In 2000, Pir sahib was contacted by the US administration through an American messenger, Mansoor Ejaz. His first meeting with Ejaz was set up by former ISI operator Khalid Khawaja. ,According to Pir sahib, Ejaz delivered him a message from the Clinton administration.”
Last Week ahead of the meeting of US President, Donald Trump with Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in US, the state department of United States designated United Jihad Council, chairman and Hizbul Mujahideen, supreme commander, Syed Salahudin as a global terrorist.
This news came as a surprise not only to the people of Kashmir but also to Pakistani government, however, for Indian leadership it was a diplomatic victory as for the first time United States had declared leader of an indigenous militant outfit as a global terrorist. While India welcomed the decision ahead and termed it as its victory, the separatist leadership including Hurriyat Conference termed the decision of US designating Syed Salahudin as global terrorist as unfortunate as it was the first time when the US had declared any Kashmiri leader as global terrorist. Even Salahudin after his name being designated as global terrorist said that this decision will have no effect on him and he will continue to strive for the freedom struggle of the Kashmir. Salahudin, is a former politician who contested elections from Amira Kadal constituency in 1987, however, then known as Mohammad Yusuf Shah, he contested elections on the ticket of Muslim United Front (MUF), however, the elections were rigged, despite winning the seat, Shah’s opponent, Mohiudin Shah, a close relative of Farooq Abdullah was declared elected from the seat. Even the polling agents of Shah were arrested and beaten in the police custody for raising their voice against the election fraud. Losing faith on the Indian democracy, Yosuf Shah became, Syed Salahudin and crossed the Line of Control. Known as Pir Sahib, he has been on India’s most wanted list for a long time.
Being the chairman of the United Jihad Council (UJC) – an umbrella group of militant outfits operating in Jammu and Kashmir, Salahudin is most powerful commander based in Pakistan and is also considered as the face of militancy in the J&K and PAK. Salahudin unlike other militant groups like Jaish and LET has mostly confined his issues and statements limited towards Kashmir and India and he has seldom made any statements or remarks on the global jihad. Recently, he even asked the people of Kashmir to stay away from the influence of global terror outfits like the Islamic State. On the ground though Salahudin being declared as global terrorist will have no impact as he operates from Pakistan and is fully supported by the Pakistani establishment and political parties, however, his declaration as global terrorists speaks volumes about the efforts of Indian diplomacy and failure of the Pakistani foreign policy makers. The India has been able to convince the US leadership that Salahudin is a threat and Kashmir is not a political struggle despite the dispute is in United States. Though the adversaries of the India claim that this has been done by the US to grab orders from India, however, it is a sort of a failure even of fighting for 28 years and losing one lakh lives Kashmiri’s have not been able to garner support for its freedom struggle and on the other hand India has managed to give Kashmir struggle a different color.
Though Salahudin is the supreme commander of Hizb and even last week issued a detailed program on the first death anniversary of Hizb commander Burhan Wani there is little coordination between the Pakistan-based Hizb leadership and the militants in who are operating the different parts of the Valley and the leadership in Pakistan or Muzuffarabad has no or little control over the militants on ground. Even for Hurriyat conference that has been spearheading the ongoing struggle, the US decision has complicated the situation, though all the separatist leaders have been saying that it will have no adverse effect on the Kashmir movement, but the separatist leadership who have been pinning hopes of US and other Western nations for putting pressure on the India, after the decision situation could be precarious.
For the first time after being designated as global terrorist, Salahudin held a grand show of strength in Muzuffarabad where he criticized the US decision as an “idiotic” decision. In PAK, he received rousing reception and at many places people showered rose petals on his vehicle and he waved towards them by showing victory sign.
The Hizbul chief said that the Donald Trump administration has taken this move to “please and satisfy” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “without any reasoning and grounds”.
“We have slapped this idiotic step back on the face of both leaders to make the world understand that this foolishness can neither weaken our resolve, nor stop the freedom struggle and the target-oriented actions by the freedom fighters,” he said at the press conference.
“Wars are fought with courage and spirit that makes you use even a stone as an atomic bomb,” he said, referring to the stone pelting by youths in Jammu and Kashmir. Salahudin said that the US and India could not quote a single incident to prove that the Kashmiri freedom fighters were terrorists. “This decision will cast no effect on our determination. Rather it has already strengthened our resolve.”
Salahuddin claimed that even the American laws themselves did not support Trump administration’s decision. “It does not meet a single of the conditions for designating anyone as a global terrorist,” he said adding that this is a challenge from Syed Salahuddin.
“You cannot quote a single example, which can be defined as an act of terrorism which I have myself committed or ordered to be committed during the last 27 years of the uprising.”
Salahuddin also claimed that Kashmiri militants did possess the ability to hit Indian interests anywhere in India, but “we exercised restraint, so that India does not get an opportunity to gain favour of the international community and brand our legitimate and lawful struggle as terrorism.”
However, the intelligentsia believes that the Trumps decision of declaring Salahudin as global terrorist is a step towards US’s mediation in Kashmir.
Pakistan noted journalist, Hamid Mir in an article said that by designating Salahudin as global terrorist, the US is mediating in Kashmir.
‘’It was like an Eid gift from US president Donald Trump to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. The Muslims of the sub-continent were celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr on the night of June 26, when the US administration, in a surprise announcement, declared Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Moments later, Trump would meet Modi in Washington.
The Indian media highlighted this announcement as a “big win for India.” The Pakistani media termed it “an unjustified act of the Trump administration to please Modi.” The foreign ministries were silent that night, but the media battle between the two, especially between TV channels, was so jingoistic that it was much worse than the diplomatic name-calling between officials,’’ said Mir in his article that was published in The Indian Express the day after the announcement.
“Question is, why is Syed Salahuddin considered a “terrorist” by many Indians and a “freedom fighter” by a majority of Pakistanis? Perception is not always reality, but it is often more important than reality. The tension between India and Pakistan is often exaggerated because of this confusion between fact and opinion.
India needs to understand that the manner in which Syed Salahuddin is perceived in Pakistan is different from how Lashkar-e-Toiba founder Hafiz Saeed and Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar are seen. Many Pakistanis don’t like Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar’s “interference” in Jammu & Kashmir because they are not Kashmiris. But their view about Syed Salahuddin is entirely different. They think he is a well-educated Kashmiri from Srinagar who was forced to pick up the gun after the rigged election in Jammu & Kashmir in 1987.”’
Mir in his article further said that after crossing the border into Afghanistan, Pir sahib went to Khost area and joined the Al Badar training camp, which was once established by Hizb-e-Islami Chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. “Initially HM cadres were trained not in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir but in the Al-Badar camp in Afghanistan, where militants learnt their trade on weapons supplied by the US to fight the former Soviet Army.
Pir sahib became the HM’s Chief Commander in 1991.One cannot deny the fact that Hekmatyar developed differences with the Pakistani establishment when prime minister Benazir Bhutto started supporting the Taliban movement in 1995. Both Hizb-e-Islami and HM had close links with Jamiat-i-Islami (JI) in Pakistan, and JI was a close ally of Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif those days.”’
Hamid Mir further writes that it is interesting to see how the wheel of history has come full circle. “In 2000, Pir sahib was contacted by the US administration through an American messenger, Mansoor Ejaz. His first meeting with Ejaz was set up by former ISI operator Khalid Khawaja. According to Pir sahib, Ejaz delivered him a message from the Clinton administration.”
The article first published in print edition of 5-11 July 2017