Kashmir’s largest militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen has shrugged off the Havana peace initiative between India and Pakistan, saying “nobody can evict us” from training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and that it was under no pressure from Islamabad.
After weeks of talks of a ceasefire in Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan, Hizb spokesman Ehsan Elahi told the Hindustan Times on Thursday that if India made a formal proposal, the issue would be discussed in two days at the planned meeting of the United Jihad Council, an influential umbrella of about 15 militant groups.
Elahi said the militants would not be affected by last week’s agreement between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf in the Cuban capital of Havana to create a “mechanism to jointly fight terror”.
The two countries decided to “put in place an India-Pakistan anti-terrorism institutional mechanism to identify and implement counter-terrorism initiatives and investigations” as part of joint peace declaration.
“Talks with Musharraf can ease the situation for the time being, but not in the long run. Many such meetings have been held and many agreements reached — but without any result,’’ he said in a telephone interview. “We are not affected by it … We live in our own independent land, we have our own Azad Kashmir government which is free,’’ Elahi said, adding that they were not regarded as terrorists by Pakistan. “No one can move us or evict us from where we are. Pakistan cannot do anything.’’
In New Delhi, home ministry officials did not make any formal comment. However, security officials said on condition of anonymity that a ceasefire was unlikely. They feared that a ceasefire with the Hizbul Mujahideen might not hold because all the factions did not agree with the peace approach.
The last ceasefire was announced during Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure on July 24, 2000, when Hizbul’s Kashmir chief Abdul Majid Dar emerged from hiding after years with three other commanders wearing face masks for talks with Indian officials in Srinagar.
Within days, outfit chief Mohammed Salahuddin withdrew the ceasefire, saying India had not agreed to involve Pakistan as a third party in the Kashmir talks. Violence resumed with several attacks killing 100 people in two days of bombings and shootouts on August 1 and August 2.