November 2007 News

Divide in the Valley: Hawk Geelani slams Pak Emergency, doves back the General

5 November 2007
The Indian Express
Muzamil Jaleel

Srinagar:  The political turmoil next door is being closely watched by separatist leaders in the Kashmir Valley where the opposition to Emergency in Pakistan has only one visible face so far Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani. There is enough reason to. For, the moderate separatists, who enjoy General Pervez Musharraf’s support, are squarely in favour of his latest move while the hardliners are wary. Jihadi groups in Pakistan have always seen the country as a base camp for jihad in Kashmir as well and when Musharraf declared Emergency, ostensibly to curb extremism and violence in Pakistan, they are seeing it as a move that “harms” Pakistan’s stand on both Afghanistan and Kashmir. The moderates, however, who have acquired renewed clout because of their closeness to Musharraf are aware that politics, not violence, holds the key to any resolution on Kashmir and are arrayed on the other side. “At times, such measures (like the Emergency) are essential to bring stability in a country,” former Hurriyat chairman and leader of the moderate camp Abdul Ghani Bhat told The Indian Express today. “Pakistan is not the only country where Emergency has been imposed. Sri Lanka, too, has imposed Emergency because of a disturbed situation. There has to be harmony among the three pillars of the state, the executive, legislature and judiciary, and when there are problems in this harmony, it endangers stability. We trust them (Musharraf government) and we are hopeful that democracy will return soon.” Bhat’s support isn’t surprising. Although chairman of the moderate faction Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is currently in London and has preferred silence, it’s a fact that the doves openly celebrated Musharraf’s re-election as President last month — their activists burst firecrackers and danced on the streets of Srinagar. Separatist leader Shabir Shah, too, said today that the Emergency was a “necessary step for Pakistan’s stability.” Bristling are the hawks led by Geelani. “This is an unfortunate incident,” Geelani told The Indian Express from New Delhi. “The suspension of the Constitution and the removal of Supreme Court judges is unconstitutional and against the democratic rights of the people of Pakistan...We (Kashmiris) can’t ignore the developments in Pakistan. These have a direct bearing on us.” But the hawk-dove divide in the reaction to the Emergency has little to do with Pakistan’s internal situation. Musharraf’s shift in Pakistan’s traditional Kashmir policy — especially after the December 13, 2001, Parliament attack which led to a massive military build-up on either side of the Indo-Pak border — eased Islamabad’s relations with New Delhi and gave way to the latest Indo-Pak peace efforts. This turned Musharraf into an enemy of the hardline separatists as well as militant groups operating in Kashmir. The moderate camp, led by Mirwaiz, who developed a distance from Pakistan after engaging in a dialogue process with New Delhi, repositioned itself to emerge as consensus partners for both New Delhi and Islamabad in any cross-border effort to resolve the Kashmir problem. And as Geelani opposed Musharraf, the Mirwaiz camp visited Pakistan taking the cross-LoC peace bus. In fact, Musharraf’s January, 6, 2002 speech — in which he said he would not allow any militant group to operate from Pak soil — was seen as his U-turn on Kashmir by hardliners here. The subsequent steps which included Musharraf’s change in Pakistan’s official position on the UN resolutions, his four-point proposals, his government’s support for cross-LoC movement of people and goods and other confidence-building measures, irked hardliners as well as jihadi groups who saw Musharraf’s moves as part of his pro-US agenda. How will the Emergency affect the situation in Kashmir? If this latest move by Musharraf is in fact aimed at curbing extremist forces inside Pakistan, then it will also impact militant groups operating in Kashmir. Musharraf’s government has not only distanced itself from the violence in Kashmir after 9-11 but has officially condemned a majority of the militant attacks in the Valley. The cross-LoC infiltration too is at its lowest ebb, financial support to a majority of groups in Kashmir is drying up. But if Musharraf finds himself locked up in a bitter battle with the larger pro-democracy constituency in Pakistan, it might also force him to return to a hawkish position on Kashmir and try to gather support on an “anti- India” agenda inside Pakistan. Given the gathering storm in his north- west, however, that seems to be a distant possibility.


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