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Saturday, 5 February, 2000, 11:15 GMT
Musharraf backs Kashmiri militants

musharraf General Musharraf has called for a referendum

Pakistan's military leader, General Pervez Musharraf, has said he backs the Islamic militants fighting Indian forces in Kashmir.

He made the statement as Pakistan started a day of solidarity rallies to support Kashmiri separatists in their long-running separatist campaign.

We pray to Almighty Allah to crown the freedom struggle
General Musharraf, Pakistan's military leader
Tens of thousands of Pakistanis were expected to take part in processions and rallies throughout the country.

Speaking at a refugee camp in his own country, General Musharraf called on India to restart negotiations over the future of the region.

As he spoke at a ceremony in Anbor, reports said two people had been killed by Indian mortar shells fired at Lipa, 80 km (50 miles) north of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

The bombardment was said to have destroyed about five houses.

Referendum call

The military leader called on world powers to help resolve the territorial dispute.

He said a referendum like the one in East Timor should be organised for the disputed territory.

"If a UN-sponsored referendum could be held in East Timor, one could also take place in Kashmir," he said.

indian soldier Indian Soldier patrolling the border
In a UN ballot last year, East Timor voted by an overwhelming majority for independence from Indonesia.

The 52-year dispute over Kashmir, which has caused two of the three wars between Pakistan and India since their independence in 1947, remains a flashpoint between the newly nuclear armed countries.

India, which holds two-thirds of the disputed territory, accuses Pakistan of fomenting the unrest in its zone, which has claimed more than 25,000 lives since 1989.

Special prayers

"The hearts of people of Pakistan beat in unison with their brethren waging a freedom struggle in Indian-occupied Kashmir," said General Musharraf.

flag burning Tension is high in Pakistan
"We pray to Almighty Allah to crown the freedom struggle in Kashmir with success and deliver the people from Indian brutalities," he added.

"Kashmir is the root cause of tensions and all other matters are only small irritants."

The solidarity day started with special prayers in mosques for the success of the Kashmiris' "liberation struggle."

Later, traffic came to a standstill for a minute of silence and prayers for the "martyrs" in Kashmir.

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19 Jan 00 |  South Asia
On the defensive in Kashmir
17 Jan 00 |  South Asia
India strengthens Kashmir forces
15 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Kashmir army camp attacked

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