September 2000 News

Dar''s Ally Submits Plans To Delhi For New Jammu And Kashmir Set-Up

23 September 2000
The Daily Excelsior
B L Kak

New Delhi: The Government of India-Prime Minister''s Office (PMO) to be precise-has received a highly significant signal from Srinagar. The sender is Mr Fazl-ul-Haq Qureishi, leader of People''s Political Front. Mr Qureishi was nominated as a mediator by Hizbul Mujahideen operations commander, Mr Abdul Majid Dar, before the collapse of the July 24 cease-fire. And Mr Qureishi''s signal, or plan, envisages a semi-sovereign status for Jammu and Kashmir. Although the People''s Political Front has, of late, been found to be developing independent political ambitions, Mr Fazl-ul-Haq Qureishi has not clarified whether he is speaking for the Hizbul Mujahideen as well while justifying the point in support of a semi-sovereign status for J&K and ''joint control exercised by both India and Pakistan''. Discreet inquiries made by some ''observers'' following the receipt by the Government of Mr Qureishi''s plans vis--vis the new set-up for Jammu and Kashmir have revealed that Mr Qureishi''s proposal has the support of a section within the leadership of Hizbul Mujahideen. It is a different matter that the Hizb''s Valley commander and official spokesperson, Mr Masood Tantrey, has already disassociated himself from Mr Qureishi''s plans. Mr Masood Tantrey''s reaction to Mr Qureishi''s plans was loud and clear: ''Now all of us should accept only that settlement which is agreed through the tripartite solution''. In May this year, when Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Jamaat-e-Islami stalwart was the chairman of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), he let it be known that his organisation (Jamaat-e-Islami) was not for the division of the State, but if in the talks the parties ''reach a consensus to divide the State, we will accept that''. When Mr Fazl-ul-Haq Qureishi, and before him Syed Ali Shah Geelani, talked about the future set-up of J&K, it was argued by one school of thought that their proposals had their origins in proposals of a US-based organisation, known as Kashmir Study Group (KSG). Copies of Mr Qureishi''s plans favouring a quasi-independent Jammu and Kashmir have not been sent here and there on the pattern which was employed by the KSG at the time of circulating copies of its proposals on Kashmir not only in J&K but also in New Delhi, Islamabad and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK), besides the United States and Britain. A Kashmiri expatriate, Mr Farooq Kathwari, established the Kashmir Study Group in the US after his son was killed in an accident during training in Afghanistan as a recruit for jehad in Kashmir. Mr Kathwari owns the upmarket Ethan Allen and is known for his proximity to the US State Department as well as to the present President, Mr Bill Clinton. Significantly, Mr Clinton set a team of American official in motion after Mr Kathwari announced proposals in September last year for the creation of a new Kashmir State. The KSG''s map made it plain that the new State ''would have its own secular, democratic Constitution, as well as its own citizenship, flag and a legislature which would legislate on all matters other than Defence and Foreign Affairs''. The KSG also made it clear that India and Pakistan would be responsible for the defence of the Kashmiri entity, which would ''itself maintain police and gendarme forces for internal law and order purposes''. The publication of the KSG document on the new State of Kashmir was followed by Mr Farooq Kathwari''s visit to New Delhi and Srinagar where he had quiet sessions with high-level officials as well as the J&K Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah. Then came another US-based businessman, Mr Mansoor Ijaz, who acted as a personal representative for Mr Bill Clinton. It is now revealed that Mr Mansoor Ijaz was secretly commissioned to get into touch with Hizbul Mujahideen''s supreme commander, Syed Salahuddin, in Pakistan on why and how of the withdrawal of the cease-fire declaration on August 8.Mr Fazl-ul-Haq''s proposal favouring a quasi-independent Jammu and Kashmir, thus, is not the only sign of the US role in the ongoing process in J&K. Washington has been stressing the violence aspect of the Kashmir issue rather strenuously-the message being that steps have to be taken to bring down the level of violence as an imperative for any breakthrough in the bilateral talks between India and Pakistan. Having said this, it has to be qualified by the statement that in spite of all that has been trotted out against violence, Washing has not accused Pakistan in any direct fashion of either being involved in the spate of attacks or of fomenting trouble in Kashmir. Meanwhile, a close friend of Kashmir-based Hizb leader, Mr Abdul Majid Dar, informed EXCELSIOR about his (Mr Dar''s) unfinished diary, which contains ''a lot of exciting details about the events before and after the collapse of the cease-fire declaration'' announced in Srinagar by Mr Dar on July 24. In his diary, Mr Dar is said to have described as ''an afterthought'' Syed Salahuddin''s August 8 deadline for the inclusion of Pakistan in tripartite talks. And Mr Dar, his friend divulged, had not appreciated the manner in which Syed Salahuddin insisted on a new condition after the cease-fire and offer of dialogue was announced and accepted by India. Mr Dar''s diary reportedly contains an important piece of information: The Hizbul Mujahideen was not involved in the blast of August 10 which claimed 10 lives, including a Delhi-based press photographer, Mr Pradeep Bhatia. In fact, the first claim of responsibility for the attack came from the Lashkar-e-Toiba. However, the situation swiftly changed. Under the Pakistani pressure, Hizbul Mujahideen subsequently took responsibility. Mr Majid Dar is also reported to have admitted that after he left for Pakistan in 1997, Pakistani cadre from the Harkat-ul-Ansar (now known as Harkat-ul-Mujahideen), the Lashkar-e-Toiba, and, most recently, the Jaish-e-Mohammad, had increasingly displaced the Hizb''s predominantly Kashmiri recruits, sometimes relegating them to ''humiliating roles as porters and guides''. After his return to Kashmir in April this year-return after an India-based intermediary was sent to Pakistan to hold a covert dialogue on ceasefire plans and the possibility of talks with the Government-Mr Majid Dar discovered what his diary has termed as ''a large constituency'' within the Hizbul Mujahideen which wanted peace. All but the head of the Hizb''s Pir Panjal regime proved receptive to the idea of a cease-fire. The unfinished diary contains yet another disclosure: Mr Abdul Ghani Lone and Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat (now the president of the APHC) enthusiastically endorsed the plans (of Mr Dar). Syed Ali Shah Geelani was less enthusiastic, but was finally pressured into accepting the emerging position. The situation changed with the election of Prof Bhat as chairman of the APHC on July 20. Prof Bhat did not condemn the cease-fire in itself, but said that it was ''a step taken in haste''. Mr Majid Dar is of the view that the APHC is clearly nervous about being left out in a potential dialogue between the Hizb and the Government of India.


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