Leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League and hard-line religious parties joined a rally in Islamabad organised by a front of the outlawed Jamaat-ud-Dawah, during which speakers called for a jihad to resolve the Kashmir issue.
PML-N spokesman Siddique-ul-Farooq, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Syed Munawar Hasan, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Maulana Samiul Haq and representatives of the All Parties Hurriyet Conference joined the rally organised by the Tehrik Azadi-e-Kashmir in Aabpara area near the Lal Masjid on Wednesday.
The Tehrik Azadi-e-Kashmir is an organisation launched by the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, itself a front for the banned Lashker-e-Tayiba. The rally, described as a 'National Kashmir Conference', marked the culmination of a three-day 'Azadi-e-Kashmir Karvan' that started at Mirpur in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and ended in Islamabad after passing through Kotli, Bagh and Muzaffarabad.
This was the first time that a major pro-jihad rally was held in the Pakistani capital in several months. As the crowd shouted slogans in favour of jihad, senior JuD leader Abdur Rehman Makki warned India to respect the rights of Kashmiris.
"If they did not resolve the Kashmir issue peacefully, we are left with no other option but to take the course of jihad," Makki said. Maulana Samiul Haq too called for jihad, saying it was the only way to resolve the Kashmir issue.
Tehrik Azadi-e-Kashmir chairman Hafiz Saifullah Mansoor, also a top leader of the JuD, drew the world's attention to the situation in Kashmir and said there has to be a reason why the public has taken to the streets in Kashmir.
JuD leaders said the rally was organised to mobilise the people and create awareness about the 'atrocities' being faced by Kashmiris. The speakers administered an oath to participants in the rally asking them to "rise up in solidarity with the people of Kashmir".
PML-N spokesman Farooq told the media his participation in the rally was not aimed at strengthening the concept of jihad for resolving the Kashmir issue.
"PML-N believes in peaceful struggle for the resolution of the Kashmir issue and we were here to express solidarity with the rightful struggle of Kashmiris," he said.
Jamaat-e-Islami chief Hasan criticised the government and accused Pakistan's leadership of speaking "in the tone of the Indian government".
The gathering also adopted several resolutions, including one that urged the Pakistan government to convene a conference of all political parties to devise a national policy that could help end 'atrocities' in Jammu and Kashmir.