In a complete opposite stand to hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir based militant conglomerate United Jehad Council (UJC) chief Syed Salahuddin on Thursday de-linked the panchayat polls from his "struggle" and said militants have no plan to attack newly-elected panches and sarpanches.
"Militant leadership has not taken any decision to target the (panchayat) candidates. However, we can't rule out that some mujahideen (militants) on the ground may have targeted some candidates. But most of the times, political rivalry and Indian agencies are behind the killing of Panchayat poll candidates," said Salahuddin in an interview to a Srinagar-based wire service Kashmir News Service.
Salahuddin, who heads Kashmir largest indigenous militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, described the polls "as means for local self governance". "We didn't call for boycott of panchayat polls as these are for local self arrangements and are different from the assembly elections. You don't have to take oath under the Indian constitution in panchayat polls," KNS quoted Salahuddin.
A 16-phase panchayat polls, which started on April 13, is on in Kashmir with 11 phases already over. Jammu and Kashmir is voting for 29,719 sarpanch seats. Around 3,000 seats are reserved for women.
In contrast to Salahuddin, Geelani had asked people to boycott the polls, though the call was not heeded as the polls registered around 80 percent voters' turnout. Despite three suspected militant attacks on candidates, the violence failed to impact the polls.
The Hizb chief expressed ignorance over the killing of Jamiat-e-Ahli Hadees president Moulana Showkat Ahmad Shah, who was killed in an explosion in Srinagar on April 8, 2010. "There are several rumors associated with the killing. There can be difference of opinion but such killings are inhuman acts."
Salahuddin claimed the UJC was "making efforts to expose the killers of Showkat". "Our network in the Valley hasn't been able to crack the case yet. But we will continue our efforts to expose the killers," said the Hizb chief.
He said "only tripartite talks or United Nations' resolutions can be the basis of any dialogue process. "Salah-ud-Din, (Syed Ali Shah) Geelani sahib or Mirwaiz (Umar Farooq) can't solve it by talking to (Prime Minister) Manmohan Singh. Pakistan is holding one third of Kashmir and is a basic party to the dispute. It can't be resolved bilaterally," said Salahuddin.
The Hizb chief claimed his group can send militants into Kashmir at ease "Our mujahideen (militants) can come and go at their own will. There is no question that the Army can stop us. But we have hundreds of local training camps in the state where we recruit and train the mujahideen."