The United States' decision to declare Hizbul Mujahideen a specially designated terrorist organisation led by an internationally recognised terrorist is "saddening", the Foreign Office said on Thursday.

Addressing a weekly media briefing, FO spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said that Kashmiris' struggle for their right to self-determination has been rightfully continuing for the past 70 years.

He said Indian occupation forces had used excessive force against people in India-held Kashmir and they are "continuing to do so".

The US has always appreciated Pakistan's sacrifices in counter-terrorism efforts, the spokesman said, adding that the US government has repeatedly said that it appreciates its relations with Pakistan.

He further said that the primary issue in Pakistan-India relations is that of Kashmir "which has to be resolved through dialogue".

The blacklisting of Hizbul Mujahideen further increases US pressure on Pakistan to do more about tightening the screws on terrorist groups that allegedly use its territory for launching cross-border attacks in Afghanistan and India-held Kashmir.

The US Department of State announced on Wednesday that it had designated Hizbul Mujahideen — also known as HM — as a foreign terrorist organisation and as a specially designated global terrorist.

“These designations seek to deny HM the resources it needs to carry out terrorist attacks,” said the State Department while reminding US citizens that they were now prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the group.

Formed in 1989, HM is one of the largest and oldest militant groups of Kashmir. The US has already declared its leader Mohammad Yusuf Shah, better known as Syed Salah­uddin, a specially designated global terrorist.

Pakistan had earlier said that the designation of individuals supporting the Kashmiri right to self-determination as terrorists is 'completely unjustified'.

US report on religious freedom a 'media report'

Commenting on US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's allegation that religious freedom is under attack in Pakistan, the FO spokesman said that the report released by the secretary "is just a media report as yet".

He said the annual US report analyses religious freedom in various countries, adding that the report also talks profusely about the lack of religious freedom in India.

Zakaria said Hindu terrorist groups besides engaging in violence against Indian minorities are also involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan. India also uses the Afghan soil to act against Pakistan, he alleged.

The Indian allegation that the 400-feet tall flag hoisted by Pakistan at Wagah Border on the eve of Pakistan's 70th independence anniversary could be used for spying is "ridiculous", the FO spokesman said.

Talking about the meeting held between Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul earlier this week, Zakaria said the Afghan government had invited Janjua to visit after she assumed office.

"During the meeting, Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed to jointly deal with the challenge of terrorism."

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