February 2003 News

Geelani's release, shot in the arm for Mufti Govt.

9 February 2003
The Hindu
Shujaat Bukhari

SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, ended his first hundred days in office by setting free the senior leader of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, albeit on health grounds. Though a prerogative of the State Government, the Centre's a nod was necessary to avoid a controversy as Mr. Geelani is seen as a hardliner with pro-Pakistani leanings. His release assumes importance in the wake of the byelections to the Pampore Assembly segment. The release of political prisoners came to a halt after militants intensified attacks in the State by November. By then, the Government had released six persons, including the JKLF chairman, Mohammad Yasin Malik. Mr. Geelani's release, analysts believe, may not lead to any new controversy as his health is fast deteriorating and he is suspected to be suffering from cancer. He was arrested in June last, following income tax raids on his house and those of his relatives. He was lodged in the Bursa Munda Jail in Ranchi. However, doctors recommended that he be shifted to Mumbai, where he is to be operated upon tomorrow. The State Government ordered Mr. Geelani's release on Saturday night. He was flown to Mumbai in a State aircraft. His personal physician, Khurshid Iqbal, senior doctor from Srinagar's Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, accompanied him. 3 months of smooth sailing The Mufti Government has, by and large, had a smooth sailing during its first 100 days, in spite of some harsh decisions it took to make the system accountable. On the political front, it continued to advocate a dialogue to resolve the Kashmir crisis without taking an anti-Pakistan, anti-Hurriyat or anti- India stand. Highlighting the achievements of the Mufti Government's first three months in office, an official spokesman said 'saying good-bye to the policy of confrontation; thrust is on consensus and harmonious relations between the State and the Centre, even though occasions for discord arise, at times.' The popularity graph of the first multi-party Government in the State was showing an upward trend, the spokesman claimed. 'The change in Jammu and Kashmir has had a tremendous psychological impact, with people feeling a sense of relief on all fronts. Overnight, a change was witnessed with the atmosphere becoming quite relaxed. The changed situation led to transformed functioning of security forces and police as people-friendly, roadside frisking and searches during Tarawih and Sehri during the holy month of Ramzan saw an adieu. Going by its commitment in the common minimum programme, POTA was not invoked during the past, over three months... SoG reorientation began to assimilate the personnel in police... The post of Additional-Director General, Operations, has been abolished. There are no complaints against SoG, which has adapted itself to the new work culture.' The spokesman further said 'complaints against human rights violations came down substantially. No major incident took place except in Mochu and Bhangdara Churoo where action was taken against erring personnel rather than hush up the cases. For cognisance of complaints, police helplines were set up in Srinagar, Jammu and New Delhi to enable people to lodge complaints, including regarding disappearances. A discernible change in the mindset of people that has become pronounced was reflective in their substantial participation in the Republic Day celebrations for the first time in the Valley during militancy.'


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