March 2003 News

1 Hurriyat, Too Many Leaders

3 March 2003
The Asian Age

New Delhi: Leader of the Democratic Freedom Party Shabir Shah is again knocking at the door of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference for admission. Tired of being on his own, and apparently under pressure from Pakistan, Mr Shah is keen to get into the conglomerate and use his clout to emerge as the new chairperson when Prof. Abdul Gani Butt, currently on extension, retires this June. However, the door is being answered by Mr Butt himself, who is not at all keen to allow Mr Shah even a foothold in what he regards as his preserve. Cashing in on Mr Shabir Shah's apparent unpopularity with other members, the APHC chairperson has laid down 'humiliating' conditions for his entry. Mr Butt has made it clear that either Mr Shah joins the general council like all other applicants, awaiting his entry into the national executive, or he rejoins his parent People's League and enters the executive through this membership. Obviously neither condition is acceptable to Mr Shabir Shah. A year ago, he had raised the same issue by speaking publicly of the need of one organisation, one agenda, one platform and one leader. The last seen in Hurriyat circles as a pointer at himself. Mr Shabir Shah has now renewed the demand after considerable pressure, according to Srinagar sources, was brought to bear on him by his Pakistani counterpart Mehmood Sagar who pointed out the plus points in merging into the Hurriyat in what could be an election year for the conglomerate. Mr Shah wrote to the APHC for one organisation and one leader. There was no response to the detailed missive. Mr Shah sent a delegation of three, led by Mohammad Abdullah Tahiri, to meet Prof. Butt. The delegation made out a strong case for one forum to end all the confusion, and the need to sink egos in the interests of the larger whole. Prof. Butt, totally opposed to the demand, countered with a powerful reminder, 'we are not creating confusion. Shabir is creating all the confusion by talking to different people, then talking to Delhi. He has the biggest ego, he keeps wanting to pose for photographs. When K.C. Pant (earlier the government interlocutor for Kashmir) came here the Hurriyat had decided that no one will meet him. But Shabir broke the understanding and met him.' The professor had prepared a litany of complaints that he shared happily with the delegation that had by now lapsed into silence. He made it clear that either Mr Shabir Shah entered the executive through the People's League, or came into the General Council and waited to be recognised by the other members. The delegation left. Mr Shabir Shah is reportedly extremely unhappy about this, although indications are that he has not given up his ambition of ruling the conglomerate altogether at this stage. He is trying to woo the supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami's Syed Ali Shah Geelani who was recently released by the government and is recovering from a cancer operation. A recent procession on February 5 to observe Kashmir Solidarity Day in Srinagar had Shabir Shah in the forefront carrying a large photograph of Mr Geelani to prove his loyalty and solidarity with the ailing leader. It is no secret in the Valley that Mr Geelani is close to Pakistan. In fact, JKLF leader Yasin Malik, after a stormy few days following his release from prison, is trying to make amends with one eye on Prof. Butt's post that is expected to fall vacant in June. Mr Malik, a known opponent of Mr Geelani and a strong critic of Pakistan's politics in Jammu and Kashmir, has obviously turned over a new leaf. He was seen at Mr Geelani's bedside at the Mumbai hospital where the Jamaat leader was operated upon with flowers and good wishes. Pakistan, according to the sources, has always had a sizeable say in the composition of the APHC with almost all leaders having their counterparts on the other side as well. Mr Geelani has never bothered to hide his proximity to Islamabad, and with elections around the corner he is all set to occupy centrestage in the Hurriyat's world of politics.


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