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Stop pandering to separatists

Stop pandering to separatists

Author: G Parthasarathy
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 8, 2007

The Manmohan Singh Government appears to believe that separatists, armed, financed and trained across our borders, can be won over by a policy of appeasement. This was evident in the approach to ULFA in Assam, which was let off the hook by an ill-advised ceasefire when the Army had its cadre on the run. There is a similar approach to the separatists of the "moderate" All Parties Hurriyat Conference in Jammu & Kashmir.

The All Parties Hurriyat Conference was established on March 10, 1993, with Pakistani support, to give political content to a demoralised and failing armed uprising in Jammu & Kashmir. The Hurriyat leadership supports Pakistan's efforts to pursue its "unfinished agenda of Partition" in Jammu & Kashmir. Its Constitution, adopted in March 1993, says the Hurriyat is committed to a "peaceful struggle" to obtain the "right to self-determination" under UN Resolutions for the people of Jammu & Kashmir.

Members of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference have remained close to terrorist groups that are members of the ISI-sponsored United Jihad Council in Muzaffarabad. If Syed Ali Shah Geelani uses the Hizb-ul Mujahideen to enforce his writ through terrorist violence, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is familiar with Al Umar Mujahideen led by Mushtaq Zargar - a serial killer released during the infamous Kandahar hijacking. The Hurriyat Conference is derogatorily referred to as the "Hartal Conference" because, duly backed by the guns of terrorists, it regularly calls for hartals and bandhs.

The Hurriyat, which describes itself the "sole" and "authentic" voice of the aspirations of the people of Jammu & Kashmir, has primarily served as the mouthpiece for the Pakistan Government and as the political arm of the terrorists sponsored by ISI. Pakistan has obtained an "Observer" status for the Hurriyat in the Organisation of Islamic Conference, providing the Hurriyat leadership access to leaders of Islamic countries. Knowing its limited electoral support and given the disunity in its ranks, the Hurriyat has never contested elections.

Apologists of the Hurriyat claim that the organisation split, with the Mirwaiz leading the "moderates" and Geelani the "hardliners" because of differences over their responses to Gen Pervez Musharraf's four-point proposal on Jammu & Kashmir. The real reasons for the split, however, lie in developments in Pakistan when Gen Musharraf and Amir of the Jamat-e-Islami Qazi Hussain Ahmed fell apart. Geelani toed the line advocated by the Qazi, who opposed Gen Musharraf's proposals. While the General has been the mentor of the "moderates" led by the Mirwaiz, Geelani has chosen to regard the Qazi as his mentor. The main "threat" that the Mirwaiz faces is from the cadre of the Hizb-ul Mujahideen in Muzaffarabad.

When Mirwaiz Farooq left for Islamabad, he assumed pretensions of being the "bridge" between New Delhi and Islamabad and also between people in Jammu & Kashmir on both sides of the LoC. He echoed Gen Musharraf's proposals and let the cat out of the bag by revealing that these proposals were for an "interim" and not "final" resolution of the issue of Jammu & Kashmir. He was evidently advised by Gen Musharraf to set the stage for a "ceasefire" in Jammu & Kashmir by calling on the militants to end their armed struggle. Those in Pakistan backing Qazi Hussain Ahmad's approach called Mirwaiz a "traitor" and the "Hamid Karzai of Kashmir". Feeling the political heat, Pakistan's Foreign Office distanced itself from the Mirwaiz, claiming that what he had said constituted his personal views and not the views of the Pakistan Government.

Desperate to avoid the wrath of the jihadis who could threaten his life, the Mirwaiz met Mushtaq Zargar - the one terrorist leader on whom he could rely. This could not have happened without ISI facilitation, as Pakistan has officially claimed that it is not aware of Zargar's whereabouts. At this meeting, he also met "area commanders" of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed - terrorist organisations banned internationally under UN Security Council Resolution 1373. Mirwaiz Farooq has remained ambiguous about these meetings; he, however, did not deny they took place. Thus, despite Gen Musharraf's protestations, it is obvious that the infrastructure of terrorism is alive and kicking in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and that the ISI is actively assisting these terrorist outfits.

The Hurriyat delegation met political leaders in PoK, but avoided meeting with leaders from the Shia-dominated Northern Areas as they would have spoken differently about the repression they face. The Mirwaiz also assumed the role of organising meetings between political leaders in Jammu & Kashmir and those in PoK, after his meeting with Sardar Atique Ahmad Khan the "Prime Minister" of PoK. All such meetings will inevitably be under the patronage of the Government of Pakistan and the ISI. Gen Musharraf obviously wishes to use his protégés to play the leading role in promoting an intra-Kashmiri dialogue, which can then proceed on terms set by him. New Delhi seems to have given the impression that it would not be averse to the All Parties Hurriyat Conference playing such a role.

While the leaders of mainstream political parties like the National Conference have watched from the sidelines, the Hurriyat has assumed such airs of importance that it will not condescend to meet anyone other than the Prime Minister. The Hurriyat has to be formally told that before it seeks political level meetings, it should first seek to interact with the Union Government's interlocutor for Jammu & Kashmir, Mr NN Vohra. Second, it should be made clear to the Hurriyat that there can be no high-level political contacts in New Delhi till it participates in the roundtable discussion that has been initiated by the Prime Minister with a wide cross-section of political and public opinion in Jammu & Kashmir.

New Delhi should also firmly inform the Hurriyat leadership that it will not allow the separatists to assume any role in inviting people like Sardar Atique Ahmad and other political leaders from PoK and the Northern Areas across the LoC. This is a role that has to be played at an appropriate time by the Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, in consultation with political leaders in the State Assembly, with due clearance from the Union Government.

Finally, there can be no question of any "ceasefire" in Jammu & Kashmir till the infrastructure of terrorism across the LoC is dismantled and militants who have crossed the border lay down their arms. The nation paid a heavy price for the ill-advised "Ramzan Ceasefire" in November 2000.

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