Mirwaiz not in favour of Islamic republic in Kashmir

10 January 2009
The News International
Mariana Baabar

Islamabad: All Parties Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Omar Farooq says he is not in favour of turning Kashmir into an Islamic state as he prefers inclusive politics, while held Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah says sensible people dont advocate the bombardment of Pakistan. The two young Kashmiri leaders were talking to Outlook after the recently held elections in what has been one of the frankest admission of the situation on the ground. After the large voter turnout, I do think the Hurriyat Conference has to reassess the situation and realise that we are unable to address the issues of livelihood and everyday life. We have to make a distinction between the day-to-day affairs of people and the Kashmir problem. We have to accept that people did not respond to the boycott call of the Hurriyat Conference, although we cannot ignore the fact that separatists were either put in jail, or if it was someone like me, placed under house arrest. That, too, had an impact, is how Omar Farooq assessed the situation. He said the Hurriyat faction had some doubts, but it went along with the boycott call for the cause of larger unity. The Hurriyat was created to fight for the cause of Kashmir and is not a political party. But we got carried away with the mood we saw in the summer, when the Azadi movement erupted after the Amarnath controversy. We have to learn that we cant just harp on Azadi and ignore the peoples problems. In rural Kashmir in particular, Azadi is an issue but survival is a bigger problem. This election put many questions before us, he said in a frank manner. The APHC chief appeared encouraged by the recent thinking of Omar Abdullah. He has been consistently changing the positioning of the NC and has some out-of-the-box ideas. Omar Farooq, pointing to Pakistan, says it has modified its policy on Kashmir and is not encouraging fight for freedom here. It was the right thing to do for militant groups like the United Jihad Council to say that they will not use violence to stop the poll process, he says. He does not support Syed Ali Shah Geelanis vision for the state. I know senior colleagues like Syed Ali Shah Geelani Saab will not agree, but I believe rigidity has to be shunned by all interested parties who want to end the suffering in Kashmir. Geelani Saab says that kufr (apostasy) has won over Islam. As the Mirwaiz, I believe that Islam is a way of life. But Kashmir is a political problem, not a religious one. If Geelani Saab wants to create an Islamic Hukumat (state), that is his view. I believe in inclusive politics. But I would like to clarify that we havent reached the stage in which I would advocate taking part in electoral politics. Still, we have to shun our inflexibility and I hope India will also do so, he adds. Omar Abdullah says that daily issues in Kashmir should be disconnected from finding a solution to the Kashmir problem. We had to say that because there were those who tried to convince people to boycott the elections, saying that taking part would be a tacit vote for India and detrimental to movement on the Kashmir problem. Having said that, I do think that one will have to carry forward and think of out-of-the-box solutions to the Kashmir problem. The IHK chief minister says that sensible people certainly dont advocate the bombardment of Pakistan. I am worried because, instead of talking to each other, I feel India and Pakistan are talking at each other. It serves no purpose when two nuclear powers do so. There are some people in the Indian system, who advocate pushing Pakistan to the limit. But there are those like Sonia Gandhi who are more sensible. The Mumbai incident has come at a particularly bad time for us. But we can count a few blessings. The two countries are talking tough but thank God no one is suggesting rolling back the confidence building measures, he says.