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Clerics warn against talks with India, harp on jihad

Clerics warn against talks with India, harp on jihad

Munir Ahmed
The Times of India
April 28, 2000
Title: Clerics warn against talks with India, harp on jihad
Author: Munir Ahmed
Publication: The Times of India
Date: April 28, 2000

MURIDKE (Pakistan):  Hundreds of Islamic clerics warned Pakistan's military rulers Thursday against peace talks with India saying jihad or holy war was the only way to settle the protracted Kashmir dispute.

They also warned the army to resist demands from the US to shut down some of the more militant Islamic groups headquartered here.  The leaders of these groups, like Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen, were among an estimated 1,200 clerics attending a one-day meeting held to support jihad.  Organized by Lashkar-e-Toiba, clerics from throughout Pakistan met in a tent village in Muridke, 25 km west of Lahore.

"War is clear.  Instead of diplomacy and holding talks we should resist and tell the nation that jehad is the only solution to retrieve Kashmir," said Maulana Sibgatullah Shirwani, the speaker who opened the conference.

Lashkar-e-Toiba said groups fighting in Kashmir should be helped by the government, not attacked.  "We are trying to make our leaders realize that they should not succumb to American pressure to put pressure on freedom fighters by trying to ban their organizations," said Yahya Mujahed, a leader of Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Pakistan's military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf has so far rebuffed US demands to shut these groups down saying they have not broken any Pakistani laws.  However, his six-month-old government has announced plans to try to regulate religious schools or madrassas where young boys are schooled in fighting jehad.  Musharraf has said he wants to bring these schools into the mainstream of the Pakistani education system, something Islamic militants are resisting.  Increased religiously motivated killings in Pakistan between rival Shiite and Sunni Muslims also has prompted Musharraf's government to threaten to shut down groups found to be involved in the violence.(AP)

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