January 2006 News

Geelani Now Musharraf Baiter

31 January 2006
The Indian Express

Srinagar: For the first time since the emergence of the insurgency, the fissures in the Kashmir separatist movement are shaping themselves to the countours of Pakistan's domestic political landscape. While Hurriyat dove Mirwaiz Umar Farooq echoes the Pakistan president's new line on Kashmir, hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani has virtually joined the Pakistan Opposition in his sharp criticism of General Pervez Musharraf. It is now two years since Musharraf began to sideline Geelani-once a favourite with Islamabad for his unflinching pro- Pakistan stance-after the official position in the country slanted towards the Mirwaiz, who has also managed to sustain a good rapport with New DelhiGeelani, who has seen the shift as a betrayal of the Kashmir cause, did not abandon his pro-Pakistan posture. Instead, he has joined the political opposition against Musharraf inside Pakistan. The drastic change in Geelani's approach is evident after his meeting with exiled former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharief in Mecca, where he has gone for the Haj . 'Geelani also met other major Pakistan Opposition leaders at Sharief's residence, and they expressed their unhappiness over Musharraf's unilateral flexibility towards India,' a leader of the hardline Hurriyat told The Indian Express. Geelani, sources say, also met Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, the executive director of the Kashmir American Council, who, though not against the separatist dialogue with New Delhi, does not want the Hurriyat leadership currently holding talks with Centre to be at the forefront of negotiations. Geelani's recent vehemence has also dashed the possiblities that arose from his meeting with Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salahuddin, who also took part in this year's Haj. According to sources, Salahuddin had been sent to prevail on Geelani to toe the new Musharraf line on Kashmir, to reunite the Hurriyat and 'work with the Mirwaiz' for a more credible dialogue with New Delhi. But, after the meeting, Geelani has veered sharply off on an anti-Musharraf course as his recent utterances amply underline. 'Musharraf has no mandate to propose a political solution unacceptable to the people of occupied Jammu and Kashmir,' he said in a statement issued on January 28. 'If Musharraf thinks azadi for Kashmir is impossible, it is his personal opinion. It is the Kashmiris who will decide the future of the freedom struggle not President Musharraf.' Geelani also advised Musharraf against helping the US in the current Iran crisis, cautioning him that after Iran 'Washington's missiles would turn in Pakistan's direction'. This is the first time that Geelani has taken on Musharraf so fiercely. Observers see it as a tactic to lend weight to his opposition to Musharraf by appealing both to his traditional support base among Pakistan's hardline religious parties and also to Nawaz Sharif's Muslim League.


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