Hurriyat sting has exposed Syed Ali Shah Geelani's abuse of Kashmir issue

Naeem Khan's suspension and news of rules being bent to aid the veteran separatist's kin have cost the latter's reputation.

 |  4-minute read |   21-05-2017
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In the wake of a sting operation by India Today that exposed the alleged Pakistani funding to separatists in Kashmir, pro-Pakistani hawk Syed Ali Geelani has suspended his colleague Naeem Khan from the basic membership of Hurriyat Conference-G.

While the sting operation shows Khan, who also heads the National Front, purportedly confessing to receiving funds from Pakistan in order to incite violence in the Valley, the veteran separatist leader has contested the authenticity of the video footage, terming it “doctored and fake.”

Interestingly, much like India Today, Geelani is unwilling to buy into Khan’s claims. The National Front and its chairman were suspended from both Kashmir and “Azad Kashmir” chapters of Hurriyat-G with immediate effect on May 20, within hours of Khan having given a “clarification” to media against the India Today expose.

But then Geelani’s plea to suspend Khan is contradictory, if not necessarily nonsensical.

In a statement, Geelani said Indian media is “biased and untrustworthy” and that the “baseless” sting operation is to mislead the international community and drag Pakistan into their “frivolous game”. If the report is “baseless” and “misleading”, what prevented Geelani from trusting Khan?

Well, the reason is simple. With the National Investigative Agency (NIA) having started a probe into the alleged Pakistani funding, Geelani has distanced himself from Khan in a bid to keep the NIA at bay, lest the noose tightens around the Hurriyat-G supremo and his family. Yes the Geelani family.

Call it nepotism or coincidence, but Geelani’s family has been a beneficiary of the unrests in Kashmir. After the mass agitation of 2010, during which 120 civilians were killed in the Valley, Geelani’s son Naeem Geelani permanently returned from Pakistan after spending 12 years in the country.

And there’s a bigger “coincidence”. During the peak of the 2016 uprising, exactly on the day when Geelani asked Kashmiri youth to make the Jamia Masjid Chalo protest call a success, his grandson Anees Ul Islam, son of Altaf Fantoosh (Geelani’s son- in-law and executive member of Hurriyat G) appeared for an interview for a government job, almost tailor-designed for him by the ruling Peoples' Democratic Party-led government.

In December 2016, Anees secretly joined Sher-e-Kashmir International Convection Complex (SKICC) as a Research Officer, at an annual salary of more than Rs 12 lakh and other incentives.

Anees’s recruitment would have remained a tightly-kept secret, but in March 2017, the Times of India exposed the muck. The news of rules being bent to recruit Geelani’s grandson spread like wildfire.

It was an almost-backdoor recruitment. Though, in a bid to shield Geelani, the government came out with statement that SKICC received 196 applications out of which 35 candidates were shortlisted, neither the list nor the names of those finally selected were ever made public.

Subsequent news reports about such nepotism revealed that government had kept Anees’ identity confidential at SKICC to the extent that he was introduced as a relative of late chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.

Amid startling revelations, many started questioning why Geelani sounded like a changed man since last winter. And there was plenty of circumstantial evidence to prove this.

On December 6, 2016, when the united Hurriyat was religiously issuing protest calendars, it also issued special handouts inviting tourists to Kashmir. Tourism amid protests? May be grandpa wanted normalcy restored on the boulevard, lest his dearest grandson faced inconvenience in reaching his palatial office on the banks of Dal.

But then, as already reported by a section of media, it had been an open secret that Geelani’s son-in- law, Altaf Fantoosh was allegedly close to the government through some middlemen like prominent businessman Mushtaq Chaya and secretary tourism Farooq Ahmed Shah, who chaired the committee that recruited Anees.

While Chaya would frequently visit Geelani’s residence, the Hurriyat started to mellow down protest programmes to be more tourism-friendly.

So if there were allegations that Fantoosh sought undue incentives from the government, why didn’t Geelani, a leader of “integrity”, ever bother to hold an inquiry?

If Naeem Khan has been suspended on mere allegations, Geelani’s grandson getting a job through bending of rules is a hard fact.

Do leaders believe seeking undue favours from the government of India in the name of the Kashmir issue is permissible, like “Maale Ghanimath”, while funding from Pakistan is forbidden fruit because NIA may tighten the noose?

Allegations of funding from both India and Pakistan are not new to Kashmir politics. Even former spymaster AS Dulat endorses it in his book Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years.

Geelani needs to break his silence, because apart from being a concerned father, a caring grandfather and a merciful father-in-law, he is unmistakably among the tallest leaders of Kashmir.

Also read: The ugly truth in expose of Kashmir's Hurriyat

Writer

Majid Hyderi Majid Hyderi @majidhyderi

The writer is a journalist based in Kashmir.

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