Ex-rebel Recalls 'Pakistan Trips'
4 June 2005
Islamabad: A top separatist in Indian-administered Kashmir says he made eight clandestine trips to Pakistan at the start of a militant uprising against Indian rule. 'My first trip for arms and training was in June 1988,' separatist leader Yasin Malik told the BBC News website. Observers say the disclosure could embarrass Pakistan. It coincides with a historic visit by Kashmiri leaders, including Mr Malik, to Islamabad. Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf welcomed the visit on Saturday. Kashmir dispute He said he hoped it would help resolve the dispute over Kashmir, the spark for two of the three wars that India and Pakistan have fought since independence in 1947. Peace moves have been under way since January 2004. Pakistan - 'no comment' Mr Malik's remarks are the first public admission by a Kashmiri separatist leader that arms and training were supplied from Pakistan-administered Kashmir. We would carry weapons into Indian- administered Kashmir Separatist Yasin Malik What will the visit achieve? The Pakistani government has consistently denied providing material or military assistance to militants fighting to end Indian rule in the portion of Kashmir controlled by India. When asked about Mr Malik's comments, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri said he did not want to be dragged into the debate. 'Don't ask me about it,' he said. 'Ask them.' Mr Malik is the chief of his own faction of the pro-independence and secularist Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). He is widely believed to have started the militant movement in Indian-administered Kashmir. 'I came to the base camp in 1988 with three of my friends,' he told the BBC's Zulfikar Ali in Muzaffarabad. Pakistan-administered Kashmir was then known among the militants as the 'base camp', he said. 'Romance' Mr Malik and three associates - Ishfaq Majid Wani, Abdul Hameed Sheikh and Javed Mir - were known as the Haji Group. Thousands have died in the conflict 'It wasn't very heavy training,' he said. 'Basically, you don't need very sophisticated training to start a resistance movement. 'It is the romance associated with being a guerilla fighter that keeps you going. 'We would carry weapons from here into Indian-administered Kashmir.' Mr Malik told the AFP news agency that his secret trips had been 'cloak-and-dagger, life-and-death, heart- in-mouth affairs'. He said he and his fellow militants had many close shaves with death. He said he last made a secret crossing in October 1989 and went back after a week through the border crossing near Uri, a town in the Baramulla district of Indian-administered Kashmir. Mr Malik's faction of the JKLF renounced militancy in 1994 and has since been active on the political front. 'Milestone' The nine separatist leaders arrived in Islamabad on Saturday at the invitation of the Pakistan government. It is the first time India has allowed Kashmiri separatists to travel from territory it administers to Pakistan as a representative group. The Kashmiri delegation, composed mainly of moderates from the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), reached Islamabad on Saturday after talks in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. During their three-day stay they will meet top Pakistani leaders, including President Musharraf. The visit is being opposed by Kashmiri hardliners, but Pakistan's government has described it as an important milestone towards resolving the long-standing dispute over the territory. Thousands have died since militants took up arms in Kashmir in 1989.