14 Aug 2008, 0103 hrs IST, Vishwa Mohan,TNN
NEW DELHI: As the agitation in the Kashmir valley against a “non-existent” economic blockade continues, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI, may be hoping to get through what it has failed to achieve all these years — project its loyalists in the Hurriyat Conference as the real representatives of the popular sentiments in the Valley.
The observation was made by senior intelligence officers during high-level meetings on Tuesday-Wednesday amid mounting evidence that Hurriyat was using the contrived complaint of ‘economic blockade’ to nudge the people to look towards Pakistan-controlled Muzaffarabad.
The home ministry on Wednesday released figures countering the claim of agitationists in the Valley about the economic blockade and arguing that truckers and unions of fruit growers openly aligned with Hurriyat were also engaged in myth-making about the blockade.
Claiming that there is no blockade at all along the Srinagar-Jammu highway, the ministry said as many as 236 trucks and tankers carrying oil, gas, sheep, medicines and poultry products crossed the Jawahar Tunnel from the Jammu side early on Wednesday morning. Of these, 82 trucks and tankers had reached Srinagar by afternoon, it said.
Referring to the stranded trucks in the Valley, an official said a fleet of them actually belonged to one individual known for his close affiliation with Hurriyat. The transporter refused to move his vehicles towards Jammu despite the promise of full security cover along the route.
Home ministry officials said that the decision of some of the fruit growers and truckers had more do with secessionist politics than any genuine security concern.
On Wednesday, home minister Shivraj Patil also told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that there was no blockade on the Jammu-Srinagar highway and adequate security personnel were deployed for uninterrupted movement of vehicles.
The figures only confirm the suspicion that the blockade had been staged as part of ISI’s design to help Hurriyat occupy the space which had till now been occupied by political parties.
“It has long been one of the objectives of the ISI to project the Hurriyat as the true representative of the Kashmiris. Though it failed in the past, it now appears to have gained some ground towards it this time particularly when even the mainstream political party PDP became part of the design by joining Hurriyat’s ‘march to Muzaffarabad’ call,” said a senior home ministry official.
The official also pointed out how this episode has even brought two sections of the Hurriyat — the group of Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and the rebel faction led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani — together.
“The solution to the Amarnath land row may be arrived at sooner than later, but the matter which brought the Kashmiris on roads has relegated the efforts for normalcy in J&K to the background,” said the official, referring this to be the biggest worry of security and intelligence agencies.
The Jammu region has, however, a different problem. In view of the Shri Amarnathji Sangarsh Samiti’s decision to extend the shutdown till August 20, the home ministry asked the paramilitary force — deployed for providing security to the Amarnath pilgrims — not to leave the state even after the end of the yatra on August 16.
Sources in the CRPF said that all the 5,000 paramilitary personnel would be diverted to the Jammu region considering the extension of shutdown.
The Centre is, meanwhile, contemplating to announce an economic package for those who were affected due to the agitation in both the Jammu region and the Kashmir valley. The suggestion was given by the all-party delegation which met twice in the past two days.