The truth, they say, will out. Sometimes it takes time. The admission by Professor Abdul Gani Bhat, a key member of the original Hurriyat, that the gunmen who had assassinated top leaders such as Mirwaiz Muhammad Farooq, People’s Conference and Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Lone and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) ideologue Abdul Ahad Wani, had been killed “by our own people” and not the Indian security forces is part of the painful process through which Kashmiri separatist leaders are coming to terms with the turbulent history of their own movement.
He did not say it, but the subtext of his statement was clear.
All these leaders had sought to move on a course that was different from the one that was being set by the puppet masters in Islamabad, who thought they were running the Kashmir movement.
There has never been much doubt in the minds of the Indian security establishment that they had been assassinated on the orders of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate of the Pakistan Army, notoriously known as the ISI.
It is significant that Professor Bhat made his remarks at a JKLF-organised seminar. Notwithstanding its initial role in triggering the Kashmiri militancy, the JKLF represented the secular edge of the separatist aspirations of the Valley Kashmiris.
Not only was it targeted by the Indian security forces, it was also hounded by the ISI. There are good reasons to believe that many JKLF leaders were betrayed to the Indian security forces by the ISI and in Pakistan. Leaders such as Amanullah Khan and Javed Ahmed Mir recorded the ill-treatment they suffered on account of their insistence that they were for an independent Kashmir, rather than one which merged with Pakistan.
The reason why each of these figures were assassinated was that the ISI feared that they would strike a deal with New Delhi. This has been a pattern that has not altered.
Even people like the current Mirwaiz, Umar Farooq, who knows that the ISI was involved in his father’s killing, exercise abundant caution in keeping their bridges with Islamabad open.
In fact, between 2004 and 2007, when India and Pakistan were close to settling the Kashmir issue, the Mirwaiz developed a close relationship with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. Indeed, so cruel are the compulsions that Abdul Ghani Lone’s funeral procession was accompanied with pro-Pakistan slogans.
The ability of the ISI to eliminate separatist leaders remains unchecked. Though Indian security forces guard even people such as Syed Ali Shah Geelani, an assassination can be arranged almost at will. Lone, for example, was gunned down at a memorial function for Mirwaiz Muhammad Farooq when the police believed that no one would be heartless enough to strike.
Kashmir’s tragedy is not that Pakistan alone is responsible for all the assassinations. The many groups there have been involved in killing each other — Qazi Nisar, the Mirwaiz of South Kashmir was killed by the Hizbul Mujahideen in 1994.
They may have also been responsible for the killing of Dr Abdul Ahad Guru in 1992. Dr Guru was a leading physician in Srinagar and a JKLF leader, who was talking to Indian officials and ministers like Rajesh Pilot at the time of his assassination.
No doubt, the Indian security establishment has also used the instrument of assassination in the Valley.
In the main, they have used the instrumentality of former militants, or Ikhwanis. In great measure such killings belong to the past. In recent years there have been no significant assassination of a top-ranking leader.
Nevertheless, there should not be any doubt that all sides retain the capacity of eliminating anyone they choose to target.
Mail Today January 3, 2011