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Militant takes up pen to further his cause

By Sheela Bhatt in Islamabad
January 06, 2004 00:45 IST
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A former spokesman for the Hizbul Mujahideen, the separatist outfit based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, is now a part of the media crowd in Islamabad.

The Hizb militant-turned-journalist was anxiously awaiting the outcome of the meeting between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf.

The bearded man, who can be identified only as Siddiqui, said he spent six years in Indian jails.

Siddiqui said he was a spokesman for the Hizb in Srinagar between 1994 and 1997. He now reports for his own Web site from Chandni Hall, the media room of the Holiday Inn in Islamabad. Two media rooms have been set up for 260 Indian reporters and around 300 Pakistanis.

Three years ago, Siddiqui, now 36, simply crossed the border and entered Pakistan. He explained, "Pakistan does not consider crossing the Line of Control an illegal act. They have given me shelter and citizenship too. Thousands of Kashmiris have crossed the border and taken shelter in Pakistan in the last decade."

In Pakistan, his articles have been published by well-known newspapers such as Dawn and The Nation. To earn a living Siddiqui also contributes a regular commentary on the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir to some European embassies in Islamabad and those of some Gulf states.

Siddiqui said that while it was easy for him to cross the border into Pakistan, it would not be easy for him to return to Jammu and Kashmir, though he wishes to go back to find a bride. Siddiqui said he wants to marry a Kashmiri girl. He has even retained his Indian passport.

Siddiqui's family lives in Anantnag district. He joined the separatist movement after the 1987 assembly election in Jammu and Kashmir, which was widely perceived to have been rigged. He was arrested in 1988. From 1988 to 1991 and again later between 1994 and 1997 he remained in jail. His tongue bears deep marks of electric shocks that he allegedly received in Indian jails.

Siddiqui insisted that the jihadi movement against India in the Kashmir valley has not subsided and Pakistan's support to the "Kashmir freedom movement" would remain intact despite two murderous attacks on General Pervez Musharraf.

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Sheela Bhatt in Islamabad