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Washington Post, Aug. 3, 2000
India Pledges to Resolve Kashmir Dispute

JAMMU, India, Aug. 2 - India vowed today to pursue a political settlement of the dispute over Kashmir after a day of guerrilla attacks left at least 90 people dead across the region.

On Tuesday, gunmen attacked villages and groups of Hindu laborers or pilgrims in at least five locales, according to police sources cited by the Reuters news agency. The wave of violence emphasized the complexity of peacemaking in Kashmir, where Muslim militants, backed by neighboring Pakistan, are fighting a decade-old battle for independence from India.

One major Pakistani-backed guerrilla group, the Hizb ul-Mujaheddin, declared a truce last week and called for talks with India; a move that appears to have caused some confusion among more than a dozen other groups, large and small, that are fighting Indian control. A loose alliance of the guerrilla groups, the Pakistan-based United Jihad Council, announced it had suspended the Hizb ul-Mujaheddin's membership.

India immediately blamed Pakistan for the new attacks, as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared that, following the Hizb's cease-fire, "either groups which enjoy Pakistan's protection or militant groups that take instructions from Pakistan have decided to end the peace and kill innocent people."

President Clinton telephoned Vajpayee to express sympathy and told him he will speak to Pakistani leaders about the series of killings, Vajpayee's office said in a statement. Clinton also praised Vajpayee for "continuing to pursue a path of peace" in spite of the attacks, White House spokesman P.J. Crowley said. Vajpayee told Clinton that there could be no serious dialogue with Pakistan if the attacks continue.

While some Pakistani-backed guerrilla groups had vowed to continue their fight following Hizb's truce announcement, the United Jihad Council's interim chairman, Mohammed Usman, told Reuters "we absolutely have nothing to do with" Tuesday's attacks. "We do not kill innocent civilians."

At Pahalgam, where a gun battle killed at least 30 people, most of them Hindu pilgrims on their way to a shrine, witnesses and survivors told the Associated Press that Indian soldiers and police officers were responsible for many of the deaths.

A forest guard, Farookh Ahmed, was one of several people who said officers of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force killed civilians and dragged Kashmiris out of tents to beat or shoot them in revenge for the militant attack. "I ducked and survived; two were killed in front of me, two were injured," he said.

In previous cases, police in Kashmir have blamed militants for attacks despite witnesses' insistence that it was government forces who did the killing.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry condemned the killings, saying that "on previous occasions, terrorist acts aimed at civilians have been carried out by renegade elements at the behest of Indian security forces to malign the Kashmiri freedom struggle internationally."

Pakistan's military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, rejected charges of Pakistani involvement and told the BBC's online news service that "it is up to India to take this opportunity to start a process of dialogue" with Kashmir's rebels. "Certainly an opportunity is there and I don't think it is going to last forever," he said.

Some Indian analysts agreed. "The government must stay engaged [in a dialogue] and not get flustered," said political commentator Prem Shankar Jha. "The pressure for peace is coming from ordinary Kashmiris and from what I hear in the valley, it will be difficult to stand up to that pressure," he said.

DAWN, 03 August, 2000
Islamabad condemns attacks in Occupied Kashmir

ISLAMABAD, Aug 2: Pakistan on Wednesday condemned the reported loss of many civilian lives in an attack on civilians on Tuesday near Pahalgam in held Kashmir.

A spokesman of the Foreign Office here said that "at this present important juncture, when India is beginning to realise the futility of its efforts to impose a military solution on Kashmiris, it is attempting to divide the Kashmiri freedom movement which has shown great determination and has remained united in the face of years of brutal Indian repression."

He said "the international community expects India to end its repression against the Kashmiri people and sincerely pursue a negotiated peaceful settlement, in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people and the United Nations resolutions, through dialogue with Pakistan."

"Initial reports do not rule out the possibility of killings resulting from firing by the Indian forces. On previous occasions, terrorist acts aimed at civilians have been carried out by renegade elements, at the behest of the Indian security forces, to malign the Kashmiri freedom struggle internationally," he said.-APP

Meanwhile many of the more than a dozen Mujahideen groups operating in held Kashmir furiously denied their involvement in the massacres, adds AFP.

The Hizbul Mujahideen group warned that the killings threatened its unilateral ceasefire announced last week and accused New Delhi of trying to deflect blame for the failure of the peace initiative.

Excerpt from Article in DAWN, 03 August, 2000
Mujahideen blame India for massacres

ISLAMABAD, Aug 2: Kashmiri Mujahideen groups on Wednesday denied any involvement in a series of massacres in held Kashmir in which 85 people were killed and accused India of being behind the murders.

"We absolutely have nothing to do with it, we do not kill innocent civilians," Mohammad Usman, acting head of the Muttahida Jihad Council, an umbrella organisation of 16 Mujahideen groups, told Reuters from Muzaffarabad.

Hizbul Mujahideen, one of the most powerful groups active in held Kashmir, condemned the killings and denied any other militant groups could be involved.

"It is no way the work of any Mujahideen group. It is not possible. We know Jihad," said Saleem Hashmi, spokesman for Hizbul Mujahideen.

Usman also said Kashmiri Mujahideen groups were not behind the massacres, adding they could be the work of Indian intelligence agencies.

"India always blames Pakistani organizations but we have always clarified that we do not attack civilians. Our targets are the military, military installations or other strategic points. India is playing different games for the last few days and it may be it's another ploy to mislead the world against Pakistan but we, the Mujahideen, do not kill innocent civilians," Usman said.

Laskhar-i-Taiba, another powerful militant group, also denied involvement, saying the killing of innocent civilians was against the spirit of its struggle.

"Our Jihad is only against Indian forces. Islam does not permit us to kill innocent civilians. It is the Indian secret agencies which are responsible and want the blame to rest on Mujahideen's shoulder," said Lashkar spokesman Umair Raza. ........

Pakistan wants Kashmir massacre probe

By Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan Thursday called for an independent investigation into the latest bloodbath in the Indian-ruled part of the disputed Kashmir region for which New Delhi blames Islamabad and pro-Pakistan militant groups.

Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said the killing of at least 90 people Tuesday night was a ``horrible crime'' and he told Reuters Television that India should allow international humanitarian organizations and foreign journalists to determine responsibility.

He said the United States should also ask India to allow such an investigation. President Clinton phoned Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee Wednesday to offer his condolences and to encourage him to keep up efforts for peace in the Himalayan region.

The killings came after Kashmir's largest militant group, the pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen, announced a cease-fire last week. Later Thursday, India said it had agreed with the group to set up a committee that will set ground rules for the cease-fire.

A U.S. National Security Council spokesman said Wednesday the United States was talking to the Pakistanis to encourage them to ``use their influence'' to help bring the violence in Kashmir to an end.

Asked if Clinton had also talked to Pakistani military ruler General Pervez Musharraf, Sattar said no such call had been received as of Thursday morning.

But he said if such an approach was made, ``we will say what I have already said (about the matter).''

``We would like the United States to ask India to permit impartial investigations. Otherwise the Indian desire to blame Pakistan conceals a deeper desire to divert attention ... from savage repression in the Indian-held Kashmir,'' he said.

``We would welcome an impartial, neutral, third-party mechanism.''

He said the Indian government allowed only very restricted access to foreign journalists in Kashmir, where it is fighting a decade-old revolt by militant groups seeking independence or union with Pakistan.

India has blamed military-ruled Pakistan for the seven massacres of mostly Hindu pilgrims and laborers but Pakistan's Musharraf rejected the charges and said it was up to New Delhi to seize the opportunity for dialogue with Kashmiri rebels.

Sattar repeated Pakistan's assertion it had no role in the cease-fire announced on July 24 by Hizbul Mujahideen but said Islamabad would like to see a comprehensive cease-fire involving all militant groups.

``Not only Pakistan but India itself can exercise influence to change the direction in Kashmir away from violence to a political and peaceful approach,'' he said.

India rules about 45 percent and Pakistan just over a third of Kashmir, over which the two countries have fought two of their three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. China holds the remainder.

For India, the End Justifies the Means

How India tried to sabotage the budding peace process in Kashmir

By M. Zubair for The Indian Terrorism Page

Aug 01, 2000

It was an incredible sight: PM Atal Behari Vajpayee was standing in front of the survivors of the carnage in Pahalgam, offering his condolences and promising that the Indian government would do everything in its power to hunt down the "cross-border terrorists" who had "killed innocent pilgrims and civilians". Suddenly, one of the survivors rushed forward ... overwhelmed by grief, he cried out "No, it was not the mujahideen that killed our loved ones ... Indian police and army are the sinners!"...

This incidence was flashed into millions of homes by none other than "Doordarshan", the Indian TV channel.

Several interesting questions arise from this brief news flash. The main question being: If the survivors themselves are blaming the Indian forces for the massacre of over 100 innocent civilians in Kashmir, then why is the Indian government blaming the Kashmiri mujahideen?

In order to answer this question, we will have to look at the recent developments in Kashmir. India has been forced to play on the back foot since Hizb Ul-Mujahideen, the largest Kashmiri guerrilla outfit, declared a cease-fire recently. This step sent shock waves through the Indian circles of power. India has always refused to negotiate with "terrorists". But if these "terrorists" stop the fighting then what excuse will India have not to start a dialogue with them? Desparate to get out of this situation, India decided to "sacrifice" a few of her own innocent civilians, including women, children and old men. Indian security forces opened fire on these pilgrims, there was an international outrage to the brutal massacres, a couple of dead "militants", most probably innocent young Kashmiri men dragged out of their houses and shot by the Indian forces for this "good cause", were displayed on TV as being the culprits behind these heinous acts ... voila ... India got what it was aiming for: International sympathy and understanding for why India is not negotiating with these "terrorists".

Eager to harvest the fruits of their Machiavellian plan, Indian leaders did not stop at this. Next step was to blame Pakistan for the massacres. "Pakistan is aiding the fighters who carried out theses atrocities", thundered Vajpayee. Pakistan countered by expressing grief over the killings and demanding that India should allow United Nations, international humanitarian organizations and foreign journalists to determine responsibility. The Indian response to this valid, constructive demand was a deafening silence.

Amazing as this may seem to people around the world, the above has been the modus operandi of India with regard to handling of people in occupied territories and ethnic/religious minorities. During Clinton's recent visit to South Asia, 39 Kashmiri Sikhs were brutally gunned down by "militants", nevermind the fact that the survivors were shouting out at the TV cameras later on that the killers were members of the Indian security forces! Sikh organizations and international journalists visiting the survivors agreed upon the fact that Indian forces and not the mujahideen had killed the Sikh villagers. But Indian government officials were not willing to stick their neck out of the sand. After all, what value do the lives of a few, poor Sikh villagers have when compared to the complex political needs of "Bharat Mata" (Mother India)?

These examples should make it clear to everyone that the Indian government is capable of doing anything and everything to achieve her goals.

The recent killing of over 100 people came just a few days after the Hizb's cease-fire offer. Indian officials are repeatedly stating that the killings were carried out by Mujahideen groups with a majority of members belonging to Pakistan or Afghanistan, unlike Hizb Ul-Mujahideen, which is a predominantly Kashmiri group. This is a very obvious attempt at driving a wedge among the mujahideen and to divide them on ethnic/nationalistic lines. Anyone who knows a little bit about the Kashmir Jihad knows that there is no such thing as a Pakistani or a Kashmiri mujahid. A mujahid is only a mujahid, period.

Also, by claiming that Pakistani nationals are involved in the Kasmir fighting, India is trying to portray Pakistan as a trouble maker in front of the world community, hoping that Uncle Sam will pressure Pakistan to stop helping the mujahideen so that Indian forces can finish them off. What India is not willing to understand is that the fighting in Kashmir is kept alive by the Kashmiri people's burning desire to get out of India's oppressive clutches. Time is running out fast and India is running out of lies even faster. The only solution to the Kashmir problem is for India to respect the UN resolutions acknowledging the Kashmiri peoples' right to self determination. If India insists on holding on to Kashmir by force then it should remember what happened to the Soviet Union after it occupied Afghanistan.

Kashmir Index