Enigmatic Pakistan Yatra

Hurriyat (M) leaders and JKLF chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik took a giant leap towards ‘peace’ as they crossed into Pakistan-administered Kashmir crossing the Kaman Bridge at the LoC in February 2005. Commentators believe that the visit had the backing of the Indian government, which had, however, insisted that the trip should be confined to Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Hurriyat had another visit to Pakistan in February 2007. A day ahead of that visit, Hurriyat Conference had said that President Pervez Musharraf’s four-point formula on the resolution of the Kashmir issue will be the main agenda of talks with the leadership in that country. When the Hurriyat delegation returned from Pakistan, its chairman Mirwaiz Farooq prevaricated on the ‘outcome’ of the visit. “Kashmir is not the property of anyone and those having opened shops in the name of Kashmir should pull down their shutters now. I can tell with authority that those who did not accompany us to Pakistan are left forever,” Mirwaiz had said in old city, a day after returning from Pakistan in 2007.

Pertinently, Syed Ali Geelani had not opted for visiting Pakistan, as he has done now. Down the line, almost five years later, Hurriyat(M) executive council is again in Pakistan. Probably the purpose behind the visit is to take initiative and pave path for resolution of the old and burning issue of Kashmir.

Many Kashmir observers argue that Hurriyat’s present visit to neighboring Pakistan will be sold by the governments in India and Pakistan to their respective constituencies during the election time. “Since both India and Pakistan are going for parliamentary elections, they want to sell something to their constituencies and moderates remain ready facilitators,” Dr Sheikh Showkat, Associate Professor at the Central University of Kashmir, said.

Senior journalist, Nayeema Ahmad Mehjoor too shares this perspective to a certain degree. “Well, I think the visit comes with ‘Ashirvad’ [the blessing] of India. Also, the home work done by both India and Pakistan is to convince the moderate Hurriyat leaders to join the mainstream politics so that pre-1953 status of Kashmir can be negotiated with all the major stakeholders. This, perhaps, sets the tone for upcoming elections in both these countries,” the veteran broadcaster is reported to have opined.

Now when Hurriyat(M) leaders are in Islamabad, the question arises that does they have something substantiate to discuss with Pakistan? “I was among the people who were invited by Hurriyat in one of the feedback sessions. What the leaders have to tell to Pakistan, they did not reveal that. But my simple question to Mirwaiz and his associates was that is Pakistan in a position to take any concrete step vis-?-vis Kashmir?,” said Tariq Ali Mir, a senior journalist, adding, “The Hurriyat leaders did not answer my question nor they informed the invitees about their agenda”.

But Bilal Gani Lone, executive council leader of the Hurriyat Conference (M) has a lot to say. Lashing out at critics of Hurriyat’s Pakistan visit, he said nobody should expect them to get the license of freedom from Islamabad, as Kashmir dispute was not an ordinary issue to be solved overnight. “People must realize that Kashmiris themselves have to take initiatives to break the ice and move forward,” said Bilal, adding, “The Hurriyat delegation is not going to Islamabad for a picnic. We have been invited by a state. Hurriyat had not sought any invitation, but was invited by the government of that country to initiate a dialogue.”

The fact remains that the moderate Hurriyat (M) has shown too much flexibility in its stand on Kashmir on various occasions. It not only visited Islamabad when it was called but also talked to New Delhi as well but without any results.

Not long ago, a senior member of Hurriyat (M), Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat, dropped a bombshell by terming the United Nations Resolutions on Kashmir ‘irrelevant’ and ‘impractical’. Professor had also hinted at forging an alliance with the pro-India politicians.

Meanwhile, almost all the executive members of Hurriyat (M) except Shabir Ahmad Shah were issued passports much before the visit. The matter of passports to the Hurriyat (M) leaders has a number of stories related to it. Many quarters are wondering how New Delhi is readily issuing travel documents to a particular group of pro-freedom leaders who are apparently working against the ‘interests’ of the country.

According to American diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, Mirwaiz had counseled against issuing passport to Syed Ali Geelani who wanted to go to the US for treatment, saying he would “stir up trouble”. “When we met (the) Mirwaiz in February, he said it would be a big mistake for the Government of India to issue Geelani a passport to travel, because he would stir up trouble,” a March 2007 US embassy cable which was leaked in 2011, said.

The US had denied him a visa. While making a cost-benefit analysis of issuing a visa, a US official believed Geelani’s travel to the US would “physically” take him out of the political picture in India. “Mirwaiz will not have Geelani breathing down his neck in a delicate political moment in the valley,” the diplomatic cable said, referring to the Indo-Pakistan dialogue process.

Reacting to the contents of the cable, Mirwaiz had strongly denied being part of any such conversation. “I have no authority to issue passports or visas. So why would I ask people not to issue any passport to Geelani sahib?” he had claimed.

Hurriyat (M) delegation comprising of its executive leaders without Shabir Ahmad Shah left Srinagar on Dec 12, fearing the weather might create problems in reaching New Delhi in time. Shah does not declare himself as an Indian National and uses ‘Kashmiri’ instead of ‘Indian’ in the application for seeking travel documents.

Hurriyat (G) chairman, Syed Ali Geelani decided not to visit Pakistan on the ground that Islamabad was not in a position to take any concrete decision regarding Kashmir in view of the upcoming general elections in the country. “The elections for Pakistan national assembly are being conducted in near future and it is evident that the present administration there is not in a position to take any concrete decision on Kashmir,” Geelani said.

“Kashmir nation has offered unprecedented sacrifices and Hurriyat Conference with its responsibility of safeguarding these sacrifices understands that it should never get involved in the election politics of Pakistan,” he said

Not only Geelani, who is heading his own faction of Hurriyat Conference, is averse to the present Pakistan visit of pro-freedom leaders but Hurriyat (M) is divided within over the issue. Shah and Nayeem Khan did not even attend any meetings convened for consultation and to get feedback about the visit.

“What Pakistan visit? I am not aware of any visits. Yes, I only got to know about it from media. Otherwise I was never informed by Hurriyat Conference about any invitation,” said Khan. Shabir Shah also opposed the Pakistan visit saying that it was not the proper time to visit Islamabad though he later wished to visit from LoC crossing point on ‘Karwan-e-Aman’.

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