Marking the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington, the United States has designated Syed Salahuddin, the chief of United Jihad Council (UJC) as a “global terrorist”. UJC is a ISI-backed umbrella organization of Kashmiri militants groups.
His outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), is by far the largest militant outfit in J&K. It takes credit for the resurgence of militancy in the valley after its operations chief, Burhan Wani was eliminated in a police operation in July last year.
Seven months ago in Dec 2016, he along with Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed and several other militant called for the revival of jihad in Kashmir at a rally organised in PoK capital, Muzaffarabad.
In September 2016, Salahuddin had 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”.
Salahuddin’s outfit has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including the April 2014 explosives attack in which 17 people were injured in the valley.
And in June 2012 in an interview, he accepted that Pakistan had been backing Hizb-ul-Mujahideen fight in Kashmir, the US State Department pointed out while declaring Salahuddin as a global terrorist.
A big impact of US decision will be that it will largely choke funds flow to HM, which is by far the largest militant outfit.
Politician turned militant, Salahuddin (71), whose real name is Mohammad Yousuf Shah, has been on India’s most wanted list for a long time. He has been collaborating with rabidly anti-Indian JuD and other Pak based terrorist groups. He attended rallies and meetings organised jointly with the Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Defa-e-Pakistan Council.
Pakistan has never denied his presence in PoK, where he has his base; his outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen, (HM), has held recruitment drives and fund-raising rallies at a short distance from the Pak Army’s GHQ in Rawalpindi.
He is the only terrorist from Jammu and Kashmir to make the infamous US list of “specially designated global terrorists” since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. He hails from central Kashmir’s Budgam.
Hitherto, anti-India groups and individuals like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed have attracted the US action, mostly for their linkages with al-Qaeda or for targeting the US troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Expectedly, Pakistan criticised the US decision. “The global terrorist tag on Syed Salahuddin is ‘unjustified’; we will continue to back Kashmir struggle”, Pak foreign office spokesman said in Islamabad.
Pakistani analysts concede that the latest US decision puts Islamabad in a tight spot. “With the US position on terrorism in the region aligning more closely with that of India, it may be difficult for the Pakistani security establishment to resist pressure to crack down on terrorists such as Salahuddin”, they said.