Minister 'backed' Kashmir Rebels
14 June 2005
Islamabad: A top Kashmiri separatist leader has told the BBC that a Pakistan minister had offered separatist militants refuge and support in the 1980s. But the leader, Yasin Malik, denied having alleged that Pakistani Information Minister, Sheikh Rashid had set up a militant training camp. Pakistan's Daily Times newspaper reported that Mr Malik had made the claim during a visit to Pakistan. India has expressed its strong concern over the claim. QUICK GUIDE Kashmir dispute But Mr Malik said the Daily Times report was 'completely wrong'. He said he and other separatist militants had stayed in Mr Rashid's Rawalpindi farmhouse in 1988 and 1989. 'We got refuge in his farmhouse.... Sheikh Rashid helped us a lot and loved us like brothers,' Mr Malik told the BBC. 'I have never mentioned the word training,' he added. Yasin Malik is a leading separatist in Indian- administered Kashmir who heads the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, the first group to take up arms against India in 1988. It is particularly serious that people directly involved in such activities continue to occupy high positions in Pakistan Navtej Sarna Indian spokesman But in 1995 the JKLF gave up violence. Mr Malik is one of several moderate Kashmiri separate leaders who have been visiting Pakistan - the first time they have been allowed to do so by India. India concerned Reacting to the report in the Daily Times, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said it viewed the 'revelations by Mr Yasin Malik' as a matter of great concern. 'It is particularly serious that people directly involved in such activities continue to occupy high positions in Pakistan,' the spokesman, Navtej Sarna, said. Yasin Malik renounced violence in 1995 'Our stand remains that no effective action has been taken by Pakistan to dismantle the infrastructure of support to terrorism on a permanent basis,' he added. In the past, India has accused Pakistan of aiding and abetting armed militants fighting Indian rule in Kashmir, but Islamabad has always denied the charge. The spokesman said India hoped Pakistan would abide by its commitment 'not to allow any territory within its control to be used to support terrorism in any manner'. There has been no comment on the allegations by Pakistan as yet. The Daily Times had reported that Mr Malik had revealed some 3,500 militants had been trained in 'guerrilla warfare' in the camp.