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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
97ISLAMABAD7636 1997-09-05 08:29:00 SECRET Embassy Islamabad
Cable title:  

JAMMU AND KASHMIR ISLAMIC FRONT (C-NA7-00565)

Tags:   KPRP PINR PTER PK 
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1. (S) IN RESPONSE TO REFTEL (A) REQUEST FOR INFORMATION ON THE
JAMMU AND KASHMIR ISLAMIC FRONT (JKIF), POLOFF, ACCOMPANIED BY POL
FSN, VISITED THE JKIF'S ISLAMABAD OFFICE ON SEPTEMBER 4. MAKING AN
APPOINTMENT TO MEET WITH THE JKIF WAS SOMETHING OF AN ORDEAL, BUT
POL FSN FINALLY MANAGED TO TRACK DOWN AN ISLAMABAD PHONE NUMBER
(445699) FOR THE GROUP. WHEN HE CALLED THE OFFICE, THE PERSON WHO
ANSWERED REPEATEDLY ASKED IF THE CALL WAS BEING TAPED. "IF SO, I
WILL SPEAK MORE CLEARLY," HE SAID, EVEN AFTER BEING ASSURED THAT
THE CONVERSATION WAS NOT BEING MONITORED.

2. (S) FINDING THE JKIF OFFICE WAS ALMOST AS DIFFICULT AS MAKING
AN APPOINTMENT. LOCATED IN THE CAPITAL CITY'S WESTERNMOST SUBURBS,
THE GROUP'S HOUSE IS TUCKED INTO A NARROW ALLEY IN THE I/10-2
SECTOR (STREET 10, GALI (ALLEY) 27, HOUSE 1908). POLOFFS WERE
USHERED INTO THE HOUSE BY DR. HAIDER, WHO IDENTIFIED HIMSELF AS
VICE CHAIRMAN OF THE JKIF. HE IN TURN INTRODUCED BILAL BAIG,
CHAIRMAN OF THE JKIF, AND SYED ALI RAZA, WHOM HAIDER DESCRIBED AS
THE PRESIDENT OF JKIF'S POLITICAL WING IN MUZAFFARABAD. HAIDER,
WHO HAILS FROM BARAMULLA DISTRICT OF INDIAN KASHMIR AND SAYS HE HAS
A MEDICAL DEGREE, DID MOST OF THE TALKING DURING THE NEXT HOUR-AND-
A-HALF, THOUGH RAZA DID SPEAK UP OCCASIONALLY, AND BAIG APPEARED TO
BE FOLLOWING THE CONVERSATION CLOSELY.

3. (S) HAIDER NEEDED LITTLE PROMPTING TO LAUNCH INTO A CONVOLUTED
EXPLANATION OF THE GROUP'S HISTORY AND ITS PHILOSOPHY, MOST OF
WHICH IS COVERED MORE COMPREHENSIBLY IN REFTELS B AND C. HAIDER
SAID THE GROUP BEGAN AS A PEACEFUL ORGANIZATION CALLED THE JAMMU
AND KASHMIR STUDENTS' LIBERATION FRONT IN 1988 AND GRADUALLY
METAMORPHOSED INTO THE JKIF OVER THE COURSE OF THE NEXT SEVERAL
YEARS. HAIDER SAID HIS OWN CONVERSION TO VIOLENCE TOOK PLACE IN
APRIL 1992, WHEN HE WAS DETAINED AND TORTURED BY INDIAN TROOPS IN
SRINAGAR. ROLLING UP HIS PANTS LEG TO REVEAL SEVERAL UGLY GOUGES
IN HIS SKIN, HAIDER SAID HE HAD BEEN SUBJECTED TO ELECTRIC SHOCKS
AND SEVERE BEATINGS WHILE IN CUSTODY. SINCE THEN, HAIDER SAID, HIS
ELDER BROTHER HAD BEEN KILLED AND HIS FAMILY HOME DESTROYED BY
INDIAN TROOPS, WHILE HE HAD BEEN FORCED TO FLEE TO PAKISTAN IN
1994. "HE TOO HAS SUFFERED," HAIDER SAID POINTING TO BAIG, WHO WAS
SITTING IMPASSIVELY ACROSS THE ROOM. BAIG'S SISTER-IN-LAW AND
FATHER WERE KILLED BY INDIAN TROOPS, HAIDER CHARGED, AND HIS
SISTER, FARADA BAHANJI, HAS BEEN IMPRISONED IN NEW DELHI'S TIHAR
JAIL FOR OVER A YEAR BECAUSE OF HER BROTHER'S ACTIVITIES. TO CAP
OFF THIS LITANY OF ABUSE, HAIDER PRODUCED SEVERAL PHOTOS OF
CORPSES, ALL OF WHOM ALLEGEDLY DIED AT THE HANDS OF INDIAN SECURITY
FORCES. ONE PHOTO PURPORTEDLY SHOWED THE REMAINS OF BAIG'S FAMILY
HOME WITH A SNAPSHOT OF HIS SISTER SUPERIMPOSED ON IT.

4. (S) WHEN PRESSED TO ELABORATE ON THE GROUP'S POLITICAL
PHILOSOPHY, HAIDER DEFERRED TO RAZA, A YOUNG, THIN MAN WITH A FULL
BEARD AND TURBAN. RAZA SAID THE JKIF HAD ONLY RECENTLY BEGUN TO
FORMULATE A POLITICAL AGENDA AND THE FOCUS WAS STILL ON ARMED
RESISTANCE TO INDIAN OCCUPATION OF KASHMIR. THE PRIMARY AIM OF THE
JKIF IS KASHMIRI INDEPENDENCE, HE COMMENTED, BUT AFTER INDIAN
TROOPS VACATE KASHMIR, THE GROUP WOULD THEN BE AMENABLE TO
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE UN RESOLUTIONS, EVEN IF THAT MEANT A VOTE TO
JOIN INDIA. THE JKIF IS PRIMARILY A NATIONALIST MOVEMENT, RAZA
CONTINUED, AND DOES NOT ESPOUSE A PARTICULARLY RADICAL BRAND OF
ISLAM, DESPITE ITS NAME. AT THIS POINT, HAIDER JUMPED IN AND ENDED
THIS SEGMENT OF THE CONVERSATION BY EMBARKING ON A LONG, RAMBLING
DISCOURSE ABOUT THE COMMON ROOTS OF JEWS, CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS,
WHILE TAKING PAINS TO MENTION THAT THE JKIF WAS NOT AGAINST
"ORDINARY HINDUS."

5. (S) TURNING TO THE GROUP'S MILITARY OPERATIONS, HAIDER SAID
THE JKIF'S PRIMARY TARGETS ARE INDIAN REGULAR AND PARAMILITARY
FORCES IN KASHMIR, THOUGH HE ADDED THAT "THOSE WHO COMPROMISE" WITH
THE INDIANS WERE ALSO KILLED. ASKED WHOM THE JKIF CONSIDERED
"COMPROMISERS," HAIDER LISTED BUREAUCRATS AND POLITICIANS IN THE
JAMMU AND KASHMIR GOVERNMENT AS THE MAIN CULPRITS, BUT STATED THAT
ANYONE WHO "BECOMES A HINDRANCE" WAS ALSO A POTENTIAL TARGET,
INCLUDING MUSLIM COLLABORATORS. HAIDER BECAME QUITE AGITATED WHEN
DISCUSSING THOSE WHOM THE JKIF CONSIDERED ENEMIES, REPEATEDLY
BARING HIS CHEST WHILE STATING THAT HE WAS NOT AFRAID TO DIE FOR
KASHMIRI INDEPENDENCE. "I WOULD KILL THE INDIAN PRIME MINISTER IF
I COULD," HE ASSERTED. A FAVORITE METHOD OF ATTACKING INDIAN
TROOPS IS SUICIDE BOMBINGS, HAIDER ASSERTED, "JUST LIKE HAMAS IN
ISRAEL." RDX IS THE EXPLOSIVE OF CHOICE, HE EXPLAINED, AND ATTACKS
ARE CAREFULLY PLANNED AFTER TARGETS ARE CASED FOR SEVERAL DAYS.
HAIDER WAS EVASIVE WHEN ASKED ABOUT BOMBINGS OF NON-MILITARY
TARGETS, BUT HE VEHEMENTLY DENIED THAT THE JKIF WAS A TERRORIST
GROUP.

6. (S) HAIDER ESTIMATED THE JKIF'S STRENGTH AT BETWEEN 500 AND
1,000 MILITANTS, DOWN CONSIDERABLY FROM THEIR PEAK IN 1992, WHEN
THE GROUP BOASTED 4,000 FIGHTERS. THE INDIANS HAVE KILLED MORE
THAN 2,000 JKIF FIGHTERS SINCE THEN, HAIDER ADMITTED, BUT HE SAID
THE GROUP STILL FIELDED THE SECOND-LARGEST MILITANT FORCE IN
KASHMIR AFTER THE HIZBUL MUJAHEDDIN (NOTE: ALMOST EVERY KASHMIRI
MILITANT GROUP CLAIMS TO HAVE THE SECOND-LARGEST NUMBER OF FIGHTERS
IN INDIAN KASHMIR, BUT ALL AGREE THAT THE HIZBUL MUJAHEDDIN IS
NUMBER ONE). ROUGHLY 200 FIGHTERS ARE IN AZAD KASHMIR AT ANY GIVEN
TIME, WHILE THE REST ARE OPERATING INSIDE INDIAN KASHMIR. TRAINING
TAKES PLACE IN CAMPS IN AZAD KASHMIR, HAIDER EXPLAINED, BUT HE
DENIED THAT THE GROUP RECEIVED ANY ASSISTANCE FROM THE PAKISTANI
ARMY. ALL OF THE JKIF'S FIGHTERS ARE KASHMIRIS, EITHER FROM AZAD
OR INDIAN KASHMIR, HAIDER CLAIMED, THOUGH HE CONCEDED THAT "ONE OR
TWO" AFGHANS COULD BE IN THE GROUP WITHOUT HIS KNOWLEDGE. RECRUITS
RANGE IN AGE FROM TEENAGERS TO MEN IN THEIR 40'S AND 50'S, AND ALL
RECEIVE ONE TO TWO MONTHS TRAINING BEFORE BEING SENT ACROSS THE
LINE-OF-CONTROL (LOC) INTO INDIAN KASHMIR. CROSSING THE LOC IS
EXTREMELY DANGEROUS, HAIDER SAID, THEREFORE THE SIZE OF
INFILTRATING GROUPS IS KEPT SMALL -- NO MORE THAN 20 MEN -- SO THAT
CASUALTIES ARE LIMITED IF THE GROUP IS CAUGHT IN AN INDIAN AMBUSH.
HAIDER DENIED THAT PAKISTANI TROOPS PROVIDE COVERING FIRE FOR JKIF
MILITANTS.

7. (S) COMMENT: HAIDER SAID HE WOULD PROVIDE FURTHER INFORMATION
ABOUT THE GROUP AT OUR NEXT MEETING, WHILE BOTH HE AND BAIG, WHO
HAD REMAINED SILENT THROUGHOUT, EXPRESSED CONCERN THAT THE U.S.
VIEWED JKIF AS A TERRORIST OUTFIT (SOMETHING WHICH WE DID NOT BRING
UP FOR FEAR OF PROVOKING AN ABRUPT END TO OUR VISIT). USHERING US
TO THE DOOR, HAIDER WHISPERED THAT HE WOULD ALSO SHARE WITH US
"CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION" ABOUT THE APHC'S ACTIVITIES THE NEXT
TIME WE MET. OBVIOUSLY MUCH OF WHAT SAID BY THESE MEN WAS TAILORED
TO FIT THE AUDIENCE, BUT WE OFFER IT FOR WHAT IT IS WORTH, AND WE
WILL ATTEMPT GLEAN MORE ABOUT THE GROUP AND THEIR ACTIVITIES IN
FUTURE MEETINGS.


SIMONS