April 2002 News

PoK, Hurriyat leaders agree: End jehad

20 April 2002
The Indian Express
Muzamil Jaleel

Srinagar: There is an immediate need for complete withdrawal of foreign militants from Kashmir since jehad is tainting the “movement”, especially after September 11 and December 13, senior Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone told former PoK president Sardar Abdul Qayoom Khan at a meeting in Dubai last week. Khan now heads Pakistan’s Kashmir commiteee, appointed by General Pervez Musharraf after his January 12 speech. Speaking to The Indian Express from London on his way to the US, Lone said that at their first-ever meeting, both he and Khan agreed that there’s ‘‘no scope for militancy in their struggle and a solution is only possible through negotiations and peaceful means.’’ Lone and former Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq met Qayoom along with US-based Ghulam Nabi Fai (considered close to Jamat-e-Islami), Britain-based Nazir Geelani, Canada-based Mushtaq Geelani, former chief of Hurriyat (PoK wing) Yousuf Naseem and others. ‘‘There was a common realization that several things and strategies are needed to be reviewed to keep up with the changing times,’’ said Lone. ‘‘This movement has ceased to be the freedom struggle of Kashmiris. Let Kashmiris themselves take the driving seat.’’ Lone said: ‘‘(I told them) that it’s high time that jehadis should leave us alone. Their presence is detrimental to our struggle especially because they initiated their international jehadi agenda thus connecting Kashmir issue with terrorism,’’ he said. ‘‘There was a feeling that this diversion has only helped India’s argument that there is terrorism and not a freedom struggle going on in Kashmir.’’ He said that he was the first separatist leader who had welcomed the presence of foreign militants in Kashmir few years ago. ‘‘But when they started talking of unfurling their flag on Red Fort and White House, their activities began to hurt the interests of Kashmiris,’’ he said. Lone, however, stressed that the meeting was not pre-planned. ‘‘It was a mere chance that I and Mirwaiz happened to be in Dubai. Khan took advantage of our presence and held this meeting,’’ he said. ‘‘But it was an important meet at this crucial juncture especially because the leaders from Kashmir often don’t get a chance to travel abroad and then meet leaders from across.’’ Lone said he and Mirwaiz had not consulted their colleagues before the meet. ‘‘We had not gone there on a Hurriyat mandate but whatever we discussed was in the interest of the suffering Kashmiri people,’’ he said. Was the issue of Assembly elections on the Dubai agenda? ‘‘Elections are not a taboo for us,’’ said Lone. ‘‘We do talk and think about elections. It cannot be avoided...We are not against elections. “But given the circumstances in Kashmir, it is going to be a farce. Even if Hurriyat decides to participate, which is highly unlikely, what is the guarantee that Farooq Abdullah will not rig the polls again and leave us high and dry?’’ he said. Lone said that nobody can dispute that he was a moderate. ‘‘But see what the Government is doing to me and my party. My entire second-rung leadership is behind bars because Farooq knows that only people with moderate views are a real threat to him,’’ he said. ‘‘I have been personally attacked dozens of times and they withdrew my security. See what happened in Jammu. “The Shiv Sena man who assaulted me has become a hero. He has six policemen as his personal guards because he enjoys full government patronage.’’


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