Hurriyat Leaders Loyal To Pakistan
5 July 2003
New Delhi: The recent statements by All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) chairman Abdul Gani Bhat and ex-chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani have reflected the differences between the two leaders. While Mr Geelani has criticised Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri's statement saying that putting the Kashmir issue on the back-burner and taking up issues like trade and culture first would be a step towards converting the Line of Control into a permanent border, Mr Bhat has welcomed the peace efforts by Prime Minister Vajpayee and expressed confidence that it would have far reaching results. With this, the two-year-old conflict within the APHC has come out in the open. Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) also had to bow to the pressure from different quarters and recalled hardliner Mr Geelani from the Hurriyat Conference and appointed Sheikh Ali Mohammad, an advocate from Traal area, in the seven-member Hurriyat Executive Council. Furious with the decision, Mr Geelani said that he was not informed by the Jamaat about the decision and added: 'If they have taken the decision, I cannot challenge their authority. But there is no healthy reason behind the decision.' According to Hurriyat leaders, Mr Geelani was upset with the rally organised by Mr Sajjad Lone, son of late Abdul Gani Lone, in Srinagar on May 22. The People's Conference rally, attended by 25,000 people, was one of the biggest in recent times, in which Mr Lone dared the Hurriyat to take action against his party. Insiders within the Hurriyat blamed Mr Geelani as he had himself said in May that he would not attend any of the party's meetings as no action was taken against the Peoples Conference for contesting the Assembly elections 'by proxy'. Clearly, he was upset with the Peoples Conference's rally. It was in 2001 that the Hurriyat had written a letter to JeI chief GM Bhat requesting him to nominate some other person to represent the party in the 23-party conglomerate. Mr Geelani said that he had complained to the Hurriyat leadership that the Peoples Conference had put up proxy candidates, which was a violation of the Hurriyat's decision to boycott the election. As such, he had demanded the expulsion of the Peoples Conference representative from the Hurriyat Executive Committee. Hurriyat is already under pressure from all quarters, including the international community, to talk to the Indian Government interlocutor NN Vohra. The JeI chief, known for his moderate views, has criticised the guerrilla format of the militant struggle several times in the past, whereas Mr Geelani has been publicly advocating jihad and glorifying pro-Pakistan militant groups, especially the Hizbul Mujahideen, which has been regarding Mr Geelani as its think-tank. Though the Hurriyat has announced that it is resolving the crisis on the Geelani issue, observers feel that the organisation is on the verge of splitting and is working on different ideologies. While, the JKLF claims to be a secular group 'seeking azadi' from both India and Pakistan, the JeI advocates accession of J&K to Pakistan. Last year's October elections gave the Hurriyat leaders a chance to mend themselves but perhaps lack of confidence prevented them from taking part in elections. Today Hurriyat is completely isolated. Every group is under pressure from its moderate elements to join the mainstream in resolving the crisis. Says a Kashmiri leader: 'It is debatable if Syed Geelani has been loyal to the cause of Kashmir's azadi, whatever it meant to him, but, there is no doubt he has been completely loyal to his masters in Pakistan,' adding that 'for many years, Mr Geelani saw nothing wrong with Pakistan's Kashmir policy and regarded Pakistan as sacred, but within a week after his criticism of Pakistan's change of policy on Kashmir, he was dumped and all his services to the country were forgotten.' Mr Geelani was humiliated just because he criticised Pakistan's Kashmir policy. This should be a lesson to other Hurriyat leaders who are still getting instructions from Pakistan. The question is, Will the Hurriyat take a decision to expel the Peoples Conference? It seems its chief is not in the mood to do so. At the same time, he does not want Mr Geelani back, as the latter wants to take over the control of Hurriyat. And JKLF chief Yasin Malik is quietly watching the situation in order to grab the post. Commenting on the ongoing power struggle in the Hurriyat, a senior Kashmiri leader said: 'There is no doubt Pakistani leaders could dump anyone to save their skin; and the humiliation of Syed Ali Shah Geelani has demonstrated that there is no policy on which they cannot make a U-turn. It has also demonstrated that Hurriyat is a baby of the ISI. As soon as they feel that a member is causing problems, he is dumped.' He added: 'Mr Malik is a sensible man, but he must remember Mr Geelani's fate. He should know that the post of APHC chairman is not more imp-ortant than the JKLF and his priority should be to unite the party rather than causing splits in it by irrational and unconstitutional measures.'