March 2003 News

Mufti's Healing Touch Hurts Pakistan And Hurriyat

21 March 2003
The Daily Excelsior
Ghazanfar Butt

Jammu: The progress in implementing the 'healing touch' policy of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, has been steady. The Chief Minister has been trying his best to ensure that the counter-insurgency operations of the Security Forces cause as little inconvenience to the people as possible. The Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police has been restructured, the Border Security Force is gradually being replaced by the Central Reserve Police, and the special committee set up to review the cases of detainees has met and decided to release twenty- six persons. The relations between the Centre and the State have remained cordial, in spite of political differences. Responding positively to the suggestion of the State Government, the Centre appointed Mr N. N. Vohra as the new interlocutor to start discussions with the State Government and all political and other groups in the State. Mr Vohra's appointment has been widely welcomed and it is hoped that a solution to the problems in Jammu and Kashmir will evolve soon. These developments have not been to the liking of Pakistan. Though Chief Minister Mufti has been scrupulously correct in saying that while the talks between the Centre and the various groups in the State are designed to bring some order to the internal situation in the State, the Government of India will have to start a dialogue with Pakistan at a time of its own choosing. But Pakistan knows that any improvement in the internal situation in the State will be to its disadvantage. There has been a concerted campaign to put the clock back. There was violence in Poonch on March 14, when terrorists fired indiscriminately from Anand Hotel .In the operations conducted by the Police, one terrorist was killed and all the persons trapped inside the hotel were rescued. The Deputy Superintendent of Police and three others were killed in the operations. This incident was closely followed by an attack on the police post in the Gool area of Udhampur on March 15, in which eleven persons, including nine policemen were killed. Four policemen were kidnapped and a considerable stock of arms and ammunition was taken away. Two of the kidnapped policemen were killed and the other two managed to escape. On March 16, the Security Forces conducted combing operations in Bhaderwah, in which six militants of the Hizbul Mujahideen, including its district commander, were killed. The attack on the Jammu and Kashmir Police in Jammu region has made the Government of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed vulnerable. Mufti has been able to occupy the Chief Ministers' Office on the ground that it was the Kashmir valley which was the problem area, and the people's verdict in the Valley should be honoured. The violence in the Jammu region has opened many wounds. The commotion in the Assembly on March 16 was expected. To put more pressure on Mufti, the Hurriyat Conference members visited New Delhi and met Congress President Sonia Gandhi and many political leaders including former Prime Ministers Inder Gujral and V. P. Singh. Mirwaiz Omar Farooq is reported to have complained to Sonia Gandhi, that the Central and State Governments were interfering in the running of the madrassas. The steps taken by Mufti to modernize the madrassas were hurting them. He perhaps felt the Congress President would direct the Mufti Government to change its policies. Reports do not indicate any response received from Sonia Gandhi. During their interaction with Inder Gujral, the Hurriyat leaders wanted the Centre to follow the 'Nagaland Model' and that the Prime Minister should directly talk to them. Also the Hurriyet wanted to be intermediaries in talks with Pakistan. Mr Gujral is reported to have rid the Hurriyat leaders of their illusions and told them clearly that the Centre could directly talk to Pakistan under the Shimla Agreement when it chose to and that they should first talk to N. N. Vohra. He is reported to have questioned them whether they were in a position to stop violence in Jammu and Kashmir like the NSCN in Nagaland. The Mirwaiz even addressed the congregation at Jama Masjid complaining against the State Government's policies and gave an interview to the Pakistan paper Jang complaining against Government's interference in the running of religious seminaries and mosques in Kashmir. The Mirwaiz should know that in Pakistan -according to official figures - - approximately 1,000 mosques have been attacked and desecrated during the past five years as a result of communal and sectarian differences (Aijaazz Ahmed, Asia Times) The Mirwaiz and other Hurriyet leaders also made a desperate effort to meet the envoys of Britain, Canada and other Moslem countries to apprise them of the 'atrocities' being committed in Kashmir. The advice given to them was that the Hurriyet Conference should join the mainstream and make an effort to combat violence in the State. These activities by Hurriyat leaders are seen by the people as an attempt to be relevant in the State. When K. C. Pant was appointed Central interlocutor, the Hurriyat Conference did not consider him important enough and refused to meet him. They wanted to visit Pakistan and then consider meeting the Prime Minister. Now, they perhaps have reservations in talking to N. N. Vohra along with other groups in the State. Deputy Prime Minister Advani has made it clear that N. N. Vohra could meet the Hurriyat leaders. It is unlikely that the Centre will change its policies because of the spurt in violence. If at all the events will unite the people to make concerted efforts to rid the state of the mercenaries from Pakistan. General Musharraf has been 'persuaded' by the United States to be part of the war against Iraq. As far as Afghanistan is concerned there is pressure on the Pakistan Army to conduct joint operations against Al Qaida on the Pakistan-Afghan border. For the first time, the ISI made a desperate attempt to brief the newsmen as to how it had captured the Al Qaida leader and mastermind behind the September 11 attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammad earlier during the month. People in Pakistan credit the CIA with having captured the noted Al Qaida commander. The attention of the world is going to be focused on Iraq for the next few weeks - if not months. There will be a desperate attempt by forces from across the border to step up violence in Jammu and Kashmir. It is up to the people of the State to see that the effort to step up violence ends like the last flicker of a flame. The healing touch will heal. (ADNI)

 

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