been targeting the National Conference leadership in a planned way, ever since they managed to successfully eliminate state power minister Ghulam Hassan Bhat last month.