Zardari calls J&K militants terrorists
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  • Declaring that India is not a threat to his country, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has described the militants operating in J&K as terrorists, the first such admission by any top Pakistani leader. “India has never been a threat to Pakistan. I, for one, and our democratic government is not scared of Indian influence abroad,” Mr. Zardari told Wall Street Journal in an interview. He spoke of the militant groups operating in Kashmir as terrorists, the paper said, noting that former President Pervez Musharraf would more likely have called them freedom fighters. The latest positive signals from Mr. Zardari come days after his maiden meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting1. Rejecting the statement of Zardari, separatist leaders in the Kashmir valley said "he is ignorant about the sub-continent’s history." Dismissing Zardari’s statement, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti said, "He is unaware about the ground situation in Kashmir." Chairman of the breakaway Hurriyat Conference (HC) Syed Ali Shah Geelani, reacted sharply to Zardari’s statement and stated “Kashmiris are not terrorists. They are freedom fighters”. He ridiculed his statement that India was never a threat to Pakistan. Meanwhile, in Islamabad, the founder of one of Pakistan’s most feared armed Islamist groups accused Zardari of being too dovish towards India, and criticised him for referring to militants in Kashmir as terrorists. Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) described Zardari’s comments as "a clear violation and digression from the consistent policy of Pakistan"2.

    Even as the two national political parties, Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party which have a sizable base in Jammu, expressed their preparedness for contesting the Assembly elections in November-December, Kashmir-based National Conference as well as PDP on October 8 stressed on initiating certain confidence building measures before holding of the elections3.

    Elsewhere, the police on October 7 claimed to have killed two militants who are the residents of Kerala in two different encounters in Kupwara district. They were trying to exfiltrate, police added. Police did not ruled out the possibility of the slain being cadres of Indian Mujahideen4. While, in a major setback to Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), security forces on October 9 shot dead its self-styled militant commander along with his close associate during a five-hour gunbattle in Baramulla district5.