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Delhi Hizb skeleton in Pervez suitcase

New Delhi, June 15: India’s refusal to ban the Hizb-ul Mujahideen has given Pakistan a chance to needle Delhi on its seriousness about tackling terror on its own soil.

When Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf meets President George W. Bush in the US, he is expected to convey that India has been thundering against Pakistan and cross-border terror without putting its own house in order.

The organisation has camps not only in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir but on the Indian side as well.

Musharraf leaves for the UK tomorrow to hold talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair on the peace process and to discuss steps to enhance defence co-operation between the two countries.

From London, Musharraf will leave for Germany and then fly to Camp David on June 24, where he will be received by Bush.

Earlier this week, deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani had said during his talks with the US administration that Pakistan was the epicentre of terrorism in the subcontinent. Pakistan has been smarting since.

At Camp David, Musharraf is expected to project India as perpetually whining and never satisfied with any measure Pakistan takes to ease bilateral tension.

The deputy Prime Minister had pointed out that Islamabad was yet to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure it had put in place to bleed Kashmir.

After Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s latest peace initiative, Islamabad has been restricting the movement of Hizb cadre on its soil.

However, it has stopped just short of banning the outfit on the grounds that the cadre were based in PoK and it was up to the provincial government to take action.

Home ministry officials confirmed that the Hizb had not been banned but termed a terrorist outfit under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Asked why the ban was not in place, a North Block official said: “If an outfit is designated as a terrorist organisation under Pota, action can be taken whenever necessary. There is no need for a formal ban.”

The Hizb is on the US government’s “watch list”. India has not banned it to keep communication channels open with the group.

The organisation is made up of basically Kashmiri youths unlike the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Lashkar-e-Toiba that, India claims, are manned by Pakistanis.

A section of the Hizb, led by Abdul Majid Dar, had for some time been in contact with the Indian government. But after his assassination in March, the situation changed. In July 2000, Dar shocked his comrades by announcing a unilateral three-month ceasefire to facilitate talks with the Indian government.

In August that year, Vajpayee sent senior officials, including then home secretary Kamal Pande, to Srinagar to begin talks with Dar. However, the peace effort got scuttled after the Pakistan-based supreme commander of the Hizb, Syed Salahuddin, refused to play ball.

In November 2000, Vajpayee called a Ramazan ceasefire and tried again to begin talks. But the army was unhappy and terrorist attacks also increased.

Despite severe criticism, the Prime Minister extended the ceasefire till January 26, hoping it would send a reassuring signal to the people. When elections were held in Kashmir, Hizb leaders, including Dar, stayed away despite the Vajpayee government’s efforts to involve them.

However, as long as Dar was alive, there were chances of the Hizb striking a deal with the Centre.

At the moment, it looks both divided and demoralised.

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