Extremist Violence Will Continue In Kashmir Despite Peace Moves: Musharraf
14 June 2005
Srinagar: Extremists will continue to launch attacks in Kashmir even if India and Pakistan are able to resolve their decades-long dispute over the Himalayan region, Pakistan's president said Tuesday, a day after a suicide bombing killed 15 people and wounded 60. The attack Monday struck a neighbourhood near an Indian security forces camp in Pulwama, a bustling town just south of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu-Kashmir state. Police blamed militants fighting for Kashmir's independence or merger with Muslim Pakistan. Three Indian security personnel died in the attack. A separatist leader blamed the Indian government. But Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf held Kashmiri extremists responsible and said the violence was unlikely to end soon. Indian and Pakistani leaders will 'have to be bold enough' to stand up to the militants who hope to derail ongoing peace talks, Musharraf told The Associated Press on Tuesday. 'It does cause some problems, but not much,' said Musharraf during a tour of Australia. 'We do understand that even if (India and Pakistan) reach a peace agreement . . . we should still expect some extremists who would not be agreeing and who would carry on.' Kashmir is at the core of decades of rivalry between India and Pakistan. Both countries hold a portion of the Himalayan region - over which they have fought two wars - but claim it entirely. On Tuesday, a general strike to protest the suicide attack in Pulwama closed almost all shops, schools and private offices in India's portion of Kashmir. Major business districts were deserted. Government offices remained open but had much lower attendance than usual because there was no public transport. The strike, called by hardline pro-Pakistan faction of Kashmir's main separatist alliance the All Party Hurriyat Conference, was supported by most other separatist and rebel groups, who expressed shock and anguish over the bombing. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the head of a breakaway faction of the All Party Hurriyat Conference, said he suspected Indian government agencies of plotting Monday's bombing to derail peace efforts, and demanded an independent probe. The English-language Greater Kashmir newspaper quoted Syed Salah-ud-Din, the Pakistan- based commander of the largest Kashmiri rebel group, Hezb-ul- Mujahedeen, as saying Indian intelligence agencies could have triggered the explosion 'aiming to create a rift between mujahedeen (holy fighters) and the people.' 'Rebels cannot even think of carrying out such attacks in which civilian life and property is lost,' he added. The United States, which has supported more than 1 1-2 years of peace efforts between India and Pakistan, condemned the bombing and blamed extremists. 'We have not heard a claim of responsibility, but note that there is a past pattern of violence by militant groups when peace overtures are underway,' the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi said in a statement. At least 66,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the militants began fighting Indian security forces in 1989.