Abdul Gani Lone to get back his passport
30 March 2002
New Delhi: The Centre is believed to be coming round to the view that the senior Hurriyat leader, Abdul Gani Lone, be allowed to have his passport back.For now, the proposal is to allow Mr. Lone to have a passport, valid for one year. Once his passport is restored, he should be able to go abroad, including Pakistan. However, there seems to be no willingness to oblige similarly another Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who has been requesting the External Affairs Ministry that his passport be restored and that he be allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia for Haj. Mr. Geelani recently wrote to the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, demanding that his request for a passport be considered. The decision to give Mr. Lone, a known moderate, the passport is seen as an attempt by the Centre to get back the control over the "Kashmir policy'', leading up to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections later this year. The Centre's efforts — open and in the back-rooms — are geared to secure the All-Party Hurriyat Conference's participation in the elections. To this end, the Prime Minister has promised, more than once, of his Government's commitment to ensure "free and fair'' elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The Centre's efforts, consequently, have been based on the presumption that the "moderates'' such as Mr. Lone or Yasin Malik(JKLF leader) or Mirwaiz Umar Farooq could ultimately be persuaded to test the extent of their support in the Kashmir valley. But this policy was deemed to have been derailed by the Farooq Abdullah Government when it arrested Mr. Malik for "illegally possessing" foreign currency. Mr. Malik was arrested under POTO. The Union Home Ministry was kept in the dark about the arrest. This has suddenly soured the mood among all those voices and individuals who were reported to be getting disillusioned with Pakistan's ability to deliver "azadi''(freedom) through "jehad''(holy war) and were believed to be prepared for seeking accommodation for their aspirations within the framework of a democratic India. Mr. Lone has been leading an internal debate within the Hurriyat Conference and has emerged as the voice of moderation. Syed Geelani leads the other faction, and is generally seen to be an ardent advocate of Kashmir's merger with Pakistan. By deciding to give Mr. Lone the passport, the Centre has tried to reach out, once again, to the separatist constituency and has sought to signal to the Abdullah Government that it would not be allowed to queer the pitch. The Centre also wants to tell the international community that it would be watchful of the possibility of the State Government's "mischievous desire" to dilute the fairness of the Assembly elections.