Pak mission summons top Hurriyat leaders
27 April 2002
The Daily Excelsior
B L Kak
New Delhi: Pakistan has done it again. Its High Commission in New Delhi has proposed a ‘vital’ meeting with three top leaders of Kashmir’s All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC). That Islamabad wants to keep the anti-India pot boiling in Jammu and Kashmir has become evident with the Pakistan High Commission’s reported message to Srinagar requesting the three leaders—Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat, chairman and two former presidents of the conglomerate, Maulvi Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani—to make themselves available in Delhi at an earliest for ‘vital’ discussion. The message assumes significance in the context of fears expressed in Jammu and Kashmir as well as in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) over the depleted influence of the Hurriyat leadership as a result of differences of opinion within the conglomerate. These differences, incidentally, became the topic of discussion after the participation of Maulvi Umar Farooq and Mr Abdul Ghani Lone in the Dubai conclave of separatist leaders. Was it part of the ‘track-two’ back-channel diplomacy, with New Delhi and Islamabad allowing top Kashmiri leaders to hold a series of meeting over two days in the United Arab Emirates? Supporters of Jihad in Kashmir like Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Maulvi Abbas Ansari and Sheikh Abdul Aziz saw some kind of ‘conspiracy’ behind New Delhi’s grant of permission to the Hurriyat’s two executive members, Maulvi Umar Farooq and Mr Lone, to visit the UAE. Mr Geelani and his confidants raised a hue and cry against the participation of the Maulvi and Mr Lone in the Dubai conclave. Significantly, at a time when the Hurriyat chairman, Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat, came under pressure from the hard-liners to seek an explanation from both Maulvi Umar and Mr Lone, Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi was said to have ‘requested’ the three Hurriyat leaders to make themselves available for consultations. According to sources, the Pak chancery set itself in motion after two significant developments— first, the expression of concern by Islamabad at attempts to bring about a split in the Hurriyat Conference and, second, the announcement made in Muzaffarabad, capital of the PoK, by the United Jihad Council (UJC) declaring Syed Ali Shah Geelani leader of the ‘freedom movement’ in Kashmir. Equally significant has been the clarification by the Muzaffarabad-based chairman of Pakistan’s National Committee on Kashmir, Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan, after his protracted negotiations with Maulvi Umar Farooq and Mr Abdul Ghani Lone in UAE. Government controlled ''Azad Kashmir'' radio quoted Sardar Qayyum as saving that he had not, at any stage during his meetings with Kashmiri leaders in the UAE, sought to support the idea of organising any drive or campaign against Jihadis in Jammu and Kashmir. ''Kashmir dispute'', Sardar Qayyum emphasized, ''will have to be settled in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people''. Sardar Qayyum was also quoted as asserting that as chairman of the National Committee on Kashmir, he strongly defended General Pervez Musharraf’s policy of continuing ''moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmir freedom fighters''.