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United Jihad Council attacks Musharraf peace offer

Thursday 7 December 2006, by SWAMI*Praveen

Dubs four-point charter a "unilateral concession"

Says no compromise on Kashmiri self-determination Insists on Pakistan-based terror coalition

SRINAGAR: A coalition of terrorist groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir has lashed out at President Pervez Musharraf’s new offer for a resolution of the India-Pakistan dispute over the State, describing his four-point charter as a "unilateral concession."

"Kashmiris cannot compromise on their right to self-determination," a spokesperson for the Pakistan-based United Jihad Council said in a press release faxed to newspaper offices in Srinagar late on Tuesday.

Referring to Gen. Musharraf’s suggestion that India-Pakistan supervise the autonomous or self-governed states of Jammu and Kashmir that would be created if his proposals are accepted, the UJC said that "options like joint control can only be acceptable if they are a stepping stone for the right to self-determination."

UJC leaders have become increasingly critical of India-Pakistan dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir in recent months. "Freedom is our goal," Hizb ul-Mujahideen chief Mohammad Yusuf Shah in an October 30 interview, "and we will not accept anything under the Indian Constitution." He described plans for self-rule - a formulation that figures in General Musharraf’s new proposals - as "a document of slavery."

Earlier, in May, the UJC had lamented what it described as the Pakistan Government’s "weak and apologetic" policies on Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the "pointless moderation" of secessionist politicians. "Some so-called moderates are playing political showmen," the UJC had said, "and keep knocking at New Delhi door. They are part of Indian cunningness."

Mixed signals

Such hostile polemic, Indian security analysts believe, is an attempt to drive the best bargain possible in hard times "General Musharraf is under intense pressure from the United States of America to dismantle jihadi groups," a senior intelligence official told The Hindu.

"He hopes to secure a quick political settlement on Jammu and Kashmir," the officer argued, "and then use it to compel the jihadis to shut shop."

Elements of the jihadi leadership appear to understand the new reality, and are seeking a political role. In one recent interview, the Hizb ul-Mujahideen chief dropped several preconditions for initiating a ceasefire, and appeared to suggest that he would be willing to consider joining the dialogue process. However, under intense pressure from his UJC partners, Mr. Shah soon resiled on this offer.

Interestingly, the political divisions in the Hizb ul-Mujahideen command on dialogue have manifested themselves down the terror group’s command structure. Hizb leaders have, for example, been unable to decide on the competing claims of hawks and doves to succeed the recently-killed southern Kashmir divisional commander Mohammad Ashraf Shah - a key go-between for the Hizb ul-Mujahideen and the People’s Democratic Party.

Javed `Seepan’ Sheikh, an Anantnag-based policeman-turned-terrorist who strongly favours dialogue, and Pulwama district commander Parvez Dar, a hardliner who favours escalating violence, had both put in claims to lead the Hizb ul-Mujahideen’s largest unit. Until a second meeting to be held later this month to decide these competing claims, Tral-based district commander Hanif Khan has been appointed acting divisional commander.

ISI-terrorist tensions

Frictions between the UJC and their patrons in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate have been evident since March, when 18 top jihad commanders staged an unprecedented public protest in Muzaffarabad.

The protests followed the ISI’s decision to terminate monthly subsidies ranging from Rs. 3,000,000 to Rs. 400,000 to Islamist terror groups operating against India.

Hizb ul-Mujahideen supreme commander Mohammad Yusuf Shah, who operates under the nom de guerre Syed Salahuddin, is leading the protests, along with Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Mohammad Zaki ur-Rahman, the Jaish-e-Mohammad’s Abdul Rahman, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen’s Maulana Farooq Kashmiri, al-Umar’s Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar, the Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front’s Bilal Ahmad Beig and al-Badr’s Bakht Zamin Khan.

Speaking to The Hindu during the protests, UJC spokesperson Mohammad Kalimullah said the protesters wanted Gen. Musharraf to reverse policies that "dishonoured a war in which one hundred thousand Kashmiris have sacrificed their lives." "Until he announces that Pakistan’s moral and political support for the mujahideen in Kashmir will continue," Mr. Kalimullah said, "our leaders will remain on hunger strike. We will not back down."

Warnings from the ISI, though, led the protestors to call off the protests.

Although terrorist groups continued to mount large-scale offensive operations against India, the protests failed to secure them additional funds and weapons.

An investigation by Pakistan’s prestigious Herald magazine, which was published in August, said there was a mood of "lethargy and disorientation" at jihadi training camps.

See online : The Hindu

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