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Sunday, September 30, 2001

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Pak. orders closure of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen offices

By B. Muralidhar Reddy

ISLAMABAD, SEPT. 29. The Pakistan Government is believed to have sealed the offices of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen - one of the 27 organisations declared a terrorist outfit by the U.S. The action has come within hours of the United Nations adopting a resolution, endorsing the U.S. decision to go after the terrorist outfits and organisations aiding and abetting those behind the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman had been emphasising for the last few days that as a responsible member of the U.N., Islamabad would not be found wanting.

A Harkat spokesman said on Friday that the decision of the Musharraf Government to freeze its accounts would not affect the ongoing struggle in Kashmir. The Harkat had been facing bans and its accounts frozen earlier also. But it had continued its ``legal and principled struggle'' and would do so till the ``Indian forces withdraw from Kashmir.''

The spokesman, Ameeruddin Mughal, had said that by freezing the Harkat's accounts, the Pakistan Government wanted to appease the U.S. On the one hand, Pakistan was claiming that it was extending moral, political and diplomatic support to Kashmiris but on the other, it had frozen the accounts of the outfit on the orders of `infidel forces.'

AP reports from Muzaffarabad:

Several Harkat members were seen removing their belongings from their main office here - capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Attique-ur-Rehman, a commander, vowed to resist the order. ``Any Pakistani ruler who will go against us won't stay in power for long.'' Another commander, Sajjad Shahid, said ``the (Pakistan) Government has ordered us to close because of American pressure.''

The Harkat is one of the largest militant organisations operating in Kashmir and was declared a terrorist organisation by the U.S. years ago. The group also has strong ties with Afghanistan and many members were trained there. Afghanistan is the base of terrorist mastermind, Osama bin Laden, sought by the U.S. in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Two key leaders of the Harkat, Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman Khalil and Farooq Kashmiri, went into hiding soon after the attacks. Both of them fought with Afghan resistance forces against the Soviets in the 1980s.

Scores of Harkat volunteers are believed to be fighting alongside Taliban against the northern-based Afghan opposition forces.

Another Pakistan-based organisation, the Al-Rashid Trust, was also on the U.S. President, Mr. George Bush's list of terrorist outfits. Pakistan's State Bank froze its assets here this week but the trust is technically allowed to continue since it has not been declared a terrorist organisation.

The U.S. has courted Pakistani support for its campaign against Osama, who is protected by Afghanistan's hardline Islamic Taliban movement.

Pakistan has maintained close ties with Afghanistan and is the only country to recognise it as the legitimate government of the country after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates broke ties.

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