Lashkar rejects Geelani's plea on Army contractors
29 March 2001
The Times of India
The Times of India News Service
SRINAGAR: The Lashkar-e-Taiba has rejected the appeal of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Hurriyat member and Jamait-e-Islami leader, asking the Pakistan-based militant outfit to lift the "ban" on contractors working for the Army. The Lashkar militants had issued a stern warning through some local newspapers on March 13 to contractors for the Military Engineering Services and the Army Service Corps to desist from working for the Army. If they did not do so, it said, they would be treated as Army personnel. A spokesman of Geelani told The Times of India News Service that a 75-member delegation of the MES and ASC contractors and suppliers met Geelani on Wednesday and apprised him of the hardships faced by them ever since the Lashkar warning to sever their contractual interactions and interests with the Army. The delegation said the "ban" had affected the livelihood of 30,000 Kashmiris directly, while many thousands had been indirectly affected. The MES and ASC contractors and suppliers had also made several appeals to the Lashkar through local newspapers to re-consider its dictat. They had said that both the contractors and others connected with their business would have to undergo untold sufferings if they severed connections with the MES and the ASC. Geelani promised the delegation that he would appeal to the outfit to review the "ban". In his appeal, Geelani had asked the Lashkar militants to give reasons for imposing the "ban". But rejecting the appeal, a Lashkar spokesman said the contractors should seek alternate jobs within a month. After the expiry of this date, they would be treated as "enemies of Islam and dealt with accordingly". The Army has also criticised the Lashkar for asking the Kashmiri MES contractors to give up their occupation. According to an Army spokesman, the dictat was aimed at accentuating the economic misery of Kashmiris.