Peace Process Target, Hurriyat Leader Shot At

4 December 2009
The Hindustan Times
Toufiq Rashid and Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar: Senior moderate leader Fazal Haq Qureshi was shot at on Friday by unidentified gunmen when he was coming out of a mosque in downtown Srinagar. Qureshi, 60, is a member of the executive council of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference and is a close aide of its chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Inspector General of Police Farooq Ahmed said, “Mr Qureshi was lying unconscious outside the mosque near his home. Doctors found a head injury and he is being operated upon. His condition is critical.” Till late in the evening, a team of doctors, including his daughter Anleeb Qureshi, was performing surgery on Qureshi. As Qureshi was being attended, the hospital waiting room was full of moderate separatist leaders trying to comfort the family. Qureshi’s family members mistook the gunshots for firecrackers. “Since the Valley is still in the Eid mood, we didn’t realise that they were gunshots,” said Afaq, Qureshi’s nephew. The attack, being seen as a violent warning to the Mirwaiz against his initiative to hold talks with the Centre, came two days after Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said that there were positive responses to the talks offer. Earlier on October 14, Chidambaram told the Editors’ Conference in New Delhi that the government would hold talks with every section of political opinion in Kashmir through “quiet dialogue, quiet diplomacy” to find a political solution that may be “unique”. He said efforts would be made to hold talks with all stakeholders, including the separatists, for an “honourable and acceptable” solution to the Kashmir problem. Qureshi, with former Hurriyat chairman Professor Abdul Gani Bhat and Peoples Conference chairman Bilal Gani Lone, supported the Mirwaiz’s efforts to initiate “quiet diplomacy”, facing stiff resistance even from within the moderate fraction. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah described Qureshi as the “most reasonable separatist leader” and said the attack was a “well thought-out attempt to derail the peace process”.