New Hurriyat chief prefers dialogue to gun
12 July 2003
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent
Jammu: It was a day marked by highly important political developments, starting with the change of guard in 23-party amalgam of secessionist groups. It was, indeed, ‘out’ and ‘in’ in the Rajbagh headquarters of All-Party Hurriyat Conference on Saturday. Prof Abdul Gani Bhat of Muslim Conference was ‘out’ as Sunni chairman of the amalgam. ‘In’ was the Shia leader, Maulvi Abbas Ansari, as the new chief of the Hurriyat Conference. Maulvi Abbas, considered as moderate Shia leader, was unanimously elected successor to Prof. Gani Bhat at an emergency meeting of the amalgam’s executive. The announcement of the Maulvi’s election as the Hurriyat’s new chairman was made by Prof. Bhat himself. The Maulvi was elected for a two-year term. Prof. Gani Bhat was remarkably philosophical about the change of leadership, remarking that Maulvi Abbas was unanimously elected after a 'deeper thought' to dispel doubts of any divide between Shia and Sunni sects. Pro-Pakistan Syed Ali Shah Geelani did not attend the meeting, which was specifically meant to elect the secessionist amalgam’s new chief. He is disenchancted with the Hurriyat executive for continuing to allow the People’s Conference as one of the constituents of the amalgam. It was a bombshell for the far-right leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, when, soon after his election as the Hurriyat chairman, Maulvi Abbas Ansari outrightly turned down his (Geelani’s) demand for removal of the People’s Conference from the separatist conglomerate. Maulvi Abbas was firm in his tone and tenor when he declared that no action would be taken against the People’s Conference. 'We are satisfied that the People’s Conference did not take part in the last year’s Assembly elections. It did not field any proxy candidates', the Maulvi said. The controversy, he maintained, was over after the party expelled its leaders who had participated in the polls. The Shia leader recalled that the Jamaat-e-Islami also took action against Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s close confidante. 'Nobody raised any question about Geelani when his close confidante contested the elections. So there is no need for any action against the People’s Conference', Maulvi Abbas explained. Asked why there was no representative from the Jamaat in today’s executive meeting, the Maulvi said that the Jamaat leaders were busy preparing for the election of their president. However, he pointed out that he would soon take up the matter with the Jamaat-e-Islami. Another point on which Geelani was confronted related to gun culture and dialogue. Geelani, who hasn’t opposed the presence of gun in the hands of the militant or jehadi in Kashmir, had a different message from the new chairman. Maulvi Abbas told mediapersons, after his election as the new chief of the Hurriyat, that Kashmir issue cannot be solved through gun. Dialogue alone can lead to a settlement of the problem, he advocated. At the same time, however, he did not seem willing to be misunderstood while discussing the requirements for seeking a solution to the Kashmir imbroglio. He found it necessary to toe the line of his predecessors, making it clear that Kashmiris 'will have to be included in the talks between India and Pakistan'. Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman, Yasin Malik, who did not attend the meeting, sent his representative, Ghulam Rasool Dar. About his priorities, the Maulvi said 'I will soon call a meeting of the General Council so that members are taken into confidence before taking any decision'. On India-Pakistan relations, Maulvi Abbas Ansari said 'Lasting peace in the subcontinent is not possible without resolving the Kashmir issue through tripartite talks. It is the people of Jammu and Kashmir who have suffered the most due to hostile relations between India and Pakistan'. The Maulvi reiterated that the separatist amalgam had always favoured the resolution of the Kashmir issue through peaceful negotiations. 'India and Pakistan have taken initiatives to resolve all their differences. But let me make it clear that no lasting peace in the region is possible without addressing the Kashmir issue, for which people of the State need to be actively involved in the negotiations', he emphasized. 'We seek a seat on the negotiation table as we represent the people of the State', he said. He, at the same time, pointed out that the Hurriyat 'is not for the inclusion of people at the first instance. Let them (India and Pakistan) talk first'. 'But make sure we are there at a later stage', he added. Maulvi Abbas welcomed the resumption of the Delhi-Lahore bus service Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, too, field some questions from scribes. To a question about the ongoing controversy between the Jamaat and People’s Conference, he expressed the hope that the new chairman would be able to keep the 'flock together'. His loaded comment 'Togetherness was the essence and asset of Hurriyat. We shall preserve this togetherness at all costs. We will swim together and if need be sink together'. Prof. Bhat did not subscribe to the feeling that the amalgam will split. He said 'We could keep the flock together and I trust in future too we will be able to keep the flock together'. The sudden decision of Prof. Bhat to hold elections comes only three days after Jamaat-e-Islami had held an emergency meeting of its Majlis-e-Shoora where it was decided that Geelani would continue to be its representative in the amalgam.