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Climate stresses push Kashmir's poor into militancy, Pakistan experts warn

Financial hardship after a failed apple crop forced Aqeel Ahmed to give up his studies aged 20 and join a militant group fighting Indian rule across the border in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

His family, as in many remote villages in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, had banked on earning half a million rupees ($5,000) from their orchard that year. But a sudden cold snap followed by torrential rains and a frost wrecked the apple blossom, dashing their hopes of making enough to buy food.

“I went from pillar to post to find any work I could to help my family come out of crisis after the crop loss, but I failed due to having no references or contact with government departments or businesses back then,” Ahmed, now 46, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Eventually he was tempted by supporters of a militant group who were going round colleges to recruit students. They gave him a few thousand rupees for his family and took him to a training camp in Afghanistan for three months.

In 1998, Ahmed - who declined to give his real name - sneaked into Indian-administered Kashmir on the first of three trips to plant explosives and attack Indian forces in border towns.

Eventually, in 2006, he managed to get a job as an assistant in a government department, helping feed his family of nine.

He is one of hundreds of other Pakistani Kashmir youth who have joined militant groups as a result of poverty which is often made worse by crop failures linked to extreme weather, experts say.

For the complete article, please see Thomson Reuters.