With his long beard, prominent nose and ever-present beret, the supreme commander of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen has been a familiar figure since the terrorism in Kashmir started. Born Syed Mohammed Yusuf Shah, he took the name Salahuddin after the medieval Kurdish warrior who fought in the Crusades. Hizb-ul-Mujahadeen founder and chief, Salahuddin is based in Pakistan.
Until 1987, he was a little known pro-Pakistan ideologue-political activist who swore by the Indian Constitution, not once but thrice. He unsuccessfully contested Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections as a Jammat-e-Islami candidate. Back then he was known as Yousaf Shah. Today, this failed Kashmiri politician holds all the guns as Supreme Commander of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, a dreaded terrorist outfit that evokes fear among the violence-weary people of Kashmir. 55-year-old Salahuddin is now a father figure, reverentially called Peer Sahib, among the terrorists rank and file.
After 12 years of operating in the region, there are reports of schisms in the Hizb-ul- Mujahideen ranks. The differences came to a front in Nov. 2001 when Salahuddin called an extraordinary meeting of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen functionaries to denounce moves by a faction leader who had earlier publicly expressed a desire to consider a ceasefire with the Indian authorities. Salahuddin denounced the declaration and the factional leader, Abdul Majid Dar, was kicked out of the Hizbul ranks.
Abdul Majid Dar
Formerly Hizb-ul-Mujahadeen (HM) operational commander in Jammu & Kashmir (until October 2001), Dar gained a name for himself with the cease-fire announcement by HM in August 2000. While the cease-fire soon fell through, Dar was seen as an important terrorist leader by both the Indians and Pakistanis. He comes from the Islamist town of Sopore, in the north of the Kashmir Valley, and ran a dry cleaning store before joining the terrorist outfit. As a Valley commander, born and bred, Dar is perhaps more in touch with what the terrorist cadre and civilian population think about the changing situation on the ground. Dar does want Kashmir to be a part of Pakistan. Dar was viewed as an intelligent moderate with a strong base in the south of the Kashmir Valley. It is difficult to estimate how much support Dar enjoys from HM commanders, but sources in the Valley argue it has declined steeply as he appears to be living under Indian protection