KARACHI: The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) organised a webinar on the passing of Syed Ali Shah Geelani and the future of the Kashmiri struggle on Wednesday.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani passed away on September 1.

“A popular leader of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Pakistan, he was an icon of the Kashmiri struggle. He wanted Kashmir to become part of Pakistan. He was awarded Nishan-i-Pakistan by the government of Pakistan,” said PIIA chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan.

Sardar Masood Khan, former president, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, spoke about the legacy of Syed Ali Shah Geelani. “His funeral was very symbolic because it told you all about the Kashmiri movement and fear of Kashmiri leaders in Indian-occupied Kashmir. You have this 92-year-old leader who dies and the Indian government is so afraid of him that they bury him clandestinely. The Kashmiri people wanted him buried in the martyrs’ graveyard there but it was denied to him as government forces confiscated his body which had been draped with a Pakistan flag by his family,” he said.

“Following what happened, writer Mirza Waheed has provided a sharp comparison of Geelani and Sheikh Abdullah who had gone into agreement with the Indian government. Abdullah’s grave is guarded to keep it from being attacked by the people of Kashmir who were enslaved as a result of his actions. And there is Geelani’s grave, which is guarded for reasons that are the opposite of that. The government doesn’t want them to flock there to pay tribute to their hero,” he said.

“So afraid is the Indian government of the majority of Kashmiris who hate India that they are transplanting people from other parts of India and giving them domiciles and the right to buy land there in order to change the demographics of Kashmir,” he said.

“Geelani devoted his life to the people of Kashmir and the Kashmir cause. He never abandoned his stand like the Maharaja of Kashmir and Sheikh Abdullah who hoodwinked the Kashmiris and compromised. He was instrumental in bringing up the group of people to which Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also belong. He said that the people of Kashmir have the right to self-determination, for Geelani was a consensus builder. His kind of clarity, conviction and sense of direction you won’t see now,” he said.

“He was a pro-Pakistan leader, an ideologue who was never confused. He believed in the ideology of Pakistan and the two-nation theory even though he did not live in Pakistan. I salute him for giving a slogan ‘Hum Pakistani hain, Pakistan hamara hai’ to the Kashmiri youth. He leaves behind a legacy and a vacuum,” he said.

Afzal Khan, member of the House of Commons, UK said that Geelani stood out for his consistency of thought and steadfastness. “He stood out for his struggle, for his love and commitment to Pakistan, which was evident from his wish to be draped in the Pakistani flag after his death,” he said.

“Just hours after his death, police and paramilitary forces set up check-posts and blocked phone service as his body was taken away from his family. This kind of action says a lot about India,” he said.

Speaking about what is going on in the UK as regards Kashmir, he said that Kashmir is on the high priority list of British Muslims. “The roots of conflict lie in Britain’s colonial past. The UK should help facilitate dialogue between India and Pakistan and also urge India to cooperate with the United Nations. The UN resolution is already there and agreed upon. We need to push for its implementation,” he said.

‘Entire villages’ women are raped’

Naseema Wani, former member of the Legislative Assembly, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, spoke about the struggle of Kashmiri women.

“I originally belong to the India-occupied side of Kashmir. I migrated to this side as a child,” she said.

“The suffering on that side never stops. It is continuous. We are seeing the fifth generation suffer now. And in any conflict zone, women are the worst target. Women are also targeted to break the spirit of the freedom fighters. They are physically abused. There are full villages where the women are raped.

“Kashmiri women have also sacrificed their sons and daughters and their husbands. Many don’t even know if their husbands, taken away years ago, are even alive. They are known as half widows.

“They suffer politically, too, like Asiya Andrabi and Mushaal Malik. These women lead from the front. Today even schoolgirls in India-occupied Kashmir have picked up stones along with their school bags. They are all fighters. Their sacrifices will not go wasted,” she concluded.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2021

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