February 2004 News

Militants frightening people off Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus

26 February 2004
The Daily Times
Amir Rana

LAHORE: While India and Pakistan are discussing the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service as a confidence-building measure between themselves, Kashmir- based militant groups have threatened to strike the bus and consequently sabotage the peace overture.'Militant organisations from both sides of Kashmir are against such peace initiatives and want to scare people away from the bus service,' was the general view in Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu Kashmir's capital.'Akhwan-ul-Muslimeen, Jaish Muhammad and Jamiat-ul-Ansar have warned the public not to take the bus because they will hit it when it starts', a jihadi leader requesting anonymity told Daily Times. He adding said such sabotage was possible from Pakistan's side of Kashmir as well.People from various walks of life in Muzaffarabad confirmed to Daily Times that militants were frightening people away from the bus service. Most political parties and people will not accept visas or other such conditions on travel.Mir Dawood, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) base camp ameer, said there were hundreds of divided families on both sides anxiously waiting for the bus, but the JKLF's stance is that no visa or permissions should be necessary because it believed both sides of Kashmir were one region. 'Visa restrictions also weaken Pakistan's official stance that Kashmir is disputed territory according to United Nations resolutions,' he said. Condemning propaganda by militant organizations, he said they had their own axe to grind.Aysha Afroze Butt, the Jammu Kashmir National Liberation Front (JKNLF) women's wing president, said 'Jihadis' will be out of business if the divided families meet'. She hoped Kashmiris would foil the militant's conspiracies although they feared the militants. On the other hand a Hizbul Mujahideen commander defending the militant's position said, 'The bus service could damage the Kashmiris' freedom struggle. They are fighting for their right of self-determination and the bus service would mean that Pakistan has withdrawn from its position'. He said militants would not allow the bus service till India acknowledged Kashmir as disputed territory and resolved the issue according to United Nations resolutions. A Harkat- ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HJI) militant said the Kashmir freedom struggle was about to bear fruit and the bus service and other such measures would demoralize the militants. 'People from neither side will support the bus idea till they are guaranteed the Kashmir issue will be settled according to their whishes,' he said.


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