ISLAMABAD: Pakistan came out in defence of militants fighting Indian security forces in Kashmir on Tuesday, saying it was a legitimate struggle for freedom, after the United States put the head of one of the groups on its list of global terrorists.
The U.S. State Department’s designation of Syed Salahuddin, the head of the Hizbul Mujahideen militant group based in
Pakistan, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist was unjustified, Pakistan’s foreign office said.
The U.S. decision came just days before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the White House for his first talks with U.S. President Donald Trump.
India has under Modi stepped up international efforts to put pressure on Pakistan.
Pakistan denies giving material help to the Kashmiri separatists but reiterated on Tuesday it would continue to provide political, diplomatic and moral support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for self-determination.
“The 70-year-old indigenous struggle of Kashmiris in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir remains legitimate. The designation of individuals supporting the Kashmiri right to self-determination as terrorists is completely unjustified,” the
foreign ministry statement said.
A spokesman for Salahuddin, who is based in Azad Kashmir, did not answer his handphone.
Tensions have been running high along the de facto border which divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
At the talks on Monday, Modi and Trump called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries, the White House said in a statement.
Salahuddin’s Hizbul Mujahideen is the biggest militant fighting group Indian faces in Kashmir. The Hizb isa largely indigenous Kashmir group and its leader seen as a hero.
In its announcement, the State Department said that in September 2016, Salahuddin had vowed to block any peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict, threatened to train more Kashmiri suicide bombers and vowed to turn the Kashmir valley “into a graveyard for Indian forces”.
As a consequence of the designation as a global terrorist, U.S. individuals are banned from engaging in financial transactions with Salahuddin and all his property in the U.S. is blocked, the State Department said.
Salahuddin, who is from Badgam town in Indian Kashmir, was a politician who turned to militancy after he lost an election for the Kashmir legislative assembly in 1987, which he says was “massively rigged” by India.
He first crossed into Azad Kashmir in 1990 and went back to Indian Kashmir several times for militant action when he would also meet his family under cover of darkness. – REUTERS