Malik Opposed, Hurriyat (M) Leader Supported Afzal Hanging: WikiLeaks

Malik Opposed, Hurriyat (M) Leader Supported Afzal Hanging: WikiLeaks

16 March 2011
Greater Kashmir


New Delhi: While JKLF chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik opposed capital punishment for Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, his counterparts in the Hurriyat Conference (M), however, have contrary view, WikiLeaks has revealed through a cable sent by US Embassy in New Delhi to Washington. Sent on October 20, 2006 by Geoffrey Pyatt, US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, the cable quotes JKLF chief Yasin Malik telling a US Consulate political officer that many “Kashmiri Muslims feel sympathy for Afzal” and that his only crime was “buying a car.” (Afzal Guru was not a member of the team that attacked Parliament but had bought the Ambassador car which breached Parliament's first line of security.) “How does this warrant a death sentence?” Malik is said to have asked. According to the cable, reproduced by an influential Delhi-based newspaper Wednesday, Malik's comments were, however, at variance with many moderate Kashmiri separatist leaders in the Valley. “One Hurriyat leader told the Consulate's political officer that his faction was remaining as quiet as possible because they do not feel strongly that Indian should pardon Afzal,” the report said. The report quoted the Hurriyat leader to have told the US Consulate political officer that the “moderate members of the Hurriyat are unable to express this view publicly, given the mood in the Valley and the threat from militants.” The Hurriyat leader, according to the report told the US official, that “the controversy over Afzal Guru had led to a loss of support for moderates such as himself among Kashmiri Muslims, especially among a small but growing cadre of Kashmiri youth who are being educated in extremist Madarassas springing up across Srinagar with Pakistani Jamaat-e-Islami party funding.” The cable suggests that the “easiest option for the Congress may be to delay Afzal's execution for years to consider his appeal for clemency.” This is exactly what has happened. In February 2011, Home Minister P. Chidambaram clarified in Parliament that Afzal Guru's mercy petition, filed on October 3, 2006, had not yet been forwarded to President Pratibha Patil. According to the cable, the issue of executing Guru, sentenced to death in the 2001 Parliament attack case, may bring to light longstanding animosity between then President APJ Abdul Kalam and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. It added that this was so “especially as a member of her own party, (Jammu and Kashmir) Chief Minister (Ghulam Nabi) Azad, has argued on Afzal's behalf” - a possible reference to news reports that Azad had pressed for clemency to be granted to the convict. The cable highlights the “significant electoral dilemma” the Afzal Guru issue posed for the Congress, just ahead of the “crucial” elections to the Uttar Pradesh Assembly in early-2007. It quotes unnamed party sources as telling the Embassy that if “the UPA grants a pardon for Afzal or stalls his execution, Congress will be portrayed by BJP leaders as weak on national security. If, however, the President lets him hang, some fear Congress may lose support from their traditional Muslim vote block on a national scale.” The cable records the difference in the manner in which Kashmiri Muslims and the rest of the Indian public reacted to Afzal Guru's possible execution. It says that for Srinagar's Muslim population, it “highlights concerns about the fairness of the Indian justice system and failures in India's longstanding program to demobilize and reintegrate surrendered militants [such as Afzal Guru].” For much of the public, commuting his sentence would demonstrate India remains weak in the face of attacks emanating from Pakistan.”


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