The unanticipated resignation of hardline Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani a few days back as “chairperson for life” of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) has opened a can of worms for the pro-Pakistan organisation as questions are now being raised within the APHC about a medical seat racket in Pakistan managed by few members of Hurriyat, reports Indian Express.
In his resignation letter, the 90-year-old former Hurriyat leader had accused Hurriyat representatives of corruption and cosying up to power structures in Pakistan. Interestingly, the recent allegations against few members of Hurriyat come from Geelani, who himself was considered as the face of Pakistan in the Kashmir valley.
Geelani’s reference to an “internal investigation” is linked to this issue of Hurriyat leaders running a racket in Kashmir pertaining to the allocation of medical seats for Kashmiri students in various cities of Pakistan.
For more than 20 years now, Pakistan has offered free seats to Kashmiri students wanting to study medicine and engineering. The Kashmiri students who failed to get admission in colleges in India, would go to Pakistan, where seats were reserved for them in colleges in PoK, Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore. The seats were fully sponsored by the Pakistan government, which used the Hurriyat, on both sides, to decide the seat allocation for these students.
Reportedly, Pakistan has a policy to reserve seats for Kashmiris, who have connections to terrorists and separatists fighting against Indian security forces. They get admission to MBBS, BDS, Engineering, graduation, post-graduation and other streams on Pakistani government institutions. The Pakistan government has reserved at least 6% of medical seats in its medical colleges for Kashmiri students.
It is important to note that several Kashmiri students studying in Pakistan had tried returning back to India from Wagah following the outbreak of coronavirus in Pakistan. More than 400 students from Kashmir who have been studying in various universities of Pakistan had stuck at Wagah, who were then brought back to Amritsar.
Hurriyat members sold seats
Two years back, Abdullah Geelani, a Kashmiri and a Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist, who once lived in Pakistan, had accused Ghulam Mustafa Safi, then convenor of the Muzaffarabad chapter of the APHC of ‘selling’ these seats in Kashmir.
Abdullah Geelani is the younger brother of the late Delhi University teacher SAR Geelani who was acquitted of involvement in the 2001 Jaish attack on Parliament. It is an open secret in Kashmir that Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the two faces of APHC, lobbied hard to get as many as seats to sell it to the students of Kashmir.
The grand-daughters of Geelani too had studied medicine in Pakistan, However, he stopped recommending names for the seats after allegations of racketeering surfaced.
The National Investigation Agency had even carried out an investigation into the seat racket, for which several Kashmiris are accused and are currently in Tihar Jail. In its charge-sheet, the National Investigation Agency had stated that the Pakistani authorities had offered educational scholarships to the students, relatives of terrorists, to pursue courses in educational institutions.
It is also believed that Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI and terrorist organisation Hizbul Mujahideen was behind offering admissions to children of terrorists operating in India in Pakistan’s medical and engineering college. The ISI and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin had joined hands to offer scholarship schemes for children of terrorists who died fighting against India.
Meanwhile, Ghulam Mustafa Safi refuted these charges and said that these were mere allegations. “These allegations are fake, they have been made in a letter, there is no proof. Allegations of NIA remain as allegations until proven and substantiated by documentary proof,” he said while speaking to Indian Express.
The medical seats racket had already set off a storm in the Hurriyat, resulting in Geelani sacking Safi at the end of 2018 and then appointed Abdullah Geelani as convenor in January 2019.
Internal rift within the Hurriyat conference over allegations of corruption
However, Abdullah Geelani’s convenorship also mired with controversies as he was not popular among the other Hurriyat leaders in PoK and most importantly, with the Pakistan establishment.
With backing from Geelani Senior, Abdullah initiated enquiries against Safi. Safi, who has a backing of the Pakistan establishment, remained a parallel power centre.
In his resignation letter, Geelani Senior referred to all these allegations to allege that “when investigations were launched by the party to circumvent the process of transparency and accountability…your representatives started non-cooperating with the convenor…”
Meanwhile, Safi has rejected the allegations of his involvement in medical seat racket was the reason for his exit as convenor of the Hurriyat’s PoK chapter. “There are no differences between us,” he said, however adding that as he is the representative in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat which is not part of APHC, he was not bound by the leadership of the APHC.
Safi also said he owes his allegiance only to Ashraf Sehrai, leader of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat in Kashmir. Sehrai, whose terrorist son was recently killed in an encounter, is a serious contender to the post of Hurriyat after Geelani’s resignation, despite Geelani’s naming of Abdullah as heir.
Incidentally, Abdullah has become a vocal voice against the Pakistan establishment for not doing enough to protest against India moves.
Hizbul-Mujahideen Chief Salahuddin sidelined by Pakistan
Even Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin has questioned the silence of the Pakistan establishment. Salahuddin had even questioned how some leaders in Kashmir had escaped detention while others did not. Geelani’s resignation letter had raised these concerns.
According to the Indian security establishment, Salahuddin has been sidelined for months now and ISI had built a new Kashmir terrorist outfit – ‘The Resistance Front’, made of globally designated Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Toiba, which is a snub to the Hizb.
Meanwhile, other faction of Hurriyat in Srinagar have questioned the seriousness of Geelani’s resignation letter alleging that he is in a state of advanced dementia, to claim the letter is a fabrication by Abdullah.
“He has been made completely inaccessible. The security around his house (Geelani is under house detention) does not allow any of us to meet him and his access to the telephone has been cut off by people who don’t want us to talk to him,” said a Hurriyat leader in Srinagar, who did not wish to be named.
Echoing the same, the Hurriyat in PoK has also alleged that Abdullah had foisted himself on the elder Geelani and claimed that Geelani’s son Dr Nayeem had “managed” to make Abdullah the convenor in 2019.
However, Abdullah rejected the allegations to state, “Geelani sahib, as he has said in his audio message, has written a letter to the Hurriyat constituents. We did not leak that letter so we can’t deny or confirm the letter that is making rounds of the social media”.
“In 2018, when Geelani sahib removed Safi sahib, this propaganda about me and Nayeem Geelani continued for one of two months. That was laid to rest when Geelani sahib called me during a (Hurriyat) meeting and informed everyone that I am his representative He also said the apprehensions about Geelani’s health were not true and claimed he spoke to him every alternate day…for five, ten minutes,” said Abdullah.
Nayeem Geelani, who lives with his father in Srinagar, clarified that his father has a nominated representative Abdullah Geelani. When asked why his father was not available to telephone calls, Nayeem said it was his father’s decision. “He has not been talking to media for two years now. He has himself said that he will not talk to media directly,” Nayeem added.