Movers and Shakers of Kashmir – Part 3

Protagonists of Jammu and Kashmir Cauldron - Part 3


Protagonists of Jammu and Kashmir Cauldron - Part 3

Hurriyat: (Continued from Part 2)

Yasin Malik (1966 – )

Yasin Malik has been a hardline active militant who has now supposedly turned to non-violent means to achieve ‘Azadi’ for Kashmir, outside the influence of both India and Pakistan.

He founded the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) to take on the Indian authority through violent means. It was his group that organized the kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed days after Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, her father, took over as the Union Home Minister.

Yasin Malik happens to be the former colleague and friend of Syed Salahuddin, the founder and present Chief of Pakistan-based Hizb-ul- Mujahideen. He was wounded and captured by Indian security forces and has been imprisoned on several occasions. Although he has officially renounced violence, he continues to maintain a hardline policy towards the nation.

Must Read : Protagonists of Jammu and Kashmir Cauldron – Part 1

Abdul Ghani Bhat

Abdul Ghani Bhat was a Professor of Persian language and was teaching in the valley when, in 1986, he was dismissed from his job for arson against Kashmiri Pandits in the state and burning of temples. Having spent around nine months in jail, he founded the Muslim United Front (MUF), a party that put up Syed Salahuddin (formerly Mohammad Yusuf Shah) as its candidate from Amirkadal in Srinagar, in the controversial 1987 elections.

Bhat, today, is an active Hurriyat leader who has now turned moderate and pragmatic in his views and professes a peace settlement to the Kashmir issue. His earlier hold as a prominent separatist leader has been diluted by the likes of SAS Geelani, who has support from Pakistan.

Abdul Bhat continues to remain relevant but his influence amongst the masses has considerably reduced.

Must Read : Protagonists of Jammu and Kashmir Cauldron – Part 2

Shabir Shah (1953 – )

Shabir Shah became an activist for independence of Kashmir in 1968 when he was only 14, and since then he has been arrested on several occasions and has collectively spent a significant amount of time in various prisons and detention centres in J&K.

He founded the Jammu & Kashmir Democratic Freedom Party (JKDFP) and is its President. As part of the Hurriyat, he remains an active voice and continues to push for his Azadi agenda.

The terror groups operating in J&K

What was once non-armed militancy has now turned into full-scale terrorism in J&K. Most terror groups get finance, training, weapons and logistic support from the military establishment in Pakistan.


Hizb-ul-Mujahideen was formed in 1989 in the aftermath of the 1987 elections (which many claimed was rigged in favour of National Conference). It has since taken up the path of extreme violence and has been designated as a ‘terror’ organization by India, US and EU.

Its current chief, Syed Salahuddin operates out of Pakistan and is supported and financed by the ISI, the intelligence arm of the Pakistan Army. In the 90s, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen was seen as closer to ISI than JKLF and this resulted in factional clashes with the latter’s organisation head, Yasin Malik, who wanted to take a less violent path to attaining freedom from both India and Pakistan. The only reason that Hizb still enjoys Pakistani military support is that it is overtly in favour of aligning with Pakistan.

Hizb’s local commander in the Kashmir valley was Burhan Wani, who was killed by Indian security forces earlier this year, which triggered the present cycle of violence.

It must be stated here that Syed Salahuddin did stand for elections as candidate of the Muslim United Front (MUF) from Amirkadal constituency in the controversial elections in 1987. The early phase of the counting of votes indicated that he was winning by a landslide margin, but the final results declared the NC candidate as the winner. That outcome resulted in many MUF members to take the violent path and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen was born.

Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT)

LeT represents the best example of Pakistan’s duplicitous approach to terrorism. Though it is declared a ‘terror’ organization by India, US, UK, EU, Russia, Australia and even Pakistan, its political arm, the Jamaat-ud-Dawaa (JuD) continues to operate with full support of the Pakistani government and military establishment. Its founder Hafiz Sayeed, designated as a ‘terrorist’ by India and the US, with a bounty on his head, continues to enjoy full freedom and is operating out of Pakistan with impunity.

LeT has been behind several attacks in India, including the one on Mumbai in 2008. LeT cadres remain active as does its political arm, the JuD.

Role of the Pakistani establishment

Pakistan government

From the time of partition, Pakistan has found it difficult to accept Kashmir’s accession to India, especially J&K, which is an integral part of India. Post 1971 war, which led to the partition of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh, Pakistan had realized it could no longer afford to wage a full-scale war with India and has since pursued a policy of bleeding India with the proverbial ‘thousand cuts’.

Since 1947-48, when it took control of Gilgit and Baltistan areas of Kashmir, the people of the region have been brutally suppressed by the Punjabi-Pathan dominated Pakistani Army. Unlike in J&K, where there is tremendous development visible across the state, the P-O-K region has not witnessed any or very little development.

The problem with Pakistan is that its Army controls foreign policy, especially with India, and therefore any initiatives towards peace with India by the civilian establishment is discouraged and even condemned as being anti-people.

The present government, led by Nawaz Sharif, continues to be dictated by the nation’s Army, with little room to pursue a peace agenda on its own.

Pakistan Army and the ISI

Ever since Gen Ayub Khan took over the government in 1958 through a military coup, Pakistani Army has been the driver of most activity in the region; be it political, diplomatic, economic or military.

The Army is deeply entrenched in business, and its leadership has an established chain of sharing the economic spoils. The Pakistani Army, therefore, is in no mood to let go of that control in favour of a civilian establishment. This is the reason why the Army spends a significant percentage of its GDP on itself, using the perceived threat from India as an excuse.

With the Soviet Union invading Afghanistan in 1979, the CIA worked closely with the ISI to prop up the Mujahideen against the Soviet Army. The ISI played a vital role in raising, training, arming and providing logistic support to the Mujahideen, with finances flowing from the CIA. The Mujahideen later morphed into present-day Taliban and has now become an uncontrolled multi-headed hydra that is affecting Pakistan itself.

The ISI has since used these extreme fundamentalists into becoming armed cadres to take the fight into Kashmir. The local youth from the Indian side of the valley are drawn across the border for propaganda and armed training, and are then sent back to India to pursue the Pakistani agenda of hurting India with a ‘thousand cuts’.

As things stand, the Pakistani Army will not allow any peace initiatives with India. Also, with China recently announcing the $46 billion investment on CPEC and the fact that it is in the process of financing and arming Pakistan, the chances of any peace talks with India in the near future seems difficult.

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