True Roadmap For Freedom In J&K Is Jihad'
1 May 2004
The Indian Express
New Delhi: The United States called Pakistan one of its most important partners in the war on terrorism in a report that praised recent efforts to crack down on militants near the Afghan frontier. In its annual 'Patterns of Global Terrorism' report released late on Thursday, the US State Department also referred to close cooperation between Pakistan's military and intelligence and the United States to track down suspects at home and abroad. 'Pakistan continues to be one of the United States' most important partners in the global coalition against terrorism,' the State Department said of the country that was the first recruit for President George W. Bush's war on terror after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. Under US pressure, Pakistan has sent tens of thousands of troops into its semi-autonomous tribal areas and launched a series of operations against suspected al Qaeda and Taliban fighters living or hiding in the area. In the latest clashes in March, not covered by the 2003 report, more than 120 people were killed in what experts say was a botched attempt to flush out foreign militants and local tribesmen fighting alongside them. Keen to avoid a repeat of the bloodshed, the authorities have narrowed the hunt for militants to 25 key suspects, including al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri. The apparent softening in stance has raised fresh questions among Western diplomats over the level of commitment in Pakistan to pursuing militant suspects along the Afghan frontier. But some Pakistani officials counter that aggressive US military tactics in Iraq have backfired and say there are some parallels with what could happen in tribal areas. HUNDREDS CAUGHT Afghanistan says a wave of violence undermining security in the run-up to landmark elections in September is being launched from Pakistani soil, and US Ambassador to Kabul Zalmay Khalilzad has annoyed Pakistan by describing it as a 'sanctuary' for al Qaeda. The State Department noted hundreds of terror suspects had been caught in Pakistan, including al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, apprehended in Rawalpindi last year. President Pervez Musharraf, himself the target of repeated assassination attempts, has cracked down on domestic militant groups involved in sectarian violence and those waging an insurgency in Kashmir. But on the same day that the US report was released, the leader of a militant group on a US-list of terrorist organisations, declared to a conference of 1,000 people in the Pakistani Kashmir capital of Muzaffarabad that the 'jihad', or holy war, in Kashmir would continue. 'The true roadmap for freedom in Kashmir is jihad,' said Hafiz Mohammad Saeed. 'I am sure the jihad in Kashmir will not stop at any cost.' While Lashkar-e-Taiba's is banned, it successor, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, is not, but it is on a Pakistani watchlist. Analysts say militant groups have been badly weakened by the squeeze on operations and funding, but they continue to function, and well-known militant leaders remain at large.