11 August 2004
New Delhi: If there could ever be any scope for doubt that Syed Ali Shah Geelani was the voice of Pakistan in Jammu & Kashmir, it was removed by his establishment of a new party, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat-e-Kashmir (THK), on August 7. His statement that the party will struggle peacefully for the implementation of the 18 resolutions the United Nations Security Council has passed on Kashmir, will doubtless be welcomed by Islamabad which has only grudgingly accepted the path of bilateral India-Pakistan talks for a solution to the Kashmir issue that the Shimla Agreement of 1972 provides for. Besides, the thrust of his statement that his party would draw its inspiration from Islam rather than from socialism, secularism, communism and nationalism, is totally at variance with Kashmir's eclectic and tolerant heritage, and reflects the influence of the hardline fundamentalist Islamists who are strongly entrenched in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, as well of the jihadi terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). These groups which, along with the Hizbul Mujahideen, perpetrate cross-border terrorism in India from their bases in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, will be further pleased by his demand that the Government must send the troops to the barracks and roll back all legislation granting immunity to military personnel for their actions in Kashmir. The THK's demands, seen in their totality, seem almost to have been scripted by the ISI. The chain of events leading to their articulation and the new party's establishment, has come as a severe setback to the forces of moderation in Jammu & Kashmir. It all began with Geelani's readmission into the Jamaat-e-Islami on August 1, which in turn marked a defeat for Nasir Ahmed Kashani who had been elected in 2003 as the organisation's Amir for a period of three years, and who had not only not supported the pro-Pakistan leader's jihad against the moderate elements of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) but had, in May that year, 'retired' him as the Jammat's political representative in the APHC. The capitulation by Geelani and his supporters is clearly a result of the relentless campaign of intimidation through attacks and assassinations conducted by the Hizbul Mujahideen, the earlier had close links with the whole of Jamaat and, of late, only with the Geelani wing of it. Its killing on March 23, 2003, of its former Deputy Chief, Abdul Majid Dar, who had drifted apart from it had sent a chilling message. There have been, since then, several attacks on people close to Mirwaiz Omer Farooq. While the fear of assassination had restricted the movement of the moderates both in the APHC and the rump commanded by Geelani, the latter's followers went around freely mobilising support. Needless to say, THK would become the focal point of the activities of all pro-Pakistan elements in J&K. With the moderates in the APHC like Mirwaiz Farooq and Maulvi Abbas Ansari taking the stand that talks with the Government would follow restoration of the constitution of the undivided APHC and unity in the ranks of the latter, the chances of an early resumption of the internal dialogue on Kashmir have receded. The Government must watch the situation clearly, refuse to have anything to do with Geelani and further reinforce its counter-insurgency operations. A soft line can be disastrous.