Hurriyat: The ISI’s
The Hurriyat Conference is an amalgam of several groups in Kashmir valley that advocate separatism. It claims to be a political entity that is the sole representative of the people of Jammu and Kashmir state of India. The top leaders of the Hurriyat are Abdul Ghani Lone, Abdul Ghani Bhat, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Geelani, Maulana Ansari, Yaseen Malik and Maulvi Abbas Ansari.
The Hurriyat was formed around 1993, by which it time it had become obvious that India would not militarily allow Pakistan’s proxy groups to succeed with violence. As a result of international attention on terror perpetrated by these groups and a threat by the US to brand it a terrorist state, Pakistan floated the Hurriyat Conference to change perceptions of its proxy war and claim it as an indigenous movement representing the entire state.
That the Hurriyat leaders are forsaken to Pakistan politically and financially has become amply clear over the years. Despite pressure from India and even the US, it has refused to participate in state elections. While the official reason given by Hurriyat is its insistence that polls are not free and fair, the truth is that both the Hurriyat leaders and their Pakistani handlers are less than confident about electoral prospects.
Throughout the past decade of its existence, the Hurriyat has proven its lack of representative character through its complete lack of support in Jammu and Ladakh. Its perpetual demand to be regarded as the sole representative of the people of the state belie its own insecurities as well as its own and Pakistan’s disregard for democracy.
Hurriyat leaders have repeatedly followed Pakistan’s line. Strikes and protests are regularly organized against every minor allegation of abuse by security forces, however, these same leaders keep silent over the daily acts of violence perpetrated by terrorists. Bhat has gone on record claiming that rapes committed by mujahideen are pardonable because they serve the cause of ‘freedom’. Geelani has persistently voiced his support to the Pakistani terrorists, while several of the other Hurriyat leaders maintain covert links to terrorists.
While the Hurriyat leaders have personal and conceptual differences on how to achieve secession from India, what is common among them is the monthly funding they receive from Pakistan. The ISI, its offspring the United Jehad Council and groups like Laskhar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed collect funds within Pakistan and from around the world for disbursement both to terrorists and the Hurriyat leadership.
Both legal and illegal channels are utilized, including the narcotics trade, which is prolific in Pakistan. Many of the illegal channels are based on the “hawala” system, which has in the aftermath of September 11 been identified as a major source of funds for international terrorism. The Hurriyat leadership is a major recipient of these hawala funds. The latest revelation was the arrest of two Hurriyat operatives carrying $100,000 last week on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. The money originated in Pakistan.
This was not the first instance of funds from Pakistan on the way to Hurriyat leaders and terrorist groups being intercepted. In 1999, another Hurriyat operative with links to the Pakistan High Commission was arrested with cash totaling $20,000 meant for Maulvi Omar Farooq. Over 1 million dollars is in fact sent to J&K from Pakistan per month, with a large proportion going to the Hurriyat, as documented in numerous media reports. Since the hawala channels do not use standard bank transactions to stay under the radar, the funds are carted in smaller amounts and stashed in safe houses across Kashmir valley, until they can be disbursed to the recipients.
The unsavory relationship between the Hurriyat leaders, terrorists and ISI funds has come into the open when differences between the various parties. Abdul Ghani Lone, a so-called moderate member of the top Hurriyat hierarchy, is well known to be connected to the Al Barq terrorist organization, which is a member of the United Jehad Council along with the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Hizbul Mujahideen groups. Lone had a public falling out with members of the Al Barq in October 2000, when they accused him of siphoning $ 1 million meant for terrorists for his own personal use. Syed Ali Geelani has had similar threats from the Hizbul Mujahideen for misappropriating millions sent by the ISI.
It is no surprise that the Hurriyat leadership has done pretty well in the past decade as far as its own living standards are concerned. Abdul Ghani Bhat lives in a palatial house in Srinagar, despite having lowly origins as a university professor. Lone also owns a palatial home in Srinagar, apart from numerous apartments in choice New Delhi location. Geelani owns three palatial houses in Kashmir, apart from orchards in Sopore. Ansari, a Shia leader, gets funds from Iran apart from the ISI, and also has palatial accomodations in Srinagar.
Thus Pakistan’s benevolence has brought great wealth to these Hurriyat leaders who project themselves as the sole political and moral voice of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. These corrupt leaders, who are reported to steal money even from the terrorists they champion, are simply willing proxies in Pakistan’s diabolic game that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands and has destabilized the subcontinent. Both the Indian government as well as western diplomats need to understand this and accord the Hurriyat leadership a level of importance proportionate to these facts. The analogy of a corrupt, criminal and unrepresentative PLO which does not represent the aspirations of the Palestinian people is worth considering and due treatment be accorded to Hurriyat.