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JEHANGIR ALI | 20 AUGUST, 2015

HURRIYAT LEADERS DETAINED, RELEASED, AHEAD OF MEETING WITH SARTAJ AZIZ

Kashmiri Leaders: Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Shabir Shah


SRINAGAR: Moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and JKLF chief Yasin Malik, who were detained Thursday morning ahead of their meeting with Pakistan's National Security Advisor, Sartaj Aziz, were released by the authorities in the afternoon.

However, veteran Hurriyat leader and chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, Syed Ali Geelani, who has been detained since April 15, continues to remain under house arrest, although his aides have also been released.

What triggered the flip-flop of the state government led by chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed remains unclear. However, former chief minister Omar Abdullah said the decision to detain and release the Hurriyat leaders was made by the Centre.

"Centre say arrest so arrested, centre says release so released. Perfect coordination. Not the first time & won't be the last. Obviously the state govt ordered arrest & release after being told to by GoI,” he wrote on Twitter.

Earlier, top Hurriyat leaders were detained by police in Kashmir ahead of their meeting with Sartaj Aziz in New Delhi on August 23. A spokesperson of Syed Ali Geelani said extra police personnel were deployed outside his Srinagar home on Thursday morning and raids were carried out at the residences of other Hurriyat leaders.

"We have been set free. However, Geelani saheb continues to remain under house-arrest," Ayaz Akbar, Geelani's spokesperson, told The Citizen.

Pakistan's high commissioner in New Delhi, Abdul Basit, had invited Geelani, moderate Hurriyat chairman and Kashmir's top cleric, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, JKLF chief, Mohammad Yasin Malik along with several Hurriyat leaders for a meeting with Aziz on August 23.

The meeting is scheduled to take place ahead of the talks between Aziz and India's National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, for improving the bilateral relations between the two countries.

Although the announcement by Pakistan has not gone down well with the Indian establishment with the opposition Congress criticising the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government, sources said the NSA-level talks will go ahead as per schedule.

Shahid-ul-Islam, the political advisor of Mirwaiz, said police raided houses of several moderate Hurriyat leaders Thursday morning during which Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Moulana Abbas Ansari were placed under house arrest, who were later set free.

"I don't understand what induced this change of heart. Police had raided my home in Sanat Nagar earlier but I had left for work. Clearly, it was an attempt to prevent us from meeting Sartaj Aziz,” said Islam.

Police sources said JKLF chief Yasin Malik, who was arrested from his Maisuma home on Thursday morning and was lodged at Kothi Bagh police station, has also been set free.

"Earlier, police told me clearly that the government will not allow us to meet Sartaj Aziz. Several JKLF leaders including Showkat Ahmad Bakshi and Noor Mohammad were also arrested, but we have been set free now," Malik told The Citizen.

Reacting to the arrest of Hurriyat leaders, Omar Abdullah had earlier said India and Pak are "competing" to give reasons to call off talks "held under international pressure".

"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,” he tweeted.

"Shelling, Infiltration, terror attacks & now Hurriyat arrests, clearly no side wants to talk & yet neither side has the guts to call it off,” he said in another tweet.

The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi Wednesday justified its invitation to Kashmiri separatist leaders to meet Aziz, saying such meetings are not "unprecedented".

"We have been meeting and talking to them (Kashmiri leaders). There is nothing unprecedented about it. I don't understand why there is so much hype," Manzoor Ali Memon, Counsellor (Press) in Pakistan High Commission, told PTI.

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