From a Jihadi sponsor to be the spokesman for "Enlightened Moderation"

June 16, 2005
Ex-generals, politicians confirm Sheikh Rashid ran militant camp
By Shahzad Raza

ISLAMABAD: General (r) Mirza Aslam Baig, former chief of army staff, on Wednesday confirmed that Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed used to run a militant camp in Rawalpindi.

He told Daily Times that being the army chief, he had received information about the camp where militants used to receive training. “The abandoned camp still has the signboard of Freedom House,” he said.He said the camp was established during the rise of an armed struggle in Kashmir, but was closed down in 1991 when the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif found out about its existence. Asked to comment on the denials issued by the foreign office and Sheikh Rashid himself about the camp, the former army chief said: “I am telling you what I have in my knowledge.”

On June 13, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chairman Yasin Malik made a pubic statement about the camp. The JKLF chief’s disclosure incurred a strong reaction from the Indian government and also put in doubt Sheikh Rashid’s expected visit to Srinagar later this month.

Baig said Nawaz Sharif could also confirm the existence of the militant camp. He urged the government and Sheikh Rasheed to come forward and admit the statement, saying it would adversely affect the ongoing peace process with India.

Khawaja Khalid, who served in the Inter-Services Intelligence, said he had personally visited Rashid’s camp, where militants were being trained in guerrilla warfare. “Sheikh Rashid is a mujahid and played a great role in jihad. I would like to meet him and ask him why he is denying his involvement in training mujahideen,” he said. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, acting president Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), also confirmed that Sheikh Rashid used to run a militant camp in Fateh Jang, near Rawalpindi. He corroborated the report that Nawaz Sharif had order the camp’s closure in 1991.

Sheikh Rashid was a member of the PML-N during the period in question. After the 2002 general elections, he joined PML-Quaid-e-Azam and supported General Pervez Musharraf. “Why do you want me to dig out skeletons from the closet? If I do that, no one in the ruling PML will come out smelling like a rose,” Nisar said. In a press statement, former interior minister Maj Gen (r) Naseerullah Babar said: “In 1989, Shaikh Rashid himself confessed to running a training-cum-refugee camp for Kashmiris near Islamabad.” The former interior minister said even if the government pressed Yasin Malik to retract his earlier statement, it would not absolve Rashid of his past.

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