APHC splits as Geelani declared chairman

16 Sep 2003

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SRINAGAR, Sept 15: The All Parties Hurriyat Conference formally split on Monday when pro-freedom members appointed former APHC chairman Syed Ali Geelani their new chief.

They gathered at the home of Mr Geelani and declared him the new head of the Hurriyat, which since 1993 had united moderates and hardliners opposed to Indian rule.

Hardliners claim to enjoy the support of half of the 27 members in Hurriyat’s general council. On Sept 7, the pro-Geelani members had rejected the authority of Molvi Abbas Ansari, the Hurriyat’s chairman.

Mr Geelani told reporters he was ready for the “challenging job” and accused the APHC of failing to lead the freedom movement.

Asked how people would know which faction was the real Hurriyat, Mr Geelani said: “People know which is the real Hurriyat and they will come to know more through our deeds.”

He said the Kashmir dispute should be settled by a plebiscite.

“If India wants to resolve the issue through talks, the talks should be trilateral (among India, Pakistan and Kashmiris) and held under UN supervision or monitored by a friendly country,” Mr Geelani said.

He faulted the Hurriyat particularly for not launching a more aggressive campaign against assembly elections held in the Valley between September and October 2002.

“The role of the leadership was dubious even during last year’s elections when they did not carry out any anti-election campaign,” he said.

The Hurriyat had called for a boycott of the elections but did not actively discourage people from going to the polls which, according to India, saw a turnout of more than 40 per cent. Mr Geelani was in jail during the polls.

Indian police on Monday put both Mr Geelani and People’s Conference deputy chief Bilal Lone under house arrest, although the restrictions were lifted later in the day.

Molvi Ansari insisted he was still the Hurriyat chairman and noted that Mr Geelani was not receiving full support even from his own Jamaat-i-Islami party, which announced his retirement on Aug 20.

“He (Geelani) has driven a wedge in the Hurriyat for personal gains,” Molvi Ansari told AFP. “How can a partyless fellow lead an alliance of parties? He does not belong to any party,” Molvi Ansari said.

He said he had convened an emergency meeting of the Hurriyat’s executive council for Tuesday.

Of the seven executive members of the Hurriyat, only one has sided with Mr Geelani, with four supporting Molvi Ansari and two others remaining silent.

The Hurriyat has for months endured divisions between hardliners who vow no compromise with India and moderates who are pushing for talks.

The alliance includes some leaders who want occupied Kashmir to join Pakistan and some who believe the Valley should be independent.—AFP