January 2000 News

Masood to raise 5-lakh army for Kashmir jihad

10 January 2000
Times of India

ISLAMABAD: The post-Eid scene in Pakistan will see enhanced political activity with start of two high-profile cases against deposed premier Nawaz Sharif, toughening of accountability laws, and two major political alliances charting out their future political course.

Giving the situation yet another dimension, Maulana Masood Azhar, a Pakistani Muslim cleric freed last month by India in return for hostages on a hijacked Indian Airlines plane, has vowed to recruit half a million men to fight Indian rule in Kashmir.

"We are going to organise a 500,000 Mujahideen force to fight against the Indians," Masood Azhar told thousands of people on Sunday at an Eid-ul-Fitr ceremony, marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramzan.

Azhar said the force would be recruited from all over Pakistan, but gave no details. Last week, in an address to hundreds of people outside a mosque in a Karachi suburb, Azhar called for a `jihad' in Kashmir but said reports that in the same speech he called for aggression against US were not true.

After his release in Kandahar, Masood Azhar first went to Karachi and then returned to his home-town in Multan. Kashmiri militant Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar went to Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-held Kashmir, but the whereabouts of the third militant released, British passport holder Ahmed Umar Sayed Sheikh and the five hijackers, believed to be in Pakistan, are not known.

In what looks like a hectic political scene, Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League will have to prepared for a long drawn-out struggle with two cases involving the former premier, one on hijacking charges and the other on treason charges coming up in courts, English daily The News said in an article Sunday. Other important parties such as the Awami National Party and MQM and emerging political figures, including Imran Khan and Sardar Farooq Khan Leghari, would hold meetings of their parties to evolve future strategies, it said.

Accountability laws will be made more water-tight and politicians and officials across the board "will face the music" for the first time, the article said. The National Accountability Bureau will send cases of several politicians and officials to accountability courts, the strength of which has risen to 13, including the one at Attock Fort to try special cases, after Eid, it said.

The NAB ordinance will be amended to make it water-tight and no accused person will be able to secure bail. Political parties will also decide whether they would continue to cooperate with the present regime or launch a low-profile struggle in the first phase just to test the waters, it said.


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