Pakistan Rejects US Terrorism Edict
By KATHY GANNON
c The Associated Press
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) - Pakistan rejected as unwarranted Saturday an apparent warning from the United States that it could be branded a sponsor of terrorism.
The foreign ministry said although the Pakistani government may be sympathetic to a secessionist uprising in Indian-ruled Kashmir, it is firmly opposed to terrorism and does not aid religious organizations involved in the insurgency.
``There is no warrant for any warning,'' the ministry said in a statement.
On Thursday, the United States warned Pakistan that it could be listed as a sponsor of terrorism - making it ineligible for virtually all U.S. aid - if it gave direct support to Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen, a militant group that operates in Kashmir and is headquartered in Pakistan.
The warning followed comments by U.S. State Department spokesman James P. Rubin earlier in the week that there has long been concern that agencies of the Pakistani government provided ``general support'' to a number of groups operating in the territory disputed by India and Pakistan.
Washington says there are links between last month's hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane and Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen, which was placed on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations in 1997 when it was called Harkat-ul-Ansar.
On Saturday, Pakistan's foreign ministry repeated its condemnation of the hijacking and vowed to punish the hijackers if they are arrested in Pakistan. The hijacking ended in Afghanistan with 155 hostages freed in exchange for the Indian government's release of three pro-Kashmiri militants.
The most prominent of the militants is Maulana Masood Azhar, a Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen member who had been in jail in India since 1994 without being charged.
Since his release he has toured Pakistan making speeches condemning India and trying to recruit holy warriors to fight Indian troops in the part of Kashmir ruled by India.
The former princely state, tucked in the shadows of the Himalayan Mountains, is divided between Pakistan and India but both countries claim a united Kashmir as their own. The neighbors have fought two wars over Kashmir and last summer engaged in a bitter border dispute.
``In Pakistan there is legitimate sympathy with the Kashmir people, who are suffering Indian military occupation and sustained repression which has been widely documented by human rights organizations,'' said the Pakistani statement.
``The legitimate Kashmiri struggle cannot be described as terrorist activity,'' it said. ``However we believe in the peaceful negotiations process ... (and) official Pakistani agencies do not provide any support to the religious organizations'' involved in the insurgency.
According to the foreign ministry statement, these organizations are bound by Pakistani laws and ``infringement of the laws would entail required action.''
Pakistan has been a close ally of the United States in the battle against terrorism, the statement says, offering as an example the extradition from Pakistan of suspects involved in the World Trade Center bombing in New York and the attack on U.S. Embassies in Africa.
``Pakistan does not condone international tension,'' the statement said. ``We have demonstrated our opposition to terrorism.''
Meanwhile Saturday, rockets fired from across the border in India slammed into the Pakistani village of Daholo Wali, killing two people and wounding three others, said Shahid Mahmood, deputy commissioner of the Sialkot region.
Indian troops in the area have fired heavy mortars and waged regular gun battles across the border, he said. Several other rockets have landed without exploding.
The attack came just one day after two bombs shook Karachi, killing four people and wounding 32 others. Most of the dead and wounded in Karachi were worshippers at a mosque, which was heavily damaged by one of the bombs.
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