Hundreds of people, from different walks of life, staged a rally in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PaK) on Tuesday to condemn the US administration's decision of designating United Jehad Council (UJC) Chief Syed Salahuddin as a terrorist.
The US State Department on Monday designated Salahuddin, who is also supreme commander of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen – the largest of around a dozen militant groups fighting against government forces in Jammu and Kashmir – as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) and imposed sanctions on him.
The decision drew criticism and condemnation from both sides of the Line of Control (LoC), with Kashmiris chiding the Donald Trump administration for "equating their legitimate struggle for internationally acknowledged right to self-determination with terrorism."
"Syed Salahuddin Ahmed is not a terrorist, but a freedom fighter," read one of the several banners being carried by the demonstrators, who started a rally from Muzaffarabad's famous Burhan Wani Chowk.
The demonstrators also torched a tri-colour amid anti-India and pro-freedom slogans.
"Syed Salahuddin is the name of an ideology, a thought and a determination," read another banner.
Representatives of militant groups and political parties took strong exception to the decision which they said was a reprehensible attempt by the Trump administration to please India.
"Our struggle is for the fulfilment of a promise that India had itself repeatedly made to us after 1947 before the comity of nations, but later backed out from its commitments," said said Uzair Ahmed Ghazali, in a reference to the promise of a UN sponsored plebiscite in the disputed region.
He called upon China to come forward against this decision "as well."
Previously, China has twice blocked a US proposal to get Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar listed on a UN list of designated terrorists.
Speaking at the rally, Khawaja Farooq Ahmed, a senior leader of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) and a former PaK minister, said it was the weak foreign policy of PML-N led government in Islamabad that had encouraged Trump administration to take this step during Modi's visit.
"If you are serious in your avowals of extending diplomatic, political and moral support to the Kashmiris, then you should show some strength and as a first step summon the US and Indian envoys in Foreign Office to lodge protest over this unfair decision," he said, addressing the federal government.
Ahmed also asked the AJK government to give a strike call on both sides of disputed Kashmir, like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had given for February 28, 1974, to express rejection of the US decision.
"All political parties and mujahideen groups should be taken on board to make this strike a historic one," he said.
PPP leader Shaukat Javed Mir and several others also spoke on the occasion.