Pak. pledges renewed support for `Kashmir freedom struggle'

ISLAMABAD Dec. 7. There is no let up in the war of words between India and Pakistan as senior leaders on both sides continue to trade charges and counter charges centred around Kashmir.

As the election campaign of the Deputy Prime Minister, Lal Krishna Advani, in Gujarat focuses on the alleged export of terror by Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir, Islamabad chose to up the ante on Kashmir by making a strong political statement on its "moral and legal obligation" to extend full political and diplomatic support to the "freedom struggle" in the Valley.

The lead story in several bulletins of the Pakistan Television and radio was the alleged murder of 284 Kashmiris by the Indian forces during the `holy month of Ramadan'. Both the PTV and Radio quoted Kashmir Media Service, supposedly an independent news organisation, based in Srinagar.

It was further claimed that during the period 85 women were widowed and 238 children orphaned. "Besides the Indian troops tortured or critically injured 451 persons. They also arsoned 29 houses and shops of the Kashmiri people."

The bulletins alleged that according to an estimate about 7,500 Kashmiri civilians were under detention at various jails across Kashmir and in other parts of India.

The Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf and the Prime Minister, Mir Zafrullah Khan Jamali, chose the eve of Id-ul-Fitr to greet the Kashmir people and issue a politically loaded statement on the various facets of the Kashmir issue.

Their statements clearly indicated Islamabad's hardening of stance.

The stridency on both sides, witnessed in the last few days, certainly does not give any hope for improvement of ties between the two countries.

Hopes of observers that the General elections in Pakistan and the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections would help improve relations have been belied.

As things stand, the proposed SAARC Summit in Pakistan in the second week of January could become a casualty of the barrage of words between Islamabad and New Delhi. Indications are Pakistan would like to wait till the second week of December, when the Gujarat Assembly elections would be over, before deciding on the fate of the SAARC Summit.

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