March 2007 News

Ailing Geelani asks Pakistan to leave Kashmiris alone

9 March 2007
Indo-Asian News Service

New Delhi: Faced with life threatening cancer, Jammu and Kashmir separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani says Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf 'should leave us alone if he cannot support us'. In an interview before leaving for the United States for medical treatment, Geelani, 77, also made it clear that even the slightest shift from UN resolutions calling for a plebiscite to decide Jammu and Kashmir's future would amount to 'surrender'.'Agreeing to all the other formulae other than the plebiscite under UN supervision is a surrender and that is what Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and his other supporters have done,' said hardline Hurriyat leader Geelani, referring to leaders of the moderate faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference.Geelani, diagnosed with severe renal cancer, had equally harsh words for Musharraf, who is engaged in a peace process with India much to the shock of the more militant elements in both Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan.'So what if Pakistan government too shifted its stance (of supporting UN resolutions)? Kashmiris would never forget that the solution to Kashmir issue lies only with the UN,' Geelani told IANS, seated on a bed at a modest south Delhi residence of a sympathizer.'I have already asked Pakistan President Musharraf to leave us alone if he cannot support us,' he added.Geelani said nothing less than self-determination was acceptable to Kashmiri people. All other 'short cuts' like self- governance, autonomy, joint management and soft border would lead to 'surrender' before India. Large sections in Pakistan continue to view Geelani as their staunchest ally in Jammu and Kashmir. Geelani is a passionate advocate of the state's accession to Pakistan.He broke away from the separatist Hurriyat in 2003 and formed his own faction, accusing his colleagues of deviating from the group's constitution of fighting for independence. The moderate faction led by Mirwaiz endorses the India- Pakistan peace process while Geelani's group dismissed it as a farce.Asked if he would like to see the divided separatist camp reunite, Geelani answered: 'I have never been averse to unity. If all the people unite for right to self determination, I would welcome them in the amalgam.' Geelani said the 'so-called peace process' had yielded nothing so far. 'The ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir continues to be shocking amid human rights violations by Indian security forces.' Commenting on calls for demilitarization of Jammu and Kashmir, Geelani said that Kashmiris had been fighting for this ever since 1947, when India and Pakistan became independent and began to quarrel over the state's ownership.'We want Jammu and Kashmir to be demilitarized,' he said. 'But demilitarization should be followed by plebiscite to seek people's aspiration.' Geelani's health deteriorated last week and doctors in New Delhi advised him to shift to the US for surgery. Impounded in 1981, Geelani's passport, valid for one year, was issued Thursday after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh intervened. Geelani would soon be leaving to the US. 'My health is in a poor shape, and I will be missed (by my supporters),' he said, sounding worried. He has nominated two trusted lieutenants to head his party Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Jammu and Kashmir and his faction of the Hurriyat.In his absence, Geelani's deputy Ghulam Nabi Sumjhi would head the Hurriyat while Mohammed Ashraf Sehrai, a former Jamat-e- Islami leader, has been nominated acting chairman of Tehreek-e- Hurriyat. Suggesting that Jammu and Kashmir could see new assembly elections soon, Geelani said he had urged his supporters to stay from the electoral process. 'I ask Kashmiri people and freedom fighters in particular to maintain unity, not to forget the sacrifices of Kashmiris and take the struggle to its logical end, no matter how difficult it is,' he said. 'This is my last wish.' He added: 'I am prepared for anything as I am well aware of the disease I am suffering from. I hope the movement (for plebiscite) would be taken forward with or without Geelani.'


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