Peace or Pak: The Hizbul dilemma
The Hizbul is talking peace again. So why did the Hizb call off the July 24 peace initiative in the first place? And why are they willing to extend the olive branch all over again? Akrita Reyar comes up with a few answers.
Report: Akrita Reyar Abdul Majid Dar, chief of Hizbul Mujahidden on the Indian side of the border, is talking peace all over again. On August 22 he declared that the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) is willing to discuss another ceasefire, and followed it up on Thursday with a statement that he is talking to the other militant outfits in the Kashmir Valley to work out a “comprehensive ceasefire”. Explaining the genesis of ceasefire diplomacy, Sreedhar, senior analyst at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis says, “It started when some Hizbul leaders visited Kabul. Shocked to see what the city had been reduced to, they didn’t want Srinagar to become another Kabul.” Already irked by the shift in Pakistani patronage to foreign mercenaries notably Maulana Masood Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammad, the rift between the local Kashmiri fighters and the pan-Islamic mujahidden came out in the open. It was then that the Indian intelligence agencies picked up the strings. While they did not engineer the fracture, they certainly helped accentuate it. This theory is echoed by Sreedhar who says, “The divide between the local militants and foreign mercenaries is very real. And now, it has crystallised.” The movement so far tailored by the bosses in Pakistan developed a split. The HM began holding secret talks with Indian agencies and modalities of a ceasefire declaration were worked out. All this, while Pakistan was kept out of the picture. So why did the Hizb beat a hasty retreat? Sources say, Dar announced the ceasefire before the scheduled date, while HM chief Syed Salahuddin was still on the wrong side of the border. One reason for this could be that there was some internal bungling. The second reason could be that there is also a rift between the hardline and moderate Hizbs. An extension of the second argument is that Dar harbours political ambitions and wanted to take the entire credit for the peace drive. Sources say that Pakistan, which suspected such a move, has put Salahuddin under house arrest. This was evident from the doctored statements Salahuudin made to a private news channel that interviewed him over the telephone, a day after the ceasefire announcement. All his subsequent statements, it is apparent, were dictated by Pakistan. Pakistan’s attempts to derail the fledgling peace process is on expected lines. Pakistan expert, Prof Uma Singh of the School of International Studies, JNU, feels General Pervez Musharraf has his back to the wall. Hardliners have left him with no scope to manoeuvre. Under these conditions, if Musharraf falters on Kashmir, he may even be dislodged. This is why he is forcing Salahuddin to toe his hardline stance. So, while the ceasefire was announced by Dar, it was called off by Salahuddin. Dar, who had kept mum ever since Aug 8, is the one who has made vocal his views on giving peace a chance once again. While he has said that Pakistan will have to be included in any talks, what cannot be missed is his pat on the back to Indian intelligence for taking bold steps in removing impediments on the path to dialogue. The next few weeks will be interesting to watch !