MUZAFFARABAD: Kashmiris on the Pakistan side of divided Kashmir said on Wednesday that they will give new talks with India a chance but they have little faith that they will succeed and believe it is only a matter of time before they will have to fight again.
For now, many of them are engaged in peaceful pursuits such as small businesses, teaching or social welfare, and they face severe Pakistani restrictions on crossing the so-called Line of Control (LoC) separating Pakistani and Indian Kashmir.
“We have not given up arms, jihad, but are just giving another chance to talks,” said Abdul Aziz Alvi, chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) in Pakistani Kashmir.
The JuD is an Islamist charity which the United Nations says is a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba, one the main militant groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir and blamed for a 2008 attack on the Indian city of Mumbai that killed 166 people.
“If India does not understand the language of negotiation, then guns will start speaking,” Alvi added as he was attending a protest rally against Indian plans to build dams in its part of Kashmir.
India and Pakistan last month agreed to restart comprehensive talks which were called off by India after the attacks on Mumbai by militants based in Pakistan.
India has long accused Pakistan of fomenting an insurgency in which nearly 50,000 people have been killed since it broke out in 1989. Pakistan denies the charge.
The bitterness generated by the dispute has an impact far beyond Kashmir’s snow-capped mountains and lush valleys, including in Afghanistan, where many analysts say India and Pakistan are waging a proxy war.
Since 2002, the Kashmir movement over the LoC has fallen significantly, partly because India has fenced the previously porous frontier but also because Pakistan has imposed tough restrictions on the movement of the fighters.
Controlling the Line of Control
“There’s been a huge impact. Previously, about 50 mujahideen used to cross to occupied Kashmir a month, now hardly five are able to do so,” said Abu Huzaifa Kashmiri, a member of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen militant group, who now runs a hotel in Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani Kashmir.
“There are chances that some rogue elements come out and conduct operations like Mumbai, but the militant leadership does not seem ready for any confrontation with the Pakistani establishment,” said defence analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi.
“It has to be seen how the militant leadership and establishment control these rogue elements,” he added.
A senior militant commander, who declined to be identified, said the failure of India and Pakistan to settle the dispute would ultimately benefit the militants.