Pak holding thousands of Kashmiri militants in reserve

New York: Pakistan has kept 12,000-14,000 fully trained Kashmiri militants in reserve and would use them, if needed, in a war with India, according to a former militant commander.

The unidentified commander, who enjoyed military patronage, said Pakistan`s military is still training militants to carry out proxy wars in Kashmir and Afghanistan, the New York Times reported.

"Pakistan has 12,000 to 14,000 fully trained Kashmiri fighters, scattered throughout various camps in Pakistan, and is holding them in reserve to use if needed in a war against India," he was quoted as saying.

The commander also said that militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Hizbul Mujahideen are run by religious leaders, with the Pakistani military providing training, strategic planning and protection to them.

"There are two bodies running these affairs: `mullahs` and retired Generals," he said and named a number of former military officials involved in the programme, including ex- chiefs of the intelligence service and other former Generals.

"These people have a very big role still," he said.

Over the years, he estimated that he personally trained up to 4,000 militants. He fought and trained other militants in Kashmir, Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan, the report said.

The entire enterprise was supported by the Pakistani military and executed by Pakistani militant groups, he said.

The former militant commander was paid by a wing of the ISI, the paper said.

Fighters were paid about USD 50 a month, he was quoted as saying, and commanders about USD 500.