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Pakistan playing politics with the DEAD

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    Pakistan playing politics with the DEAD

    If the dead really tell a tale, there's probably good reason for the Pakistanis to refuse to accept the bodies of their countrymen sent out to capture Kargil. At last count, there were over 600 bodies of Pakistani infiltrators strewn over the vast expanse of the battle zone in Kargil.

    The matter was taken up with Pakistan's Director-General of Military Operations, Maj-Gen Tauqir Zia, when he met his Indian counterpart, Lt-Gen N C Vijh, at Attari last Sunday. But the former is understood to have washed his hands of the responsibility for receiving the bodies.

    Official figures are still being collected. Sources in the government say Indian troops have buried about 300 infiltrators in the past two months. ``They faced problems doing this in the midst of a war and inclement weather. It is difficult to dig a grave in rocky terrain. At times, bodies were simply covered up with boulders, or left in crevices. That was the best our boys could do,'' a senior officer said.

    Bringing the bodies from the heights is a problem and preserving them till burial is even more so. Bodies are being embalmed or packed in gunny bags with identification tags. And if Pakistan refuses to receive them, India may have no choice but to bury them in mass graves.

    But India's problem is not Pakistan alone. In Kargil, mercenaries from different countries were operating. There are understood to be a score of Uigours, Muslim tribals who inhabit China's western province of Sinkiang bordering Afghanistan. Their presence was mentioned by external affairs minister Jaswant Singh during his last Beijing visit. But the Chinese authorities are understood to have neither confirmed nor denied any knowledge of these rebels-turned-mercenaries.

    The body of a British national, a Muslim, probably from the subcontinent, was also found. The matter was taken up with the British.

    There are bodies of Arabs of six nationalities - Palestinian, Jordanian Saudi, Libyan, Algerian and Iraqi. The external affairs ministry is saddled with the task of interacting with the governments of these countries.

    Indian Army authorities say most of the mercenaries were highly motivated, well armed, and well acclimatised to mountain warfare. They were stationed in forward observation posts and faced the initial attack from the Indian side. Commanded by Pakistani regulars, most of these mercenaries fled or died.

    Most of the dead, however, are from the Northern Light Infantry which almost entirely consists of tribals from the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Otherwise, Punjabis, Pathans and Balochs form the Pakistan army's mainstream.