Masood killing gives Hizb hardliners new life
4 August 2001
The Indian Express
Srinagar: THE killing of moderate Hizbul leader Abdul Hamid Tantray alias Commander Masood has come in handy for the Pak-based hardline leadership of the outfit to replace its moderate ‘‘operational commanders’’ in Kashmir. Abdul Majid Dar, ‘‘chief commander operations’’, and two other ‘‘divisional commanders’’ who shared the table at talks with Union Home Secretary Kamal Pandey on August 3 last year, are all being replaced with new faces. Salahuddin has appointed Asad Yazdani as the outfit’s ‘‘spokesman’’ in Kashmir and Moin-ul Islam as his ‘‘deputy chief operations’’, a Hizbul release said. The outfit, sources said, has also replaced its ‘‘district commanders’’ and replacements have already reached Valley. The outfit’s earlier ‘‘operational command’’ was considered a moderate lot, specially, after the parleys with the Centre’s negotiator last year. These ‘‘commanders’’ were working overground and hardly abided by the command council’s directions, sources said. Dar was initially recalled by Hizb chief Salahuddin in last November after serious differences with the latter over his ceasefire announcement. He defied the orders and decided to continue as operational chief. Thereafter, the outfit got divided into the moderate and hardline camps. The former was headed by Dar and hardliners by supreme commander Mohammad Yousf Shah alias Syed Salahuddin. The killing of Masood, however, proved a major set back for the moderates. These doves have gone underground after the alleged custodial killing of Masood on July 24. Sources said that Dar has changed his hideout and is not accessible since the last one week. ‘‘Masood’s killing has left two options for moderates headed by Abdul Majid Dar: Either join the counter-insurgents and form another group like that of Kuka Parray or follow Salahuddin’s footsteps,’’ said a separatist leader. Tahir Mohiuddin, editor Urdu weekly Chattan, says Masood’s killing has pushed Dar and his associates to the wall and now they are left with only one option: To abide by Salahuddin’s orders. Dar had declared ceasefire in Srinagar on July 24 last year. Salahuddin, however, withdrew the same on August 8 in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan- occupied Kashmir (PoK). He was reportedly unhappy with the handling of the situation arising out of the ceasefire by his Kashmir chief. Dar, sources said, was not even authorised to declare the ceasefire and had been sent from across the border only to assess the situation and take important separatist leaders into confidence about the peace move. Salahuddin later cut Dar’s three-month ceasefire to two weeks. Hizb’s command council was then unable to send a replacement as they feared a revolt by these ‘‘moderate commanders’’. Dar’s replacement was decided in November last itself, however, it was not implemented owing to differences within the outfit. The decision to replace him and others was, sources said, finally taken by Hizbul Command Council chaired by Salahuddin at Muzafarabad a few days ago. The council also directed its cadres to remain extra cautious as the ‘‘Indian security agencies have every information about their movement’’. Hizbul spokesman in PoK, Saleem Hashmi, said the ‘‘custodial killing of Masood was answer to their peace move in July 2000”.