Geelani: Retired hurt from Hurriyat

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Kashmir's separatist leader who quit from the Hurriyat Conference. (File Photo: AP)
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Kashmir's separatist leader who quit from the Hurriyat Conference. (File Photo: AP)

For quite some time Syed Ali Shah Geelani was mute, maybe owing to advancing age problems like dementia. In a letter, scripted three months ago but released now to the heads of the eight units of his organization (Hurriyat – G), he made threadbare confession of his dissatisfaction with the units of his organization in both parts of the State.

A die hard Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) standard-bearer, who trained some  enthusiastic young Kashmiris in Jamaat ideology, like late Ayub Thukar and Ghulam Nabi Fai (respectively London and the US-based Jamaat-e-Islami (Kashmir) activists, Geelani has always been a blunt pro-Pakistani leader of old school. He fought and won three assembly elections in J&K and lost two parliamentary elections from the Baramulla constituency. In all these elections he had taken the customary oath of allegiance to the constitution of the Indian Union against which he waged a life-long unsuccessful war but succeeded in alienating Kashmiri Muslim youth from India. How far the ISI has been patronizing him is a moot point. ISI had not missed the piece of bizarre information that Indian agencies were instrumental in repatriating his son from Pakistan after nearly twelve years of life in self-imposed exile. He is now a doctor in the SKIMS, Srinagar. His second son was handpicked by the state government to be given a plum post. 

As long as Geelani could inspire Kashmiri Muslim militant youth to carry forward the armed struggle for secession, Pakistani establishment made him the beneficiary of its munificence. But Geelani could be critical of Pakistan also on issues more concerned with the Islamic ideology. For example he castigated General Musharraf for ordering military operation for flushing out the militants from Lal Masjid in Lahore. President General Pervez Musharraf never liked him.

Kashmir watchers have written copiously on the subject why he disassociated with the organization which he created and nurtured laboriously in both parts of Kashmir. Actually, Geelani’s letter to his lieutenants on both sides of the LoC is self-explanatory. In our opinion it is a candid expression of some realities hitherto kept a closely guarded secret. The substance of the letter could be succinctly put as this: (a) it is a revolt of the younger aspirants of the organization on either side of the LoC, against his authoritarian style of handling the organization, and (b) recurring complaints of financial irregularities against some responsible members who have defied Geelani’s call for submitting expenditure reports.

Many Kashmir watchers have been skeptical from the very beginning about the validity of his pro-Pak line. Whether the Hurriyat (M), the JKLF, and other militant groups were or were not pro-Pak in ultimate analysis is a different matter but they cleverly adopted an ambivalent stance of sticking to the slogan of azaadi.

Geelani never condemned Kashmiris taking up the gun and fighting the Indian security forces. He never condemned violence and never showed any enthusiasm about India-Pakistan talks on Kashmir issue. When the ISI dumped JKLF for toying excessively with the azaadi slogan and patronized Hizbul Mujahideen (HuM) whose ideology of accession to Pakistan was precisely what Geelani stood for. Therefore people began to believe that the HuM was indulging in the butchering spree of JKLF activists at the behest of Geelani, which indeed was not the case. The Hizbul Mujahideen strictly carried forward the agenda set forth for it by the ISI.

Nevertheless, since the impression had become widespread among the people in the valley, it followed that Geelani began to be feared more than respected. The fear came from the fact that he could order elimination of his opponents at will, which was possible because he had been granted an unstated acquiescence by the political apparatus in the valley, including CM’s and JK Police chiefs. That is why he reigned supreme. Undoubtedly, Reorganization Act of the Parliament and transformation of J&K into the Union Territory took away his political and police leverage. The fear component lost its punch. He waited for nearly nine months expecting a forceful backlash and restoration of the element of fear aura. That did not happen and he categorically laments in his letter to his lieutenants that there was no concerted reaction from the general masses to the scrapping of Article 370 and Article 35A and dismemberment of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani's resignation letter quitting from Hurriyat Conference
Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s resignation letter quitting from the Hurriyat Conference

To add to Geelani’s dejection and defeat of his flawed Islamic ideology, he found to his surprise that the security forces had begun a wipe out campaign of the armed gangsters and South Kashmir was almost on the verge of being cleansed of all malevolent elements.

In analyzing his complaint about financial irregularities, the point is why did he raise the question of submission of account from the concerned in his outfit? For last thirty-two years he never asked for it. The truth is that the benevolence came from all the cash coming to him through hawala transfers. Its key handlers were Altaf Bukhari and Zahoor Shah Watali, both well-connected in Delhi, and hence untouchable. In a news report appearing in sections of press in 2017, it was revealed that the NSA had succeeded in hacking the mobile phone calls of a Pakistani ISI sleuth Lt. Col Tanveer to Ali Shah Geelani. It was found that this Pakistani conduit had been the key person arranging hawala transactions for both Geelani and Molavi Umar the Hurriyat (M) chief. Lt. Col Tanveer had been in contact with them for five years.

That was until Modi came to power in 2014. Things changed. One of the two hawala contacts turned into an approver against the other and was given the nod to create a pro-India party. The other is languishing in jail. Once the money pipeline dried up, Pakistan started pushing Afghan narcotics into Kashmir much like what they had done in Punjab. The job of creating the narcotic trade pipeline was given by ISI to the valley-based leaders languishing in Muzaffarabad who had to accept the responsibility that monies from narcotic trade would flow to Geelani for continuing his benevolent activities.

Geelani did not approve narcotic funding for the Hurriyatis and wanted Molavi Umar’s faction to keep Kashmiri youth away from drugs. But the question was how could the movement continue? The Hurriyat Council in Muzaffarabad (PoK) was in a rebellious mood. It would not give up control over huge narcotic funds nor on operational matters. The tailpiece was that the ISI hand-picked Muzaffarabad man called a meeting of APHC (All Parties Hurriyat Conference) in Srinagar, which was attended by all except Geelani. He was not even informed about it, and no one sought his approval.

Geelani realized he was a spent force. Therefore, he sat in seclusion in his palatial bungalow in Haiderpora, and in seclusion poured out his anger and disappointment in a letter the contents of which became the catalyst for this writer to script the analysis.

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