Kashmiri Leader Urges Pakistan To Lift Islamist Groups Ban

4 February 2009
Agence France-Presse

Muzaffarabad: Around a dozen Kashmiri militant groups gathered publicly Wednesday to urge Pakistan to lift bans against the Islamist organisation India blames for the Mumbai attacks and its political arm. 'We appeal on the government of Pakistan to lift the ban against Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jammat-ud-Dawa(JuD) because no Kashmiri jihadi organisation was involved in the Mumbai attacks,' Syed Salahuddin, head of the militant Hizbul Mujahideen, told the gathering of around 1,000 people. It was the first public meeting of militant groups in Pakistan-administered Kashmir since 10 gunmen killed 165 people in Mumbai in November. The attacks severely strained relations between India and Pakistan. New Delhi blamed the attacks on the banned militant group LeT, which is active in Indian-ruled Kashmir, but the Pakistan-based organisation has denied responsibility. Salahuddin, who heads an umbrella organisation of 15 Kashmiri militant groups, said the attacks were against the code of the United Jihad Council. 'It is against the ethics of the United Jihad Council to attack unarmed people and women,' Salahuddin told the crowd, which included members of banned groups JuD, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Al-Badr. Salahuddin strongly condemned the ban on LeT and JuD and criticised the Pakistani government for imposing it. The call came on the eve of Kashmir Solidarity Day, which Pakistan observes every year on February 5 to support people fighting for self-determination in Indian-held Kashmir. 'No one can bar us. We will continue our jihad and freedom movement,' Salahuddin said. Pakistan says it has closed all offices of JuD, which is considered the political arm of the banned LeT. Pakistan has also placed Hafiz Saeed, the head of the JuD and founder of LeT and eight other charity members under house arrest.