- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2000

LAHORE, Pakistan A military government plan to round up illegal weapons will target those used in sectarian violence but will not involve the arms of the Islamic groups that recruit volunteers to fight in Indian-held portions of Kashmir, an army spokesman said yesterday.
Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi, clarifying remarks published in The Washington Times on Friday, maintained in an interview that the groups supporting an end to Indian rule in Kashmir are not armed inside Pakistan.
Gen. Qureshi, head of Inter-Services Public Relations, denied a statement in The Times that there are as many as 2 million armed militants inside Pakistan, and he challenged a reporter to identify any training camps located inside Pakistan.
Leaders of the militant groups recruiting volunteers to fight in Kashmir say they have training camps in Azad Kashmir, the small portion of Kashmir that India lost to Pakistan's forces in the 1947 war that followed independence from Britain.
Pakistan does not consider Azad Kashmir, which is defended by Pakistani troops, to be part of Pakistan.
The groups supporting the fight to oust India from its portion of Kashmir have until recently displayed weapons at their major gatherings, though the military government that took power Oct. 12 last year has banned the display of weapons.
The groups continue to recruit young Pakistanis for the holy war, or jihad, in Kashmir as well as in Chechnya, Afghanistan and other places where Islamic fighters are engaged.
At the headquarters of the largest Islamic party in Pakistan, Jamat-e-Islami, the party's militant wing displays posters inviting young Pakistanis to join the struggle and take training courses from 15 days to three months.
India has long accused Pakistan of giving logistic support to the Islamic militants and helping them filter across the mountainous "line of control" dividing Kashmir.
Pakistan says it gives moral support but does not assist the rebels in any material way.
Support in Pakistan for Kashmir's liberation from Indian control is so deeply rooted that Chief Executive Gen. Pervez Musharraf rejected an appeal for an end to the insurgency delivered by President Clinton during a visit to Pakistan in March.
For Pakistan's army and much of its people, the struggle over Kashmir is akin to a holy cause that cannot be abandoned.
Indeed, some analysts say that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was overthrown in an October coup at least in part because he agreed to Mr. Clinton's request in July 1999 that he withdraw militants from Kargil in Indian-held portions of Kashmir.

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