MUZAFFARABAD, Aug 5: Residents of Neelum valley observed a strike on Sunday in protest against alleged activities of outlawed militant groups as talks between them and an official team failed to take any decision over the matter, sources said. Businesses and shops in the valley mostly remained closed on Sunday, they said.

Former AJK minister Mufti Mansoor-ur-Rehman, Neelum Bar Association president Mir Gohar Rehman and Mir Nazir Danish briefed the official team comprising Muzaffarabad commissioner Sardar Zafar Khan and DIG Khalid Mahmood Chauhan about the looming threat to the valley’s peace in the wake of dangerous activities of proscribed militant groups.

The talks which were held in a government guesthouse in Athmuqam, some 80km northeast of here, followed a protest march on Friday during which similar demands were made by the residents feeling insecure after scattered rocket attacks on Indian posts by some unknown people.

The Neelum valley straddles the Line of Control (LoC) which saw regular skirmishes and artillery duels between Indian and Pakistani troops, causing mostly civilian causalities, until both sides struck a ceasefire deal on Nov 26, 2003.

“The activities of the banned outfits have caused serious concern from one end of the valley to the other and we will not allow anyone to use our territory for ‘terrorist activities’ against anyone,” the official team was told by the residents.

They recalled that they had suffered the worst physical and material losses in the days of escalation along the LoC and could not afford its recurrence in the aftermath of any misadventure.

They demanded that law-enforcement agencies should immediately expel all those elements from the valley “who were bent upon ruining its peace and tranquillity for vested interests”, according to the sources.

The official team assured them that their demands would be presented to the high-ups and in the meanwhile they should end their protest.

Syed Naseer Kazmi, a member of the Neelum Bar, told reporters that the talks had failed and their protest against the outlawed militant groups would continue.

“We will stage a complete ‘wheel-jam’ strike in the valley on Aug 9,” he said.

This correspondent made several attempts to ascertain the views of the official team, but its members were not available for comments.


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