ISLAMABAD/NEW DELHI: Pakistan condemned on Wednesday a verdict by an Indian court sentencing top Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik to life imprisonment in a ‘terror’ funding case.
Malik, 56, is the head of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), one of the first armed separatist groups in the Indian-controlled region that supported an independent and united Kashmir. The group gave up armed rebellion in 1994.
Malik was arrested by the National Investigation Agency in April 2019. The agency demanded the death penalty for him on charges of receiving funds from Pakistan to “carry out terrorist activities and stone-pelting during the Kashmir unrest.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said Wednesday was “a black day for Indian democracy & its justice system.”
“India can imprison Yasin Malik physically but it can never imprison idea of freedom he symbolizes,” he tweeted.
The Pakistani military said it condemned the sentence awarded to Malik on “fabricated charges.”
“Such oppressive tactics cannot dampen the spirit of people of Kashmir in their just struggle against illegal Indian occupation,” it said.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the region in its entirety and have fought two of their three wars over control of Kashmir. India has been accusing Pakistan of arming and training rebel groups to fight Indian forces — Pakistan denies it.
Pakistan’s foreign office on Wednesday summoned the Indian charge d’affaires in Islamabad over the court ruling against Malik and said in a statement it had “conveyed Pakistan’s strongest condemnation and rejection of the malafide conviction and sentencing of Hurriyat leader Mr. Yasin Malik in a grossly suspicious and contrived case.”
Malik himself rejected the charges when the court in New Delhi asked him to speak before it pronounced the sentence.
“If I was a terrorist, then why had seven Prime Ministers of India come to meet me in the past?” he said. “If I was a terrorist, why was I given the opportunity to give lectures in different institutions all over the world including India?”
Pro-independence Kashmiri grouping All Parties Hurriyat Conference said Malik had since 1994 “pursued peaceful and democratic means of conflict resolution.”
“Yasin Malik actively participated in all negotiations held on Kashmir after 2000 under various regimes in New Delhi and Islamabad. Yet he was arrested, shifted to Tihar (prison) and has now been convicted in invented cases under draconian laws,” it said in a statement.
Mehbooba Mufti, who served as the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir before New Delhi amended the constitution and scrapped the former state’s autonomy in August 2019, said in reference to Yasin’s conviction that India’s “muscular policy” in Kashmir would “bear adverse results.”
“Jammu and Kashmir is a political problem. A lot of people have been hanged here or given life imprisonment but it did not solve the Kashmir problem, it complicated the matter more,” she told reporters. “I think the muscular policy will have dire consequences, they will not solve the problems but create more.”