'Jihad' in Kashmir not terrorism: Musharraf
By Sridhar Krishnaswami
WASHINGTON: Pakistan's military leader, General Pervez Musharraf, has drawn a clear distinction between acts of terrorism such as hijacking passengers and kidnapping tourists and the Islamic ``freedom struggle'' in India's Kashmir and other parts of the world. He argued that to call the `Jihad' in Kashmir as terrorism was not correct.
``Islam does not preach terrorism... Islam believes in Jihad, a fight in the path of God. Wherever Muslims are being victimised or killed, Islam asks all Muslims to come to their aid'', Gen. Musharraf told a group of foreign visitors that included academics and an American journalist. His comments appeared in The Washington Post today.
The Jihad that began in Afghanistan with international support, Gen. Musharraf said, had now shifted to Kashmir. ``It is a freedom struggle. To call those activities terrorism is not correct.'' He condemned the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane and said that ``if the hijackers ever come to Pakistan, they will be punished according to the law.''
The Clinton administration has thus far been careful in what it has said - that while some of the groups involved in the hijacking may have ties with Pakistan, there was no direct evidence of Pakistani hand in the incident. On a more general level, even while condemning all forms of terrorism and terrorist activities, Washington has maintained that it would continue to remain engaged with Pakistan for a number of reasons, regional and global.
Gen. Musharraf said things that the Clinton administration would have wanted to hear, especially on Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden. He said he was ``willing to cooperate'' on the Osama issue and was weighing the option of going to Afghanistan to discuss this as well as other issues that concerned the West.
Gen. Musharraf apparently honoured Osama bin Laden's participation in the anti-Soviet Union resistance in Afghanistan in the 1980s which was backed by both the United States and Pakistan; but at the same time opposed terrorism. ``Afghanistan was a noble cause, but if someone supports terrorist actions, whoever he is, that cannot be supported'', Gen. Musharraf was quoted as saying.