Pakistan says, US designating Hizbul Mujahideen as a foreign terror group ‘unjustified’

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ISLAMABAD, Aug 18 : Pakistan on Thursday said it was disappointed over what it described as the “unjustified” decision by the US to designate the Hizbul Mujahideen as a foreign terrorist organisation.

The US took the action on Wednesday against the largest of the Kashmiri militant groups fighting in Jammu and Kashmir, a little less than two months after it designated Pakistan – based Hizb chief Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist.

“We are disappointed (with the US decision) in view of the fact that Kashmir is an internationally recognised dispute,” foreign ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria told a news briefing in Islamabad.

“The designation of individuals or groups supporting the Kashmiri right to self-determination as terrorists is completely unjustified,” he said.

Zakaria said the US decision did not take into account “the 70-year struggle of Kashmiris” even as he reiterated Pakistan’s “moral, diplomatic and political support to Kashmiri people’s struggle”.

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He said it was India which should be held to account for what he described as its use of force and human rights violations in Kashmir.

The US treasury department said on Wednesday it was freezing the assets of the Hizb and prohibiting Americans from having dealings with it. The state department said the group had claimed responsibility for several attacks, including one in 2014 in Jammu and Kashmir that left 17 people injured.

India accuses Pakistan of fuelling the militancy in Kashmir, a charge denied by Islamabad, which claims it only extends diplomatic and moral support to the Kashmiris.

In his Independence Day speech on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was conciliatory towards the people of Jammu and Kashmir, where violent protests erupted last year. He said neither abuses nor bullets would be enough to pacify the region and that Kashmiris need to be embraced instead.

Asked whether Pakistan would take up the designation of the Hizb with the US, Zakaria said: “Whenever a meeting between the two sides is held, we table all concerns from our side.”

He said Prime Minister Modi’s “neither bullets nor abuse” comment validated Pakistan’s position that the “only solution of Kashmir is through fair and free plebiscite”.