SRINAGAR/DELHI: Ahead of Hurriyat leaders’ scheduled meeting with Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz in the national capital, authorities on Thursday placed curbs on the movement of the separatist leaders only to lift them within two hours reportedly after the intervention of PDP president Mehbooba Mufti.
While Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Geelani was already under house arrest, moderate separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Shabir Ahmad Shah, Maulana Abbas Ansari, Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, Nayeem Khan and Ayaz Akbar were briefly detained by police at their houses here in the morning. The police also arrested and released JKLF chairman Yasin Malik along with his aide Showkat Ahmad Bakshi.
The official line in Delhi was that the arrest and the subsequent release were part of a deliberate tactic.
“This is a signal. A signal that we are serious about stopping the Hurriyat from meeting Pakistan visitors,” said a source, though there was no official statement from the government.
A section within the government was, however, not happy with this strategy. They were of the view that if India wanted terror to be the only focus of the NSA-level talks, the Hurriyat leaders’ arrest should have been avoided, as it puts the spotlight on Kashmir, which is exactly what Islamabad wants.
Pakistan has claimed that all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, will be part of the NSA talks, while India says that as per the Ufa meeting, only terrorism is on the agenda.
Sources in Srinagar said Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed had ordered the release of the separatists after his daughter Mehbooba persuaded him that the detention of Hurriyat leaders would suggest that the PDP-led Government wanted to scupper the NSA-level talks.
Meanwhile, Geelani’s spokesman Ayaz Akbar said the arrest and release were aimed at preventing the separatists from meeting the Pakistani NSA.
“We will go ahead with our scheduled programme and won’t cave in to any pressure,” he said.
And National Conference leader Omar Abdullah slammed the government over the detention episode.
“Shame on Mufti Sayeed for arresting on demand. He had no business following his masters orders & detaining the Hurriyat leaders like this,” Omar tweeted.
“J&K governments in the past had never detained Hurriyat leaders to prevent them from visiting the Pakistan High Commission.
“I’ve never seen an Indo-Pak dialogue where both sides are so keen to sabotage it. India & Pak competing to give reasons to call off talks.
“It’s so obvious that Ufa & now these planned NSA talks are under international pressure with both India & Pak hoping the other will pull out,” the former Chief Minister further tweeted.
Later in the day, Yasin Malik decided to skip Delhi and instead send two JKLF office-bearers.
However, Malik did not give any reason for not going to Delhi and attend the reception of the Pakistan high commissioner’s reception for Sartaj Aziz on Sunday evening.