Minister Accused By Army Chief
15 June 2005
Islamabad: A former Pakistani army chief has alleged that Information Minister Sheikh Rashid used to run a training camp for separatist Kashmiri militants. Gen Aslam Beg told the BBC's Urdu service that Sheikh Rashid ran the camp until it was closed in 1991 on orders from the prime minister at the time. It is the second time that the minister has been accused in two days. On Tuesday a top Kashmiri separatist leader said that Sheikh Rashid offered support to militants in the 1980s. Sheikh Rashid, who is a Kashmiri, and Pakistan's foreign office have strongly denied the allegations. But he has acknowledged that he provided accommodation for militants. India has expressed concern over the allegations. 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. QUICK GUIDE Kashmir dispute Allegations that Mr Rashid had offered refuge and support to militants surfaced earlier this week. A top Kashmiri separatist leader, Yasin Malik, 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 a brother, Mr Malik told the BBC. However he denied having alleged in Pakistan's Daily Times newspaper that the minister had set up a training camp. 'I have never mentioned the word training,' Mr Malik said. But Gen Beg has taken the allegations further, saying that Mr Rashid did run such a camp. 'It came to my knowledge in 1990 that there was a militant training camp on Fateh Jang Road some 20km from Islamabad. I passed the information to the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who ordered the closure of the camp in 1991,' he told the BBC. He said Pakistan's foreign ministry had had no knowledge of the camp, which he said had since been turned into a farm house. Indian concern Mr Rashid told the BBC that he let separatist leaders stay in his house because he felt it was his moral duty to provide them with a roof. But he insisted he had never been involved in training people for guerrilla warfare or setting up training camps. An Indian foreign ministry spokesman called on Pakistan to close any militant training camps operating inside the country. 'Our stand remains that no effective action has been taken by Pakistan to dismantle the infrastructure of support to terrorism on a permanent basis,' said the spokesman, Navtej Sarna. 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'.