• Ceasefire should not be seen as victory or defeat but opportunity to end bloodshed
• Hizb lost a big opportunity in 2000 ceasefire
Former operational commander of Hizbul Mujahideen Zafar Akbar Bhat alias Zafar Abdul Fatah Monday said the ceasefire should not be seen as a victory or defeat of any party.
Bhat, who was a top Hizb commander when the ceasefire between militants and New Delhi in July 2000 came into effect, said ceasefire is the only possible way to resume dialogue to end bloodshed and give peace a chance.
On Wednesday last, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti after a spurt in civilian and militant killings in the Valley convened an All Party Meeting during which the participants appealed Government of India to announce unilateral ceasefire during the holy month of Ramadan and ensuing Amarnath yatra.
In an interview with Rising Kashmir at his Bagh-e-Mehtab residence where he has been put under house arrest, Bhat said in 2000, Hizb lost a big opportunity when the ceasefire ended only after 15 days.
Bhat, who was close associate of then Hizb commander-in-chief Abdul Majid Dar, said when they (Hizb) announced ceasefire, it was done after a proper groundwork.
“All the parties were taken on board,” he said and refused to divulge the process of groundwork done about ceasefire in both India and Pakistan.
“When we announced ceasefire, it was responded in Islamabad, Pakistan in positive manner by Hizb Supreme Commander and UJC chief Syed Salahuddin. On next day, the Government of India also responded positively,” he said.
Bhat said they did the ground work for the ceasefire and met all Hurriyat leaders of that time. “But later, Hurriyat leaders termed it ‘hasty and half-broken step’. We were surprised.”
He said the ceasefire failed only after 15 days as anti-peace forces and other vested interests tried their best to break the ceasefire.
Asked whether Hizb can repeat what it did in 2000, Bhat said, “Now I am not part of Hizb. It is up to the Hizb commanders to take the call. Today’s militant commanders are highly educated. I think they can take a better call. I am a Hurriyat leader now”.
Bhat now heads Jammu and Kashmir Salvation Movement.
Asked how he sees Hurriyat now and then, Bhat said “We have no space now. We are under house arrest and some are in jails. Hurriyat was too strong in 2000. The envoys would visit Hurriyat leaders and talk to them. Today, none is approaching the Hurriyat”.
Alleging that Kashmir has been turned into a military zone, he said human rights are muzzled. “However, Hurriyat has failed to invite the global attention so has the Kashmiri diaspora”.
Bhat admitted that Hurriyat made mistakes from time to time. “We couldn’t reach out to Indian Civil Society. We couldn’t mobilize them”.
Asserting that there is still scope for a successful ceasefire, he said, “You have to do groundwork and bring all the parties and other agencies on board to make ceasefire a success”.
“The ceasefire should not be seen as a victory or defeat for any party. It (ceasefire) will save lives of people and give peace a chance,” he said.
According to him, by proposing a ceasefire, India recognized Hizb as a party to Kashmir dispute in 2000. “Now they can’t say Hizb is a terrorist organization.”
On first night of ceasefire in July 2000, Bhat said, Army killed Hizb’s District Commander Budgam Molvi Feroz and Army Corps Commander in Srinagar apologized and said that it was a case of “mistaken identity”.
He said army mistook Molvi Feroz as timber smuggler.
“Soon after ceasefire came into effect, a journalist had asked the army officer whether it was out of fear that Hizb had announced the ceasefire and the officer had replied in negative and said Hizb is a local outfit and have families here and they took this move to provide relief to the affected families,” said Bhat, who was active in militant ranks for some 13 years, before he announced his decision to join politics to fight for peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue.
He said when they proposed ceasefire, they did not shun the gun but ceased the fire.
“I remember when we met then Indian Home Secretary, Kamal Pande, we told him we have not come here to cut grass but to solve Kashmir. We had put a condition that since we were holding guns but ceased the fire, we should be treated as a de facto force (Kashmir Liberation Army)”, the former Hizb commander said.
JRL not substitute to Hurriyat Conference
Bhat opined that Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik can never be substitute to Hurriyat Conference, which was formed in 1993.
“We may love these leaders but JRL can never be a substitute to Hurriyat. Hurriyat is a body accepted worldwide. It has a proper system -- a general council, executive council and proper consultative bodies. Everybody knows that JRL can’t fill the space of Hurriyat,” he said.