Pressure mounting on Geelani to keep APHC alive
1 July 2003
News Network International
JAMMU: Chances of a new forum coming into being in Kashmir under the stewardship of well-known Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani have receded, if behind-the-scene activity carried out during the past 24 hours were any guide. The activity assumed importance in the context of the development, which, if left untackled, could prove disadvantageous, in political and strategic terms, for Kashmir's secessionist lobby, daily Excelsior reported. The development, in fact, was the outcome of the crossing of swords by top leaders of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) and the fire-brand right-wing leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani. And as the two sides were found rung fast and furious, competent political observers interpreted the rung feud as the attempt by the either side to outwit each other in the leadership tussle. Present chairman of the APHC Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat, and his men have been found opposed to the idea seeking green pastures for Geelani by way of effecting a change at the top of the amalgam only to enable Geelani to call the shots. Sources close to Prof. Bhat have found him somewhat unwilling to run for the second term as the Hurriyat chief. But this does not suggest his willingness and of the rest of his colleagues in the existing structure of the secessionist conglomerate to pave the way for Geelani and company to capture the Hurriyat leadership. At a time when a gradual thaw is visible in India's relations with Pakistan following the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's open offer of talks to Islamabad, Syed Ali Shah Geelani may not like Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat and company to hold centerstage in the APHC arena in Kashmir. The Geelani faction as well as the other faction of the Hurriyat led by Prof. Bhat know it well that the APHC have a role to play in the event of New Delhi and Islamabad finally agreeing to involve the Kashmiri representatives in conciliatory talks at a later stage, though. More importantly, in view of Pakistan having publicly accepted the Srinagar-based Hurriyat Conference as the 'real voice' of the people of Kashmir, it is possible that, in the coming days, the Geelani faction would allow itself to go slow, without creating an embarrassing situation for the secessionist leadership. In fact, indications are by no means uncertain that Geelani may not be allowed by his mentors across the Line of Control (LoC) to break the APHC or to float a parallel amalgam of a few secessionist groups. Geelani is counted as the most trusted man of Pakistan. Geelani himself is conscious of this 'fact'. However, as Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, who is for the continuance of his country's 'moral, political and diplomatic' support to the people of Kashmir, has, more often than not in the past three years, highlighted the significance of the APHC as the 'real representative of Kashmiri people', Islamabad will not allow the amalgam to get disintegrated. Hence, the pressure on Geelani and his men to avoid an open confrontation with the existing leadership of the Hurriyat Conference. After Geelani's diatribe against the APHC leadership for allowing the continuance of People's Conference representation in the amalgam and after his meeting with a group of secessionist leaders who have split from the parent groups in an apparent bid to form a new Kashmiri forum, things seemed to be changing - obviously as a result of secret moves to seek Geelani's cooperation to keep the APHC alive and kicking. Geelani, universally known for his traditional hostility towards India, can't be listed as 'endangered species' because of his old age and deteriorating health condition. But he has, in spite of loud noises in relation to his organising skills, failed so far to pose any serious threat to the present APHC leadership. If there was any doubt about it, it was set at rest by the availability of only second-rung leaders from the secessionist groups for Geelani for settling his scores with Prof. Bhat and company. This phenomenon, observers say, has also prompted Pakistan to oppose attempts seeking split within the APHC. According to these observers, Geelani has just received 'instructions' to ensure that he and his supporters avoided launching or encouraging a tirade against the Hurriyat leadership.