Incarceration for What?

Written by Anees Jillani  •  Analysis  •  April 2013 PDF Print E-mail

On the morning of February 9, 2013, Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged in the Tihar Jail of New Delhi and subsequently buried inside. His hanging was carried out only two days before the 29th death anniversary of Maqbool Butt, who was also hanged in the same jail on February 11, 1984.

Maqbool Butt was a founding member of the JKLF (Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front), along with Amanullah Khan. JKLF is now headed by Yasin Malik who originally came into prominence as a militant fighting for Kashmir’s independence. He was arrested at the start of the militant movement in Kashmir during a police encounter and was incarcerated for six years during which he was severely tortured; the prime reason for his ill-health till date.

Upon his release in 1994 on grounds of ill-health, Yasin Malik renounced violence, announced a unilateral ceasefire and steadfastly stood for a peaceful method to settle the Kashmir conflict. He supports the return of Kashmiri Hindus back to their homeland and is perhaps the only leader belonging to the APHC (All Pakistan Hurriyat Conference) who stands for secularism.

Despite his whole-hearted support for a non-violent solution of the Kashmir imbroglio, since his release in 1994 he has spent prolonged periods of time either in jail or under house arrest, mostly on preventive grounds. This goes to show the insecurity of the Indian State and the step-motherly treatment that the Kashmiri Muslims have continuously been facing since 1947.

It is not easy for any Kashmiri Muslim to obtain a passport and it is difficult if not impossible for a prominent leader to do so. Yasin however, was eventually permitted to go to the United States for medical treatment as his condition was deteriorating. He frequently visited Pakistan, to meet politicians and achieve a consensus on the Kashmir issue. In February 2009, he fell in love with a Pakistani girl, Mishal. Inevitably, his visits to Pakistan became more frequent as Mishal was unable to get a visa to Kashmir for an extended period.

Yasin Malik was visiting Pakistan for the first time after the birth of his daughter when Afzal Guru was hanged. Hardly anybody took notice and the Government of Pakistan’s silence was noticeable although understandable as Guru was accused of involvement in a terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001. However, even the media did not give it due prominence and politicians remained mum on the subject.

Yasin Malik chose to go on a 24 hour hunger strike in front of the Press Club in Islamabad. Everybody concerned with the state of affairs in Indian occupied Kashmir as well politicians, including the Prime Minister of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, visited Yasin Malik at the hunger strike camp.

As luck would have it, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Amir of Jamaat-ud-Dawah, accused by India of being the mastermind of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, also visited Yasin at the camp, sat with him for half an hour, and made a speech. Suddenly, Afzal Guru’s hanging went into the background and the Indian media vehemently accused Malik of collaborating with terrorist Hafiz Saeed. Calls for his arrest and demands for the cancellation of his passport were instantly raised.

On March 9, Malik was attacked at the Delhi airport by RSS hooligans and was detained upon his return to Srinagar for an indefinite period. The Home Minister recently announced that Malik’s passport could be cancelled at any appropriate time. It is certainly a shame that an innocent human being can be made a center of ulterior motives from political factions. 

Anees Jillani is an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and a member of the Washington, DC Bar. He has been writing for various publications for more than 20 years and has authored several books.

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