Pakistan Now Inching Towards Hardline Hurriyat

Pakistan Now Inching Towards Hardline Hurriyat

20 November 2013
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Azhar Qadri

Srinagar: As Pakistan’s new government has openly begun to advocate the right to self-determination as a solution to the Kashmir issue, a reversal of Pervez Musharraf’s policy of seeking an ‘out of box’ solution, it may also be inching closer to the once-dumped hardline separatist faction in the Valley. Several leaders from the moderate separatist block in Kashmir have told The Tribune that the hardline faction led by Syed Ali Geelani has shifted itself to the “officially recognised” All Parties Hurriyat Conference office in Pakistan's capital Islamabad, which it had vacated in 2005 after a face-off with Musharraf. The Pakistan establishment under Musharraf had dumped Geelani’s group and begun courting the moderate separatist faction led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who was recognised as the chairman of the separatist amalgam. The hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference, whose Pakistan chapter is represented by Ghulam Mohammad Safi, returned to the office last month. The news has largely been kept under wraps. For the past nearly eight years, the office had housed the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference - which is accepted by all Pakistan governments since 2005 as the official separatist group of Kashmir. Three senior leaders of the moderate Hurriyat Conference said the hardliners had moved into the office last month. “Now, both factions of the Hurriyat are working separately in the same building, which has been divided between them,” a moderate separatist leader said. Another moderate separatist acknowledged that the new Pakistan government under Nawaz Sharif was likely to be more aligned towards Geelani’s faction. “The Pakistan government and Geelani’s Hurriyat are on the same page. Both have been demanding the right to self-determination as the solution to the Kashmir issue and both have rejected Musharraf’s four-point formula or any other solution,” the separatist said. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted by Musharraf in a coup in 1999, has rubbished the former Pakistan dictator’s four-point solution and instead asserted at the UN General Assembly in September this year that Kashmiris should be given the right to self-determination - which marked Pakistan's return to its 'traditional' K-policy. Sharif’s foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz thrashed Musharraf’s four-point formula as a “mistake” when he met separatists in New Delhi earlier this month. The hardline Hurriyat Conference is, however, downplaying the shifting of its office in Pakistan, saying “it is not an issue” for them. “We have not received any official information and the office (location) has never been an issue for us. What happens there is not important, what happens here on the ground is important,” said Ayaz Akbar, spokesman for the hardline faction of the Hurriyat Conference. Policy shift * Several leaders from the moderate separatist block in Kashmir have told The Tribune that the hardline faction led by Syed Ali Geelani has shifted itself to the “officially recognised” All Parties Hurriyat Conference office in Pakistan's capital Islamabad, which it had vacated in 2005 after a face-off with Pervez Musharraf * The Pakistan establishment under Musharraf had dumped Geelani’s group and begun courting the moderate separatist faction led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who was recognised as the chairman of the separatist amalgam