M Saleem Pandit | TNN |
SRINAGAR: In a sudden move that left Kashmir’s separatist conglomerate in disarray, pro-Pakistan hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani
on Monday quit his faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference and named Rawalpindi-based Abdullah Geelani as his successor amid speculation that he was doing ISI’s bidding.
Officially, the 91-year-old Hurriyat patriarch cited disenchantment with the way fellow constituents of the group responded to the nullification of Article 370 last August as the primary reason for his decision to dissociate himself from them. He also alleged lack of accountability within the Hurriyat and a rebellion brewing in the ranks.
“I, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, have decided to completely quit the amalgam,” he said in an audio message.
A spokesperson for the Hurriyat said the outgoing chairman and three-time MLA had written to all eight constituents of the group, outlining the reasons for his quitting, including a series of allegations against colleagues based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. “The activities of these representatives are now limited to seeking access to assemblies and ministries there (POK). Some members were expelled while others started holding their own meetings. These activities were endorsed by you (constituents) by holding a meeting here to ratify their decisions,” he wrote.
On the alleged “inaction” by Hurriyat members after J&K lost its special status and was split into two Union Territories, Ali Shah Geelani said, “I sent messages to you through various means so that the next course of action could be decided, but all my efforts went in vain. Now that the sword of accountability is hanging over your heads for financial and other irregularities, you thought of calling the advisory committee meeting.”
Sources said Abdullah Geelani being chosen to run the Hurriyat from Rawalpindi effectively means sidelining the separatist cabal in the Valley. Abdullah Geelani is the younger brother of SAR Geelani, the former DU professor who died of a heart attack in 2019, 16 years after being acquitted in the 2001 Parliament attack case.
“Abdullah Geelani is known to be close to ISI. Ali Shah Geelani was forced to relinquish his post and hand over the reins to Abdullah Geelani because ISI wasn’t in favour of either Hizbul Mujahideen
chief Syed Salahuddin or Hurriyat veteran Ghulam Mohammad Safi,” an insider said.
The feud within the secessionist set-up erupted last January when Ali Shah Geelani removed Safi, once a close aide, as chief of the Hurriyat’s POK chapter. The bone of contention was apparently distribution of the spoils of the narcotics trade that funds terrorism in the Valley, sources said.
The recent attempt on the life of Hizb chief Salahuddin in Rawalpindi was allegedly masterminded by Abdullah Geelani with the ISI’s support. Kashmir-born Salahuddin wanted to head the Hurriyat, the sources said.
So, what now for the Hurriyat after the exit of Ali Shah Geelani? The buzz is that the conglomerate might function differently now that all orders would come directly from Pakistan
. Baramulla-born Abdullah Geelani, 55, crossed over to POK in 2000 and has been based there since. Two of his three wives are Pakistani.