Shabir Shah's Political Somersault

Md. Sadiq

21 January 2008

Shabir Ahmed Shah, a prominent Kashmiri leader, who was expelled from the Hurriyat conference, ostensibly for holding talks with the US government, is back in the Hurriyat. He had floated the Democratic Freedom Party. He had projected himself as a progressive, pro-Independence figure. Today, he finds himself re-admitted to the irredentist Hurriyat.

Perturbed by the growing marginalisation of secessionists and waning militancy in J&K, Shabir Ahmed Shah, a prominent separatist leader and chairman of DFP has innovated a novel means for keeping himself alive in the political arena, particularly when the assembly election in J&K are round the corner. His call for a united Hyrriyat conference has been taken as a fall out of the reported squeezing of funds from across, embroiled in political turmoil and uncertainty.

Projecting himself as the propelling force for bringing together all the secessionists on common platform it appears that he is guided by the present turn of events in Pakistan and people's coveting for peace. There is also growing realisation that the splintered leadership has aided their political decline and questioned their credibility as 'true representative of Kashmir '.

Two senior separatist leaders Azam Inqlabi and Sheikh Abdul Aziz- who earlier belonged to Geelani led hard-line Hurriyat Conference, have joined Mirwaiz Umar Farooq faction of Hurriyat Conference. The unity move is seen as aided and triggered by the serious loss of bargaining clout in the wake of waning militancy in the state. Though Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani has maintained his traditional hard line approach demanding resolution of Kashmir in accordance with the UN resolution.

Geelani remained adamant with his posturing that no lasting unity was possible until the reason for the division of Hurriyat Conference was made known to public. He has stated that if Shabir Shah wanted unity between the two factions of the Hurriyat than he should also explain the reason behind his opting out of Hurriyat and forming his own DFP, about a decade ago. Geelani would also under any circumstances not comprise on anybody's leadership.

Geelani reminded that there was nothing new in Shabir's proposal as it is already enumerated in the constitution of Hurriyat Conference. Geelani has claimed that Shabir Shah had admitted Mirwaiz's violation of Hurriyat constitution. He wanted Shabir Shah to join his group if he believed that Geelani was right and not supporting the peace initiatives (4-Point proposal of Musharraf) of President Musharraf of Pakistan . Other prominent separatist Yasin Malik (JKLF) too is unlikely to support unity move in view of his recent approach towards addressing the dispute on Kashmir . Yasin Malik, pleading for a free and sovereign J&K state, has not been taken so friendly by pro-Pak hardliners like SAS Geelani. Under these facts Shabir Shah has perhaps chosen to keep an option open for himself for espousing political maneuver in J&K including participation in the forthcoming Assembly election.

Meanwhile, the cold approach shown by the Muslim fundamentalist group. JEI-J&K towards Shabir Shah's unity proposal has generated negative thinking within hardliners towards unity move and suspect Shabir Shah and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq's intention on future political game vis-à-vis resolution of Kashmir issue. Political analyst feel that abandonment of Hurriyat–Center dialogue has raised question whether Mirwaiz led Hurriyat was being treated as a credible group to deal with for resolution of the issue. Shabir Shah is the only secessionist who is trying to cash in on the opportunity while others have restrained themselves for being labeled as 'opportunists'. He might be eyeing on taking lead in the political fight in J&K for future and leaving all other secessionist behind.