Sanctions on Kashmiri militant group unjustified: Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday said Islamabad was disappointed over what it termed the unjustified imposition of sanctions by the United States on Kashmiri militant group Hizbul Mujahideen.

People hold a banner as they chant slogans in support of Hizbul Mujahideen group during a rally in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, August 17, 2017. REUTERS/M. Saif-ul-Islam

The U.S. took the action on Wednesday against the largest of the anti-Indian Kashmiri militant organizations fighting in the Himalayan territory, which is divided between Pakistan and India.

The U.S. Treasury Department said it was freezing the assets of the Pakistan-based group, and prohibiting Americans from having dealings with it.

The State Department said the group had claimed responsibility for several attacks, including one in 2014 in Jammu and Kashmir that left 17 people injured.

The move against Hizbul Mujahideen comes after last month’s U.S. designation of militant commander Syed Salahuddin as a terrorist - a label he has denounced.

“We are disappointed,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria said at a media briefing in Islamabad.

“The designation of individuals or groups supporting the Kashmiri right to self-determination as terrorists was completely unjustified,” he said.

Zakaria said it was India which should be held to account for what he said was its brutal use of force and human rights violations in Kashmir.

The countries have fought three wars, two of them over the Muslim-majority Kashmir region, since they gained independence in 1947 from British colonial rule.

Delhi accuses Islamabad of fuelling an insurgency, a charge Pakistan denies, saying it only extends diplomatic and moral support to the Kashmiri’s independence movement.

In his Independence Day speech on Tuesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was conciliatory towards Muslims in Kashmir, where violent protests against Indian rule have erupted over the past year. He said neither abuses nor bullets would be enough to pacify the region and that the Kashmiris needed to be embraced instead.

Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Andrew Bolton