March 2006 News

Pugwash Aftershocks Keep On Rattling Separatists

17 March 2006
The Indian Express

Srinagar: A week after the Pugwash conference in Islamabad, where Omar Abdullah had a close-door 45-minute meeting with President Musharraf, the aftershocks are still being felt in the separatist landscape of the Valley. In signs of a widening divergence between the Pakistani establishment and the separatists here, Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani today called for the indigenisation of the Kashmir struggle. This came simultaneously with the statement of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq today, who called upon mainstream leaders to join the separatist ranks, if their 'pro-Kashmir solution talk' in Pakistan is taken seriously. 'Kashmir now needs an indigenous separatist struggle, which is independent of Pakistan control,' Geelani told The Indian Express in his first-ever advocacy of such a decisive break-up with Pakistan. 'I know, it will be a long-term struggle, but there can be no short-cuts for the people's struggle,' he said. The past week has been one of serious soul searching in the Valley's separatist camp. Pugwash has brought home the separatists' worst fears about Pakistan's changed outlook on Kashmir: that they are no longer indispensable for Islamabad. They think by hosting assorted mainstream leaders, including National Conference president Omar Abdullah, Pakistan has become a party to the dilution of the separatists' claims of representing Kashmir. 'Pakistan has helped prove that Kashmiris are represented by a motley group of inconsequential leadership with separatists as one among many,' Geelani said, adding, 'What Manmohan Singh could not prove by holding a round-table meet, Musharraf went to great lengths to show.' In his Friday sermon, on the other hand, Mirwaiz sought to put a brave face on the Pugwash spotlight on mainstream leadership. 'They have spoken about an acceptable solution to Kashmir. Now let them stick to this welcome line and join us,' Mirwaiz told the worshippers on Friday prayers at Kashmir's Grand Mosque in Srinagar. Musharraf's pressure on militant groups, including Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin, has Geelani worried. Counted as their ideological cohorts on Kashmir, a crackdown on the Hizbul is seen as an attempt to weaken Geelani's clout in Valley's separatist politics. 'This is regrettable. By doing this, Pakistan is undermining its own leverage on Kashmir,' Geelani said. However, he cautioned: 'If they (militants) succumb, I will part ways even with them.' Outlining a 'new strategy of resistance,' Geelani said his Hurriyat would start a campaign against Musharraf's compromise proposals on Kashmir. 'I will mobilise people and prepare them to resist his unilateral formulae on Kashmir,' he said. Geelani acknowledged that it would be a challenge to simultaneously ply his pro-Pak agenda and anti-Pak establishment line, but added it was important that Musharraf met stiff opposition to his 'progressive softness' on Kashmir. Already in the past week, Geelani has addressed several rallies across the Valley. A major public meeting was planned for today at the north Kashmir township of Baramulla, but the police arrested him en route to the place. So deep runs the disillusionment with the Pakistani government, that the slogans marking his public appearances now eschew the pro-Pak sloganeering, otherwise a staple in the past. The scene was replicated at his arrest today at Mirgund, on the way to Baramulla, where slogans were anti-India and pro-azadi, but not pro-Pak.


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