Sehrai appointed Geelani's successor in Jamaat
3 January 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent
Jammu: Having severed all ties with the Maulvi Abbas Ansari faction of the Hurriyat Conference, Jamaat-e-Islami has appointed its second-in- command, Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, as the new chief of the organisation’s Political Affairs section. The Jamaat spokesman, advocate Zahid Ali, today said in a Press release that his party’s Naib Amir (vice chairman) Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai had been appointed as chief of the Political Affairs section with immediate effect. Though the spokesman did not specify when the organisation had taken this decision, it is believed that the highest decision making body (Markazi Majlis—e-Shoora) of Jamaat-e-Islami has favoured Sehrai for the key position in its four-day-long conclave here earlier this week. It was at the end of these deliberations that Jamaat-e-Islami had announced its decision of total separation from the Hurriyat’s Abbas Ansari faction. It has, however, reserved its decision of supporting Geelani’s breakaway faction of the Hurriyat 'for the time being'. Sehrai’s appointment as Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s successor in the organisation is significant as none other than Geelani has operated as Jamaat’s Head of Political Affairs in Jammu & Kashmir in the last 14 years of militancy. By virtue of holding that portfolio, Geelani worked as Jamaat’s representative in the 'All Party Hurriyat Conference' for 10 years. He also functioned as chairman of the undivided Hurriyat for two terms of two years each. The most towering pro-Pakistan politician in the contemporary history of Jammu & Kashmir, 76-year-old Syed Ali Shah Geelani has, of late, been struggling to emerge as the undisputed representative of the hardline sections in Kashmir. Unlike senior Jamaat thinktank Sehrai, Mr Geelani is known for his hardline approach in politics. He has been an avowed advocate of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan, though openly his solution to the Kashmir problem is holding tripartite talks (between India, Pakistan and the 'real representatives' of Kashmiri people) or conducting a referendum in accordance with the UN resolutions of 1948 and 1949. Jamaat’s stakes are high in today’s turbulent Kashmir as this religio-political organisation has been the political patron of the state’s most formidable militant outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen. Due to this association, Jamaat has lost hundreds of its activists and key organisers at the hands of Police, security forces and local counter-insurgents. Obviously under pressure from several quarters, Jamaat had recalled Geelani from the undivided Hurriyat and appointed Sheikh Ali Mohammad as its representative in the 7-member executive council on May 24, 2003. After his release from jail, Geelani had taken strong exception to the Hurriyat constituent Peoples Conference’s controversial act of fielding its member, Ghulam Mohi-ud-din Sofi, as a 'proxy candidate' in last year’s Assembly elections from Handwara. While defeating the National Conference stalwart, Chowdhary Mohammad Ramzan, Sofi became MLA from Handwara and was later inducted as Minister of Forest and Environment in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s Cabinet. Geelani has been lamenting since last year that Sofi was the representative of Sajjad Gani Lone’s Peoples Conference in Mufti’s government. Sajjad and his party have denied the same repeatedly and continued to be part of the Hurriyat faction, now led by Abbas Ansari. Like the other Hurriyat constituents of JKLF and Peoples League, Jamaat-e-Islami has separated itself from the Ansari-led Hurriyat but has yet to take a decision whether or not to support Geelani’s faction. Thus, according to the situation till date, once an amalgamation of J&K’s 24 religious, political and social organisations—besides trade unions and High Court Bar Association—Hurriyat Conference stands split in three groups.