Hizbul chief endorses ceasefire offer
25 July 2000
New Delhi: Even as major militant outfits, including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Harkat-ul-Ansar, Al Badr and Al Umar, rejected the unilateral Hizbul Mujahideen ceasefire announcement, Syed Salahuddin, the supreme leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), today endorsed the ceasefire offered by his main commander in Jammu and Kashmir. ''We own this offer, it is a tactical move,'' Salahuddin told reporters. ''We have thrown the ball in India''s court. It must now respond positively,'' he said referring to the truce announced by Hizbul commander Abdul Majid Dar in Srinagar yesterday. ''I want to make it clear that the ceasefire offer is conditional,'' Salahuddin told a crowded Press conference in Islamabad. He said his outfit''s move was to contradict ''propaganda'' that Kashmiris did not want negotiations. ''India should come forward now to negotiate with Pakistan, the APHC (All-Party Hurriyat Conference) and the Kashmiri leadership,'' Salahuddin said. ''India should stop human rights violations, suspend military operations, end atrocities in Kashmir and continue releasing prisoners,'' he said. ''If India does not respond positively and violates our ceasefire conditions, you will see with your own eyes there will be massive, targeted attacks by the Mujahideen (freedom fighters) in Kashmir.'' Salahuddin said 17 Kashmiri militant factions grouped into the Muttahida Jehad Council (MJC) had ''disagreed'' with Dar''s offer. ''They are free to react. They have their own thinking. It is our strategy,'' he said, adding that every commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen was bound by the decision, which had been endorsed by its central command. Militant groups based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, at a four-hour meeting under the aegis of the MJC, condemned the Hizbul Mujahideen ceasefire offer. ''The meeting thoroughly discussed the ceasefire announcement and strongly condemned it as a severe blow to the liberation struggle in Kashmir,'' council vice-chairman Mohammad Usman said in Muzaffarabad. In New Delhi, the Hizbul offer was welcomed as a ''positive sign.'' Addressing the BJP Parliamentary Party, Prime Minister A B Vajpayee said his government was ready to talk to anybody within the framework of the Constitution. Defence Minister George Fernandes said the offer was indicative of the disillusionment of the Kashmiri people with Islamabad''s policy of engineering disturbances.''During the past two decades, Kashmiris have suffered immensely because of militancy and Pakistan sending mercenaries into the valley,'' he said.