Dar ignored Hizb chief''s command
8 May 2002
The Asian Age
Srinagar: Before his expulsion from the outfit, Abdul Majid Dar, the main architect of the Hizbul Mujahideen’s short-lived unilateral ceasefire in July 2000, was asked to come to Pakistan to “explain his conduct.” Dar refused to obey the Hizb command council, led by Syed Salahuddin, fearing he would be “held up” there and not allowed to return to the Valley. This act of defiance got him and two other field commanders expelled. However, Dar and his Hizb supporters are preparing to retaliate in the strongest possible way. One of Dar’s options is to launch a separate political group, sources close to him said. Salahuddin’s worst fear will come true only if Dar decides to contest the upcoming Assembly elections. It seems reports suggesting that Dar was preparing for a “positive response” to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s promise of free and fair elections in Jammu and Kashmir prompted Salahuddin to expel Dar and others loyal to him. “He somehow got wind of Dar’s plan and acted before it was too late as it would have been a disaster to allow him to do that in the Hizbul Mujahideen’s name,” said sources close to Salahuddin. Although one of Dar’s aides rejected the charge as “ridiculous,” Dar and his supporters do talk about changing ground realities that demand a transformation of Hizb policies and actions. “We need to change our strategy as an expedient move in the new circumstances and keep in view the ground realities,” Abu Aamir, the outfit’s launching chief, told a local news agency on Tuesday. A Hizb split is inevitable. However, Aamir strongly denied the possibility of the outfit falling apart. “It will remain united but we shall not allow it to become anybody’s fiefdom,” he said. The Hizbul Mujahideen, formed in 1990, is the only local militant organisation that still commands sway and firepower. It was the creation of Nizam-e-Mustafa (ruler of pure Islam) in Kashmir and draws its cadres from the Jamaat-e-Islami and other likeminded groups. However, it has been riddled with factionalism ever since Dar, as the operational chief, announced a unilateral ceasefire with India in July 2000. Last week, the Hizb leadership, based at Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, publicly reprimanded Dar and two other former commanders for violating party discipline. A statement issued to this effect also said the decision to expel Dar, former operational chief, and two former divisional commanders, Asad Yazdani and Zafar Abdul Fateh, was taken during a Hizb command council meeting with its chief Syed Salahuddin in the chair. The meeting is claimed to have been held in Muzaffarabad on Saturday but Dar and other anti-Salahuddin dissidents assert that the decision was taken arbitrarily, without actually consulting the base commanders and not even thinking about the ground realities. Salahuddin’s critics indicated that the move was directed by the ISI. The Hizb statement did not give the details of the charges against Dar and his two supporters. In October 2001, Dar was replaced by Saif-ul-Islam as the Hizb operational chief. The Hizb at that time had said Dar was allowed to step down at his own request. Fateh and Yazdani were also relieved of their responsibilities in October 2001 itself. The expulsion of Dar and the two others was not a surprise move. The Hizb had been riddled by infighting and factionalism. The recent announcement that it would go for another conditional ceasefire was actually an attempt by one faction to try and bring down the other. Salahuddin took serious note of Dar’s unauthorised activity. He received reports that suggested that Dar and some others might help the Indian government in its effort to rope in some of the key players of Kashmir’s separatist politics to ensure they participate in the Assembly elections. Dar and his supporters were again summoned to PoK. Their refusal further angered the Hizb command council. Although Salahuddin and the Hizb command council had publicly endorsed the unilateral ceasefire announced by Dar in 2000, other senior Hizb leaders reprimanded Dar for the move. In order to ensure that the ceasefire initiative failed, the Hizb leadership placed condition after condition, the most unacceptable to New Delhi being the involvement of Islamabad in the peace talks. Dar insists the ceasefire move was discussed threadbare at an earlier meeting of the Hizb command council in Muzaffarabad. On his return to the Valley, he consulted several key figures in the Kashmiri secessionist movement before calling a press conference to announce the unilateral ceasefire, sources close to him said. “There was no other alternative there in order to save the organisation from a possible fissure as he (Dar) had cleverly brought many field commanders on his side by creating the false impression that he had the blessings of Pir Sahib (Salahuddin) and others in the command council,” said the rival camp. The Hizb leadership was criticised by the United Jihad Council, the Muzaffabad-based amalgam of militant outfits, for going in for a unilateral ceasefire without actually consulting it. The rivalry between Dar and Salahuddin reached its penultimate stage when Dar and his two supporters were relieved of their organisational responsibilities in 2001.