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The All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) is today a house in disarray. Its countless leaders-in fact it has more leaders than followers-are busy pulling each other down for reasons that have nothing to do with the welfare of the Kashmiri people.

It is fast becoming a forum for self-serving politicians unwilling to stand public scrutiny and interested only in protecting their tiny turfs within Srinagar. This is one of the reasons why the Hurriyat leaders, in their collective wisdom, have decided to boycott the State Assembly elections scheduled later this year. With only a few months left for polling, even this unity is already showing fissures, and divisions within this rag-tag organisation are becoming deeper and more obvious.

The latest instance is the surprisingly strong reaction within the organisation to one of its more vociferous members, Syed Ali Shah Geelani's continuous propagation of violence to achieve freedom for Kashmir. Geelani is a former Hurriyat chairman and is known for harbouring militant views on the Kashmir problem. He advocates cessation from the Indian Union through violent means. His talk of jihad and azadi once attracted a large following in the Valley and outside the country, but over the years his voice has lost much of its authority. Geelani is today seen as an old soldier, brandishing his rusted sword solely to attract public attention and whatever contribution he can garner for his existence as a self-appointed Kashmiri leader. Even then, the hurried manner in which his organisation, the Jamat-e-Islami, convened a meeting of its top leaders to distance itself from Geelani's statement on jihad in Kashmir betrays the changing equations within the Hurriyat. The Jamat is an influential constituent of the Hurriyat and often has a decisive voice in matters concerning Kashmir. Geelani's isolation has to be read with two recent statements made by other senior Hurriyat leaders, the more significant of which is the one by former Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq. Farooq, as quoted in a US weekly magazine, called the Pakistani militant groups "virtual thieves using the Kashmir conflict to solicit funds, of which almost nothing is passed on to the people". Earlier, it was another senior Hurriyat leader, Abdul Gani Lone, who said that foreign mercenaries had no role to play in Kashmir.

Both these voices of sanity, emanating from an organisation which only recently was seen as a strong proponent of militancy, raise hopes of the possibility of a peaceful settlement to the vexed kashmir problem. They mark a clear disenchantment with the path of violence propagated by Islamabad through bit-part leaders like Geelani. This could very well mean that the Hurriyat may, in the coming days, change its decision to boycott the Assembly elections, reducing to naught the desperate attempts by Pakistan to foment trouble on their eve. There appears, therefore, a whiff of hope in the air. Those entrusted with the responsibility of resolving the 13-year long impasse should shed past reservations and call for an immediate meeting of involved parties to sort out differences and remove suspicions in the interest of peace and stability in the region.
Published in DailyPioneer