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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 June, 2005, 05:17 GMT 06:17 UK
Minister 'backed' Kashmir rebels
Pakistani Information Minister, Sheikh Rashid
Sheikh Rashid is accused of supporting 'frontline jihadis'
A top Kashmiri separatist leader has told the BBC that a Pakistan minister had offered separatist militants refuge and support in the 1980s.

But the leader, Yasin Malik, denied having alleged that Pakistani Information Minister, Sheikh Rashid had set up a militant training camp.

Pakistan's Daily Times newspaper reported that Mr Malik had made the claim during a visit to Pakistan.

India has expressed its strong concern over the claim.

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But Mr Malik said the Daily Times report was "completely wrong".

He 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 brothers," Mr Malik told the BBC.

"I have never mentioned the word training," he added.

Mr Rashid, who is a Kashmiri, has acknowledged that he provided accommodation for militants.

It is particularly serious that people directly involved in such activities continue to occupy high positions in Pakistan
Navtej Sarna
Indian spokesman

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Rashid said that he let separatist leaders stay in his house because he felt that it was his moral duty to provide them with a roof.

But he said he had never been involved in training people for guerrilla warfare or setting up training camps, as the report alleged.

Yasin Malik is a leading separatist in Indian-administered Kashmir who heads the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, the first group to take up arms against India in 1988.

But in 1995 the JKLF gave up violence.

Mr Malik is one of several moderate Kashmiri separate leaders who have been visiting Pakistan - the first time they have been allowed to do so by India.

India concerned

Reacting to the report in the Daily Times, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said it viewed the "revelations by Mr Yasin Malik" as a matter of great concern.

"It is particularly serious that people directly involved in such activities continue to occupy high positions in Pakistan," the spokesman, Navtej Sarna, said.

Yasin Malik being greeted in Pakistan
Yasin Malik renounced violence in 1995

"Our stand remains that no effective action has been taken by Pakistan to dismantle the infrastructure of support to terrorism on a permanent basis," he added.

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.

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".

There has been no comment on the allegations by Pakistan as yet.

The Daily Times had reported that Mr Malik had revealed some 3,500 militants had been trained in "guerrilla warfare" in the camp.




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