Pakistan Says There Will Be
No Wavering On Kashmir

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - President Pervez Musharraf has insisted that Pakistan will not give up its support for the "freedom struggle" in Kashmir despite his crackdown on militants fighting Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan region.

"There should be no doubt in any mind about our commitment to the Kashmir cause and the people of Kashmir," the official APP news agency quoted him as saying on Tuesday in a speech to a committee formed to publicise the Kashmir issue abroad.

"We will continue to support the just freedom struggle of Kashmiris politically, diplomatically and morally," he said.

Musharraf banned five radical Islamic groups on Saturday in a crackdown against militant violence. Among the outlawed groups were two Kashmiri separatist organisations that India blamed for a suicide attack on its parliament last month.

APP quoted Musharraf as saying the National Kashmir Committee would work for a "peaceful promotion of the Kashmir cause in accordance with the U.N. Security Council resolutions and the wishes of Kashmiri people".

The United Nations adopted resolutions in the late 1940s and early 1950s calling for a plebiscite to determine the wishes of the Kashmiri people, but they were never implemented.

Muslim-majority Kashmir is a highly emotive issue in Islamic Pakistan and analysts say Musharraf risks a backlash at home if he is seen to be bowing to Indian pressure on the issue.

India rules about 45 percent of the Himalayan region and Pakistan just over a third. The two countries have fought two of their three wars since independence from Britain in 1947 over Kashmir. China holds the remainder of the territory.

The December 13 attack on the Indian parliament, in which 14 people including the five assailants were killed, triggered a big military buildup by India on its border with Pakistan, with India demanding that Pakistan end "cross-border terrorism".

Pakistan, which condemned the New Delhi attack, responded by sending in reinforcements.


There have been almost daily clashes between the two sides across a ceasefire line dividing Kashmir, raising fears of a fourth war between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Despite the detention of more than 1,000 militants, many from the two banned Kashmiri separatist groups, border tensions remain high. But Pakistani army officials said there had been no fresh clashes since Monday evening.

India accuses Pakistan of training and arming the militants but Pakistan says it gives only political and moral support to Kashmiri "freedom fighters".

The new Kashmir committee is headed by a former president of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, Sardar Abdul Qayyum, and includes members from that territory as well as all four provinces of Pakistan.

New Delhi regards the whole of Kashmir as an integral part of India. Islamabad wants the predominantly Muslim Kashmiris to decide in a U.N.-mandated plebiscite whether to join Pakistan or Hindu-majority India.

Some of the more than a dozen rebel groups fighting Indian rule seek to reunite Kashmir as an independent state, an option rejected by both India and Pakistan.
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