17 September 2003
The News International
Islamabad: The virtual split faced by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) in Indian held Kashmir is unfortunate and should be avoided at all costs. Only India will benefit from it as the most formidable political opponent it had come up against in the occupied territory was the APHC, a dramatic demonstration of Kashmiri opposition unity, quite unheard of in the contemporary history of the state. A divided APHC will not be able to pursue the kind of policy which only a united coalition could, as joint action by the people was fundamental for achieving results. The total boycott of the 'elections' held in the disputed state was successfully managed at the call of the Conference. Seen against such a background, the split must be prevented if the Kashmiri people are to make any headway in their two prolonged struggle against India for freedom. Although the true picture of developments in Srinagar are yet to emerge, for the present whatever little available can be pieced together must be based on the existing information. The split, therefore, seems unnecessary as there were no major policy differences that could have caused the parting of ways except the removal of Abbas Ansari two months after he was elected chairman by consensus. The removal too apparently was a precipitate action and could have been prevented. It has acted as the spark to start a process which for the moment has ended in a split. But, this division has yet to emerge fully giving a count of the members on each side. With an inventory of over 25 constituent parties in the coalition, the major camp which will claim to be the 'real' APHC will need at least 13 members. However, for the time being much of the split is shrouded in mystery as so far only eight members are in the field and most of the main leaders are still not seen in the picture. It is not clear what has happened to the effort started by some of the executive members to avert a break up now that a split is being forced to become a reality. It is quite probable that the two sides might be induced to re-unite in the greater interest of freedom of Kashmiris now their viewpoints have been heard. In any case, the APHC has so far taken all decisions by consensus and there is no likelihood that any constituent can impose its will on the Conference or act alone. One leader's views do not represent the APHC's stance and it will be wrong for both Abbas Ansari and Syed Ali Shah Gilani to claim to act as its spokesmen. Other senior leaders like the Mirwaiz, Bhat, Lone etc have yet to make known their position on the claims being made by both sides. The 'real' APHC that will emerge, therefore, will be recognisable by the authority which it will enjoy.