BSF to pull out of five J&K towns
7 March 2007
Srinagar: Pullout expected to end by next weekend Level of violence down in southern Kashmir. Over 11,000 Border Security Force men engaged in counter-terrorist operations will be pulled out of five of the worst violence-hit towns of Jammu and Kashmir next week. Though the withdrawal is part of a phased plan to remove the force from counter- terrorism duties, the details and timing of the withdrawal had been a closely held secret. Sources in the BSF told The Hindu that while eight battalions would move out of the Kashmir Valley — two each from Tral, Sopore, Pulwama and Chrar-e-Sharif, two would pull out of the mountain town of Doda, northeast of Jammu. Officials said the pullout was expected to end by next weekend and these units would be relocated along the Line of Control after rest and retraining. Each battalion is being replaced with a newly raised Central Reserve Police Force formation. Each CRPF battalion has seven companies, compared to the BSF's six, and the additional manpower is made of those receiving on-the-job training. The withdrawal will, in practice, mean an increase in the number of personnel available to the Jammu and Kashmir Police for counter-terrorism operations. New Delhi's decision to go ahead with withdrawing the BSF comes days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rejected the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and the secessionist All Parties Hurriyat Conference demand to demilitarise the State. PDP leaders have threatened to withdraw from the State's coalition government unless the Army is pulled out of southern Kashmir. The level of violence diminished significantly in recent months in southern Kashmir and the district of Kulgam, for example, has not reported a single terrorist outrage in three months. Officials in New Delhi contend that the continued presence of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Hizb ul-Mujahideen cadre means the demand is premature. Eleven battalions of the Rashtriya Rifles are now operating in southern Kashmir.