Musharraf support Kashmir militants: US
1 May 2001
The Asian Age
Ashish Kumar Sen
San Francisco: The US state department has noted with some concern Pakistan’s increased support to the Taliban and its continued assistance to militant groups active in Kashmir. The report on the patterns of global terrorism over the year 2000, released by the office of the coordinator for counter-terrorism in Washington, D.C. on Monday, noted that General Pervez Musharraf’s military government, like the previous Pakistani government, supported the Kashmir insurgency, and Kashmiri militant groups continued to operate in Pakistan, raising funds and recruiting new cadre. Acknowledging that several of these groups were responsible for attacks against civilians in Kashmir, the report makes a mention of the suicide car-bomb attack against an Indian garrison in Srinagar last April, for which the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba had claimed responsibility. Though, it makes further mention of the massacres of civilians in Kashmir during March and August, which were attributed to Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and other militant groups, the state department is yet to add the LET to its list of designated terrorist organisations. The report describes the LET, the armed wing of the Pakistan-based religious organisation Markaz-ud-Dawa-wal-Irshad, as one of the “three largest and best-trained groups fighting in Kashmir against India.” Though absent from the list of “designated terrorist organisations,” the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba has been listed in the appendix of the report under “other terrorist groups.” Another group mentioned under this category, the Jaish-e-Mohammed, was founded by Maulana Masood Azhar, with the aim to unite Kashmir with Pakistan. Azhar, a former Harakat ul-Mujahideen leader was released after a December 1999 hijack drama involving an Air-India flight. The report noted that the Harakat ul-Mujahideen, the only Pakistan-based group designated as a foreign terrorist organisation, continued to be active in Pakistan without discouragement from the government of Pakistan. Noting that credible reporting had indicated Pakistan was providing the Taliban with material, fuel, funding, technical assistance, and military advisers, the state department report underscored the US concern about these media reports. “Pakistan has not prevented large numbers of Pakistani nationals from moving into Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban. Islamabad also failed to take effective steps to curb the activities of certain madrasas, or religious schools, that serve as recruiting grounds for terrorism. Pakistan publicly and privately said, it intends to comply fully with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1333, which imposes an arms embargo on the Taliban.” In a trip report put together after a recent visit to India and Pakistan, an influential former deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, Ms Teresita C. Schaffer made a mention of General Musharraf’s “unwillingness” to confront militant organisations in his 18 months in office. Pakistan’s Chief Executive simply cannot crack the whip, even if he wanted to because the militants represent the popular Kashmiri cause, Ms Schaffer noted. Ms Schaffer, now serving as a director of the South Asia programme at the Washington, D.C.-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said, it appeared that Gen. Musharraf had “consciously or unconsciously” made an “implicit bargain with them (the militants): because their activities in Afghanistan and Kashmir are vital to Pakistan’s strategic goals, and they will be allowed considerable domestic freedom of action.” The state department report noted that the security problems associated with various insurgencies, particularly in Kashmir, persisted through 2000 in India. Further confirming the trend of terrorism shifting from West Asia to South Asia, the state department report said the Taliban continued to provide a safe haven for international terrorists, particularly Osama Bin Laden and his network. Islamic extremists from around the world — including North America, Europe, Africa, West Asia and Central, South, and Southeast Asia —continued to use Afghanistan as a training ground and base of operations for their worldwide terrorist activities in 2000. “The Taliban permitted the operation of training and indoctrination facilities for non-Afghans and provided logistic support to members of various terrorist organisations and mujahideen, including those waging jihad in Central Asia, Chechnya, and Kashmir,” the report said. There was an appreciative mention of India’s “continued cooperative efforts” with the United States against terrorism. The US-India Joint Counter-terrorism Working Group, founded in November 1999, met twice last year and agreed to increased cooperation on mutual counter-terrorism interests. Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, and Sudan continue to be the seven governments that the US secretary of state has designated as state sponsors of international terrorism. Of the seven, Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2000.