New Delhi: A day after Syed Salahuddin, chief of the terrorist group Hizbul Mujahideen, was declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the US Department of State, Pakistan has pitched a fervent defence in his favour, calling the move "completely unjustified".
- US brands Salahuddin a global terrorist before PM Modi-Trump meet
- Pak says 'completely unjustified', will support Kashmiri 'struggle'
- India says move could choke Salahuddin's funding and movements
"The designation of individuals supporting the Kashmiri right to self-determination as terrorists is completely unjustified," a Pakistani spokesperson said in a statement that did not name the 71-year-old Salahuddin. "Pakistan shall continue to extend political, diplomatic and moral support for the just struggle of the Kashmiri people," the foreign ministry statement said.
Wanted in India for a series of terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir that have targeted security forces and civilians, Salahuddin has been operating out of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
"Pakistan has demonstrated a longstanding commitment of combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. The people and government of Pakistan have rendered immense sacrifices in both blood and treasure to end this scourge, which has been acknowledged by the international community," the Pakistani spokesperson added.
The American announcement, that India said could choke Salahuddin's funding and operations, came hours before a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump at the White House.
Responding to the order, India said, "It does vindicate India's longest-standing position that cross-border terrorism is behind disturbance created in Kashmir since last year. The outfits that Syed Salahuddin leads, they have perpetuated, from the territory of Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, cross-border terrorism against India including in Kashmir for a number of years."
A native of Budgam district in central Kashmir, Salahuddin had shifted to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir around 1989 from where he played a key role in fuelling militancy in Kashmir for 27 years; training and arming youth before sending them back to the Kashmir valley. He also heads the United Jihad Council, the umbrella body set up in the mid-1990s to oversee terror outfits active in Jammu and Kashmir.