CHARAR SHARIEF The struggle of Muslim Kashmiris against the occupation of their state by India, which turned exceptionally violent in 1989, acquired a new symbol six years later On 11 May 1995, a fire totally destroyed the shrine of Sheikh Nooruddin Wali at Charar Sharief, a town 30 kilometers southwest of Srinagar, the state’s capital The shrine had been built in the 15th century by the disciples of Wali, a saint who had brought Islam to this part of the worldThe Kashmiri Muslim freedom fighters blamed the Indian security forces for setting the shrine and the town of Charar Sharief on fire The Indians claimed that the Kashmiri militants had deliberately destroyed the shrine to win more converts to their cause Whatever the motives, the destruction of the shrine had some immediate consequences It resulted in the postponement of the elections in Kashmir, scheduled by the Indian government to be held in mid-July It also evoked a bitter response in neighboring Pakistan On 18 May, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto went on national TV to announce that the destruction of the shrine would be mourned officially in Pakistan on the following day On Friday, 19 May, President Farooq Leghari led “funeral” prayers for the mosque and the Kashmiris killed at Charar Sharief

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