- Salahuddin tells Pak channel he 'can strike anytime, anywhere in India'
- India says Pak must ensure terrorists do not find space in the country
- Salahuddin was designated global terrorist by US last week
Salahuddin, who operates out of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, openly exposed Pakistan's role in terror attacks in India when he told Pakistani channel Geo TV that he "can strike anytime, anywhere in India." He said it was easy for him to get weapons in Pakistan for these terror strikes.
"The brazen admission by Syed Salahuddin of perpetrating terrorist attacks on India and having the capacity to carry out such attacks at any place and time in India is a further proof of Pakistan's continuing policy of cross border terrorism. His confession... also affirms the complicity of Pakistan's state structure in using terrorist proxies as a matter of policy against the neighbours," a foreign ministry spokesperson said in a statement.
"It is a matter of deep regret that senior Pakistan functionaries continue to justify and defend the activities of such internationally designated terrorist entities and leaders who are responsible for killing thousands of innocent civilians over the past three decades," it added.
Salahuddin, 71, was declared a specially designated global terrorist by the US Department of State last week, hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi met President Donald Trump at the White House. A US statement noted that, "In September 2016, Salahuddin vowed to block any peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict, threatened to train more Kashmiri suicide bombers, and vowed to turn the Kashmir Valley "into a graveyard for Indian forces"."
Responding to the order, India had 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."
Pakistan immediately pitched a defence in Salahuddin's favour, calling the US move "completely unjustified". A Pakistani spokesperson said, "The designation of individuals supporting the Kashmiri right to self-determination as terrorists is completely unjustified," adding in the statement that did not name Salahuddin, "Pakistan shall continue to extend political, diplomatic and moral support for the just struggle of the Kashmiri people."
Speaking to local media on Monday, Sartaz Aziz, Foreign Affairs adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said, "We reject Syed Salahuddin being called a global terrorist... Kashmir remains a disputed territory."
At a press conference over the weekend, held amid tight security in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, Salahuddin said he is "freedom fighter and not a terrorist."
Salahuddin is wanted in India for a series of terrorist attacks in Jammu and Kashmir that have targeted security forces and civilians. He is from the Budgam district in central Kashmir and 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.
Salahuddin also heads the United Jihad Council, the umbrella body set up in the mid-1990s to oversee terror outfits active in Jammu and Kashmir.