January 1998 News Rule

APHC sends conflicting signals on polls

8th January 1998
Hindustan Times

The Jammu and Kashmir All Party Hurriyat Conference's announcement of boycotting the general elections appears to be belied by the recent frenzied activity by various constituents, some of whom wish to contest the polls through frontal organizations.

A resolution by APHC Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that the past elections had failed to solve the Kashmir problem, and that their struggle was for the right of self-determination, not for government. APHC insiders said the resolution came as a minimum compromise after three days of intensive discussions between executive members.

Despite the resolution, however, constituents appear to be bracing themselves for action independent of the umbrella organization. For instance, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI), under its new and moderate Amir-e-Jamaat G.M.Butt, has recently made a confusing statement. Though the JEI would not contest the polls if so asked by the APHC, it asserted that if it did enter the fray, it would expect the APHC to refrain from making criticism.

Mr. Butt appears to be preparing to engage in electoral battle. It may be recalled that he was a very active member of the former Muslim United Front (MUF), the Kashmiri opposition combine which suffered a crushing defeat in the 1987 Assembly elections amidst charges of blatant rigging by the ruling National Conference-Congress combine. Most of the MUF workers had subsequently crossed to Pakistan to take up arms training and lead the post-1989 insurgency in the Valley.

Besides Mr. Butt, former JEI chief Syed Ali Shah Gilani has been busy in the capital for the past few days. Sources close to him say that he has been meeting Kashmiri advocate Muzaffar Beg, who is likely to contest the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat as a front candidate for the APHC.

Though now close to the separatist outfit, Mr. Beg had previously contested elections in 1977 as a candidate of the People's Conference, headed by political chameleon Abdul Gani Lone. Incidentally, Mr. Lone who is currently in police custody in Srinagar is rumoured to have met state chief minister Farooq Abdullah, leading to all kinds of intense speculation about Mr. Lone's role in the coming Lok Sabha polls.

Outside the APHC, separatist leader Shabir Shah is reported to be preparing to launch a political party in the next fortnight. Sources in the APHC said that chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has conveyed to Mr. Shah the Iranian suggestion that the APHC and other Kashmiris contest elections.

The Iranians had proffered this advice last month, after the Government of India had prevented the APHC leadership from attending the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) meet in Teheran. Mr. Shah is thus keeping an open mind on the polls.

The intense churning appears to be borne out of the pressure brought upon APHC constituents to contest elections and prove their credibility and standing among Kashmiris. Even Western embassies have been advising individual Hurriyat leaders to jump into the electoral fray as Dr. Abdullah has marginalized them from the Valley's polity, and APHC has been told that unless it contests polls, it will vanish completely from centre stage.


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