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Tuesday, 11 June, 2002, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
Musharraf denounced over Kashmir
Kashmiri militants
The rally was a huge show of support for the militants

Several thousand hardline Muslims have taken part in a protest rally in Pakistan-administered Kashmir to denounce President Pervez Musharraf.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf
Musharraf: trying to put a stop to incursions

The rally - held in the regional capital Muzaffarabad - was held in protest at General Musharraf's decision to ban the movement of armed militants across the Line of Control that divides the disputed territory.

Protesters expressed their support for the insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir and called for the free movement of Kashmiri people across the line.

It was the first organised protest in the country since President Musharraf declared that no incursions would be allowed.

Organised by the Jamaat-e-Islami party, the rally came as India announced fresh measures to reduce tensions with Pakistan.

Jihad

The rally was attended by a large number of militants and other supporters of the armed insurgency.

A Kashmiri protester
Protesters say US involvement is unnacceptable

The speakers were outspoken in their condemnation of President Musharraf for imposing the restrictions.

The Jamaat-e-Islami leader, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, said Pakistan-administered Kashmir was the base-camp for the jihad or holy war in Indian-administered Kashmir.

He said no one in Pakistan had the right to create obstacles in its way.

The Jamaat leader accused President Musharraf of giving in to the pressure from the United States and Britain, which he described as nothing short of betrayal.

Mr Ahmed said the people of Pakistan were not afraid of another war with India and asked President Musharraf to take a firmer stand in support of the struggle of the Kashmir's Muslims.

Opposition

Other speakers, mostly from Pakistan-administered Kashmir, were equally critical of the government's decision.

They said the monitoring of the Line of Control by US or other foreign troops would not be acceptable to them.

In the last few days, Islamic groups in Pakistan have started to reorganise themselves in support of the Kashmiri separatist movement.

Although President Musharraf is coming under increasing pressure from such groups at home, he seems determined to stop any incursions in Indian-administered Kashmir.

His pledge to stop militants from crossing the line has become a significant factor in the easing of tensions with India.


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