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Pakistan Allows Kashmir Raids, Militants Say

Pakistan Allows Kashmir Raids, Militants Say

Author: David Rohde
Publication: The New York Times
Date: September 20, 2002

Officials from three Pakistani militant groups said in interviews this week that the government of Pakistan has allowed Islamic guerrillas to resume small-scale infiltrations into Indian- controlled Kashmir. India has repeatedly demanded that Pakistan halt the practice, which brought the two nuclear-armed rivals to the brink of war this spring.

Under intense pressure from the United States, Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, promised in May that his government would do all it could to stop the infiltrations. In a speech today, General Musharraf repeated that promise.

"I want to categorically state that the government of Pakistan is neither allowing, nor sponsoring, nor encouraging, any kind of movement across the Line of Control," he said, referring to the boundary between the portions of Kashmir controlled by India and Pakistan. He added that any claim to the contrary was "motivated and false."

In an interview in New Delhi today, the United States ambassador to India told Indian journalists that American officials believed infiltrations into Indian-controlled Kashmir had increased recently.

"Infiltration is certainly still going on, and our judgment is it is up in August and up in September," Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill said, adding that raids had decreased in June and July.

Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi, a spokesman for Pakistan's government, denied the claims of the militants and the American ambassador. He suggested that unknown persons in Pakistan could be posing as militants to undermine the government and insisted that Pakistan was neither aiding, nor even tacitly encouraging, border crossings.

But members of the three militant groups said in separate interviews this week that while the government had halted all infiltrations in May, it had signaled in late July that small-scale infiltrations could resume. They said Pakistan continued to finance their groups and allowed them to buy weapons.

"There was a green signal from the authorities," said an official from one militant group. "Because of that the groups took the initiative."

Ershad Mahmud, an expert on Kashmir at the Institute of Policy Studies, a research organization in Islamabad, said he could not confirm that the Pakistani government was still financing the groups. But he said that small- scale infiltrations had resumed, and that General Musharraf was under intense domestic political pressure to allow them to continue.

In June and July, General Musharraf was seen in Pakistan as having made a major concession to India by halting infiltrations, he said, but that he had received nothing in return from New Delhi. With the approach of parliamentary elections, scheduled for October, Mr. Mahmud said, General Musharraf may be trying to outflank nationalist and religious parties, which could accuse him of being soft on Kashmir.

"He is gradually changing his position," Mr. Mahmud said. "There is limited infiltration."

For months, India and Pakistan have been locked in a standoff along their border, where both sides have massed a total of more than one million troops. At the center of the tension is a dispute over whether Pakistan is actively aiding a 13-year-old Islamic insurgency in the portion of Kashmir controlled by India.

Tensions flared last week at the United Nations General Assembly when General Musharraf demanded that Kashmiris be allowed to hold a United Nations mandated referendum on independence. He has denied that Pakistan is aiding the militant groups fighting in Kashmir, but he often refers to the separatist drive there as a "freedom struggle."

India's prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, responded by again accusing Pakistan of financing, arming and training guerrillas. He also accused Pakistani intelligence agents of assassinating political candidates in elections being held in Indian-controlled Kashmir this month.

In the interviews, an official from one of the militant groups, Hizbul Mujahedeen, the largest Kashmiri group, spoke on the condition of anonymity but said that his organization could be identified. Officials from the three other groups asked that their organizations not be identified.

Two interviews were conducted by a New York Times correspondent and two were conducted by a Pakistani journalist working for The Times.

An official from one militant group said that in the past government officials had provided money, issued weapons and led groups of 10 to 15 guerrillas to points along the border where they could cross into the Indian-controlled area of Kashmir.

He said that Pakistani officials told his group in May that in response to intense international pressure, Pakistan was temporarily halting incursions. "We were assured it was on a temporary basis," the official said.

After May, the money the group received from the government increased, he said. "In a sense, it was a bribe," he said, a way of keeping them happy. But camps and communication points in the Pakistan-controlled portion of Kashmir were closed and his group was barred from publicly raising money.

"For the previous two or three months they were totally shocked and dispirited by the decision," the official said, referring to members of his group. "But now they think that the government of Pakistan is returning to its previous position."

In late July, government officials signaled that infiltrations could resume, he said. His organization established new communication posts and began sending small groups of three to five cadres over the border.

Officials from Hizbul Mujahedeen and one other large militant group said in interviews with the Pakistani journalist that the government signaled to them that small-scale infiltrations could resume. They also said their organizations continue to receive government financing.

But the representative of the fourth group insisted that the government crackdown on infiltration was continuing. He said his group was receiving no government aid.

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