"Now, since it will be an open official decision of the government of Pakistan to clamp down on militants we may face Pakistan's wrath," he told Reuters in an interview. "I'm mentally prepared for that," said Khan, 67, who has been jailed a number of times for his activities. Pakistan has come under intense international pressure to dismantle militant groups after a bloody December 13 attack on Parliament that left 14 people dead.
Military ruler General Pervez Musharraf is preparing a widely anticipated national address that is expected to follow up on measures announced last year to tackle bloody sectarian violence.
The JKLF has long advocated independence for Kashmir, but this policy has not fitted with the approach of Islamabad, which has hoped the region will choose to join Pakistan and the group has received no help and few if any fighters. It has been sidelined since the late 1980s when Pakistan nurtured Islamic militant groups fighting for an end to Indian rule in Kashmir and for greater Pakistani influence.
Khan said his pledge to take up arms if necessary was justified. "We were within our rights because we had failed to convince India peacefully and there was no other way except to result to armed struggle," Khan said. The JKLF, after nearly a decade of fighting, put down its weapons in 1997, but said that if a solution was imposed on Kashmir from outside then its followers would take up arms again.
"If India, Pakistan, or the international community impose a solution on Kashmiris against their will we will take up arms again," he said. "And we will not agree with anybody who says this form of armed struggle is terrorism." Non-Kashmiri Muslim militants infiltrating across the border from Pakistan had harmed his cause, Khan said, referring to the extremist groups long backed by Pakistan.
"I've been saying for the last two to three years that (non-Kashmiri militants) are changing the Kashmir freedom struggle into terrorism."