The latest uprising in Indian-administered Kashmir gained momentum in the late 1980s, and prompted thousands to join the rebellion, pledging allegiance to more than two dozen militant groups operating in the region.
A history of schisms within the groups and periodic crackdowns by the Indian authorities combine to make the situation in Kashmir a confusing tapestry of military groups, Islamic fighters and terrorists.
But amid the often bewildering roll call of participants, experts believe certain patterns have emerged over more than a decade of fighting. While the uprising began as a mostly local movement against the Indian administration, new non-Kashmiri militant groups with links to terrorist training camps in Afghanistan have begun operating in the region.
Many of the new militant groups have shifted the ideological agenda of the uprising from a secularist and nationalist agenda to a hard-line Islamic one.
While India accuses Pakistan of harboring Islamic terrorists to fight in Indian-controlled Kashmir, Pakistan insists it only offers the groups moral support and accuses India of denying Kashmiris the right to national self-determination. Kashmir is the only Muslim-majority state in India.
Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistani President
Head of Pakistan's powerful army and military ruler of the Islamic state. Known to be a moderate Muslim with little patience for Islamic hard-liners, Musharraf nevertheless considers Kashmir a litmus test. While India and the international community has been calling for a Pakistani crackdown on Islamic militant groups operating in the disputed region, Kashmir is a sensitive domestic issue, and Pakistani rulers in the past have realized the importance of being seen as being hawkish on Kashmir.
Atal Behari Vajpayee, Indian Prime Minister
Perceived as the moderate face of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a Hindu right-wing party known for its hard-line stance on Kashmir and India's Muslim minority. But many consider Vajpayee an elder statesman and question how much control the former journalist and poet holds over the more aggressive elements in his party.
Hafiz Mohammad Saeed
Co-founder and senior leader of Lashkar-e-Toiba, one of two militant groups accused in the Dec. 13, 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. A Pakistani from the Punjab province, Saeed's Punjabi ethnicity has posed a problem for some militant groups operating in the region. Following the Indian government's repeated assertions that "outsiders" and "foreigners" had hijacked the Kashmir issue from local groups more amenable to negotiate with authorities, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) — one of the oldest groups operating in the region — dubbed Lashkar-e-Toiba a non-Kashmiri group.
After the Pakistani government froze Lashkar-e-Toiba's financial assets following the attack on the Indian parliament, Saeed announced his resignation from Lashkar in favor of Maulana Abdul Wahid Kashmiri, a local Kashmiri. Saeed also announced his intention to "return to politics" but his association with Lashkar during the most violent period of its history is likely make his switch to politics difficult. In interviews with the Pakistani media, Saeed has said he believed Islam rejects the concept of elections and has supported the implementation of sharia or Islamic law in Kashmir.
Maulana Masood Azhar
Leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group, one of two guerilla groups accused in the Dec. 13, 2001, attack on the Indian parliament. Azhar became a household name in December 1999 during the hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight IC 814 from Katmandu, Nepal, to New Delhi. On Dec. 24, 1999, five hijackers seized control of the plane and after a brief stop in the Indian city of Amritsar proceeded to Kandahar in Afghanistan. There they negotiated the release of their 155 hostages with the Indian government in exchange for the release of three Islamic militants being held in Indian jails. Along with two other fellow members of the Hizbul Mujahideen group, the Indian authorities released Azhar in a move that was met with widespread criticism across India. Days later, to the embarrassment of the Indian authorities, Azhar made a public appearance in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi and pledged to continue the fight in Kashmir to a cheering crowd numbering thousands.
Three years later, one of the three released prisoners, Sheik Omar Saeed, was accused of masterminding the kidnapping and killing of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl in January 2002 in the Pakistani city of Karachi. Saeed is facing murder charges in a special Pakistani anti-terrorist court.
Azhar, meanwhile, went on to form the breakaway terrorist unit called Jaish-e-Mohammed. Following the Indian parliament attack, which left 14 people dead, Washington included Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Toiba on the State Department list of terrorist organizations and Pakistan announced a financial crackdown on Jaish-e-Mohammed. But Pakistan has not responded to Indian demands for Azhar's extradition, saying it would take such action once India supplies proof of any group's involvement in the attack.
Chairman and one of the founders of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), one of the older and larger separatist groups operating in Kashmir, Amanullah Khan is a hero on one side of the Line of Control and a villain on the other. Although the JKLF was founded in 1977, it was only in 1988 that Khan set up the military wing of the JKLF. Notoriety came in Dec. 1989 when JKLF militants kidnapped Dr. Rubia Saeed, daughter of the then Indian Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Saeed in Indian administered Kashmir. She was released in exchange for a senior JKLF leader, Abdul Hamid Sheikh, who was in detention in an Indian hospital. The kidnapping is widely believed to have added fuel to the latest uprising in Kashmir.
With his long beard, prominent nose and ever-present beret, the supreme commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen has been a familiar figure since the uprising in Kashmir broke out. Born Syed Mohammed Yusuf Shah, he took the name Salahuddin after the medieval Kurdish warrior who fought in the Crusades. But after 12 years of operating in the region, there are reports of schisms in the Hizbul Mujahideen ranks. The differences came to a front in Nov. 2001 when Salahuddin called an extraordinary meeting of Hizbul Mujahideen functionaries to denounce moves by a faction leader who had earlier publicly expressed a desire to consider a ceasefire with the Indian authorities. Salahuddin denounced the declaration and the factional leader, Abdul Majid Dar, was kicked out of the Hizbul ranks.
Maulana Fazalur Rehman
Maulana Fazalur Rehman is the leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, or Party of Islamic Clerics, a Pakistani religious party with wide influence over Islamic militants fighting Indian forces in Kashmir. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam has historic links with the Taliban. In December 2001, a spokesman for the interim Afghan Defense Ministry said Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks, had escaped from Afghanistan into Pakistan and was being protected by Rehman's followers. However Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, later denied the report and in an official response, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam called the report "baseless."
Mirwaiz Omar Farooq
The mirwaiz is the hereditary title of one of Kashmir's most important religious leaders who is also the imam (head priest) of the prestigious Jama Masjid (mosque). Mirwaiz Omar Farooq took on the challenging role of mirwaiz in May 1990 at the age of 17 when his father, Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq, was assassinated at his residence in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The Indian authorities claimed his father's death was conducted by a faction of the Hizbul Mujahideen, with the help of the Inter Services Intelligence, the powerful Pakistani intelligence agency, in a bid to eliminate moderate Kashmiri Muslim leaders. Omar Farooq also served as the leader of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), a loose alliance of 23 Kashmiri separatist parties. Unlike his father, the young Omar Farooq is believed to be less amenable to dialogue with the Indian government. During a visit to India in July 2001, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf defied Indian government pressure and met with the mirwaiz and other Kashmiri leaders in the northern Indian city of Agra.
Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil
Chief of Harakat-ul-Mojahedin, a militant group dominated by Pakistani and Afghan Islamic fighters. The Harakat-ul-Mojahedin (HUM) was formerly known as Harakat-ul-Ansar, which was declared a terrorist group by Washington. HUM was one of the key military groups, including the Lashkar-e-Toiba, that had occupied some of the heights in the Kargil region of Indian-administered Kashmir in 1999 that led to a massive Indian military operation to flush out the terrorists, which claimed the lives of more than 200 Indian security personnel. The HUM has repeatedly denounced cease-fire attempts between the Indian government and various militant groups and has in the past denounced various Pakistani administrations for what it calls Islamabad's succumbing to pressure from Washington.