Days After He Called For End To Violence, Mirwaiz Meets Lashkar, Jaish, Al-Umar Top Guns
25 January 2007
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Days after he called for an end to the 'armed struggle' and underlined the futility of violence in the Valley, Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq met the top leadership of the most prominent militant groups: the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Jaish-e-Mohammad and Al- Umar. Among those he met was Al-Umar chief Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar, a top Kashmiri militant commander, who was released during the Kandahar IC-814 hijack swap. 'Yes, Mirwaiz has met senior militant commanders and they exchanged ideas on Kashmir,' Hurriyat spokesman and Mirwaiz's key aide Shahid-ul-Islam told The Indian Express. 'They discussed Hurriyat's efforts to resolve Kashmir issue'. This meeting assumes importance given Mirwaiz's statement last week that violence had only achieved 'creating more graveyards' and that 'we are not prepared to sacrifice any more of our loved ones.' It had provoked sharp reaction from hardliners, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani who called it a 'dangerous statement.' And the United Jihad Council (UJC), an umbrella group of militant organisations, said that Mirwaiz's statement was meant to 'endear himself to Western and Indian leadership.' There's an added significance to the meeting with Lashkar and Jaish: these groups are not only at the forefront of militancy in Kashmir, they also oppose Pak President Pervez Musharraf's Kashmir policy and the peace process with New Delhi. There was no meeting with UJC chief Syed Salahudin whose group, the Hizbul Mujahideen, has taken a serious exception to Mirwaiz's 'non- violence talk.' Mirwaiz, meanwhile, has also made an attempt to distance the Hurriyat from being seen as 'Musharraf follower' on Kashmir, calling Pak President to get his Opposition political parties on board on the issue. Earlier, after a meeting with Musharraf, during his Pak visit, he had supported Musharraf's four- point formula. Mirwaiz's four-hour-long meeting with Zargar is significant in the context of the recent bitterness with the Hurriyat hardline faction led by Geelani followed by the run-in with the UJC. Zargar was released by the NDA government in 1999 together with Jaish Chief Masood Azhar and Sheikh Umar, a British militant who is in jail in Pakistan, facing death sentence for his role in the murder of The Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Zargar's outfit Al-Umar Mujahideen was deemed to be very close to Mirwaiz's Awami Action Committee in the early '90s. In fact, Srinagar's downtown was seen as an Al-Umar hub, providing open armed cover to Mirwaiz's family especially after his father's assassination in 1990. However, Mirwaiz slowly distanced himself from the militant group when Zargar was arrested and the outfit lost most of its men. Zargar, however, revived the group after he was released and in case he extends his support to Mirwaiz and Hurriyat moderates, it will alter the power equation in the separatist camp. Mirwaiz and his team also extended the Pak trip in a bid to canvas support especially among the political opposition who see him as toeing Musharraf's line. Musharraf's main opposition Mutihida Majlis- e-Amal (MMA) President and Jamat Chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad, in fact, invited Geelani to Pakistan and criticised Musharraf's Kashmir policy.