MILITANCY, everyone is agreed, is on the ebb in the Kashmir Valley. According to Brig. A.K. Chopra,Brigadier General Staff of the 15 Corps, local militant groups based in the Valley have been marginalised. "In all, there are 650 militants. Another 700-odd infiltrate." Tossing up statistics, he adds that since January, 150 militants have been killed by the army and paramilitary forces.
Among the Kashmir-based groups, only three—Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Harkat-ul-Ansar—are to be reckoned with. But a split in the Hizbul Mujahideen and the subsequent sidelining of one of its leaders, Salauddin, by the ISI has further weakened the outfit.
Now, the army has to tackle the mercenaries—the Mast Guls of the trade. These hired gunmen often hail from Sudan, Afghanistan, some even from Bosnia. Funded by the ISI, these toughs are taken on one and two-year contracts, brought to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) from where they sneak into the Valley through mountain passes.
With Jehad (holy war) on their...