Geelani Adamant About Leaving APHC
1 July 2003
The Asian Age
New Delhi: 'When I die I do not want anyone to spit on my grave. I do not want to die a traitor,' is the response of ageing Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ali Shah Geelani to emissaries seeking to persuade him not to leave the All Parties Hurriyat Conference and accept a truce with the People's Conference. He remains adamant that the People's Conference should be thrown out of the Hurriyat for contesting the Assembly elections. Due to address a public rally on July 4 that is expected to lead to the formation of a new party altogether, Mr Geelani is under pressure from separatists and Pakistan to reconsider his decision. For the first time in long years of association, the Jamaat leader has turned his back on Islamabad as he sees 'submission' in the decision to hold peace talks with India without clear-cut assurances of involving the Kashmiri separatists. He is also reportedly very upset with Pakistan's insistence to accommodate the People's Conference and prevent a split in the APHC. Mr Geelani has developed serious differences with the People's Conference accusing it of participating in the recent Assembly elections and joining the government. He has made it clear in Hurriyat meetings that if the late Abdul Ghani Lone's party is not expelled he will be left with no other alternative but to leave the congolomerate. APHC chairperson Professor Abdul Ghani Butt has now decided to support the People's Conference, and the 'leave us out of it' attitude of the other leaders has now compelled Mr Geelani to take the first step - the public rally - to float his own outfit. Pakistan, keen to work towards peace with India, is reluctant to rock the boat by allowing a split in the Hurriyat that it has publicly declared as the true representative of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Sources said that Pakistan has been trying to persuade Mr Geelani to take over the leadership, accept the presence of the People's Conference, and work towards giving the separatist organisation a more pro-Pakistan direction. He has declined, maintaining that he cannot compromise his basic position and accept a pro-India organisation as an integral part of the APHC. Interestingly, Professor Butt is keen now to stay on for another term as the chairperson of the Hurriyat. JKLF leader Yasin Malik is reportedly keen to contest the elections for the top post but with Mr Geelani out, Professor Butt is hopeful of remaining in power with the support of the People's Conference. Mirwaiz Maulvi Omar Farooq, who has been maintaining a low profile ever since the government revoked his passport, has already made it clear that he has no intention of contesting the organisational elections. There has been a slight shift in the Hurriyat position in that it has now supported the peace initiative formally. It also created history of sorts by not calling for a statewide boycott to protest against President Abdul Kalam's visit to Jammu and Kashmir. This was a departure from the norm that the conglomerate had set out for itself. The rhetoric has also been muted, although Mr Yasin Malik has been addressing 'pro independence' meetings throughout the Valley to canvass for his signature campaign. President Musharraf, while in the US, again reiterated that a solution could not be possible without the involvement of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. There had been some criticism from the Valley about Pakistan's apparent inclination to seek a direct dialogue with the government of India without involving the Hurriyat and the separatist groups that it had 'recognised' as the 'true representatives' of the people. New Delhi, for the moment, has steered clear of the Hurriyat and its internal politics focusing instead on the Jammu and Kashmir government, and the peace initiative with Pakistan. The earlier policy to draw the Hurriyat into talks with the Centre appears to have been dropped with the various Track II initiatives shelved for the moment.