Parting Ways for Good?
By Arif Jamal


The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is slowly but surely becoming messier. In the foreseeable future it may become difficult to gauge as to who is pulling whose strings there. Pakistan has lost friends in Jammu and Kashmir in the last few years. However, the most important friend Pakistan has lost, or is in the process of losing, is Syed Ali Shah Geelani who once called himself a proud Pakistani.
Geelani has been more critical of Pakistani policies in recent months than of the Indian acts in Jammu and Kashmir. His first tangible criticism of the Pakistani policies came in the form of his boycott of the dinner hosted by the Pakistani high commissioner in New Delhi on the Pakistan Day this year. Since then he has not stopped criticizing Pakistani policies.
Geelani's latest statement has only added to the existing confusion -- he has reportedly said that a conspiracy has been hatched to kill him. He told a gathering of loyalists in Srinagar that he might be killed because he is still insisting on the implementation of the UN resolutions in Jammu and Kashmir. In the same speech, he nominated Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, Ghulam Nabi Sumji, and Masarat Alim as his successors, which gave the impression that he is sure of the plan -- though Geelani has stopped short of pointing out who exactly is behind the conspiracy to kill him.
Pakistan has certainly changed its tactics, if not its strategy, to resolve the Kashmir dispute. It has clearly abandoned its insistence on the implementation of the UN resolutions in Jammu and Kashmir -- it is now asking for a negotiated settlement. Pakistan is no more laying claim on the entire state. Although it is not yet ready to recognize the LoC as an international border, it appears to be ready for the division of the state. It has also considerably reduced its support to militants fighting in Kashmir over the last few years and appears ready to adopt some other means to keep the issue alive till its final resolution. Some people, particularly those who were beneficiaries of the ongoing militancy, find it difficult to accept it. Geelani was certainly one of the biggest beneficiaries of the ongoing militancy in Jammu and Kashmir.
It appears that there is no place for hardliners such as Geelani in the new scheme of things. Pakistan is set to play the new political game according to new rules. Islamabad is now betting on new horses in Kashmir. It now wants the two factions of the Huriyyat Conference to be united again, with possibly Mirwaiz Umar Farooq heading the united alliance. Geelani may be given the ceremonial office of Sarprast (patron-in-chief).
Significantly, General Musharraf seemed to point to this course when he said in New Delhi that Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Omar Abdullah, and Mehbooba Mufti would play important roles in the future. Sensing the coming change, the Jamaat-i-Islami of Jammu and Kashmir once again withdrew its support to Geelani and his Huriyyat Conference. This has once again pushed Geelani into political wilderness and made him bitter.
It seems Pakistan and Geelani are parting ways for good. The latest statement of Geelani reflects his bitterness and disillusionment with Pakistan. He may disagree with the popular interpretation of his statement but it appears he is blaming Pakistan for the conspiracy to assassinate him. He always blamed India for 14 failed attempts on his life in the past but never described his insistence on the implementation of the UN resolutions as the reason. India has never shown any respect for these resolutions, but the feeling is that if it wanted to assassinate Geelani, it would have done so long ago.
Geelani has also tried to dramatize the nomination of his political successors. In reality, he had already named the same politicians as his political successors in the past. Moreover, the mujahideen circles have also been discussing, for some time now, the question of his successor in view of his failing health. In an interview given in February and published in March 2005, Geelani had nominated Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai and Ghulam Nabi Sumji as his possible political successors, saying his health was not good. The announcement of the nomination of his successors in the current context of has only dramatized the whole situation.
Geelani has himself conveyed the impression that he and Pakistan have parted ways on the question of Kashmir. He has been openly opposing most of Pakistan's policies on the Kashmir question for some time now. The latest statement is a continuation of his statements in recent months. Pakistan may be adopting a reconciliatory posture towards him but he is not ready to forgive his former benefactor. The time for parting of ways is fast approaching.



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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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