Saturday, 5 December 2009

kashmir: moderate leader shot at

source: The Economic Times ( The Times of India group)

Pro-talks Hurriyat leader shot at

5 Dec 2009

0417 hrs IST

SRINAGAR: Suspected militants shot at and critically injured Fazl Haq Qureshi, moderate Hurriyat’s most respected face. He came under attack

while coming out of the local mosque in Soura after offering evening prayers. The Al-Nasreen, believed to be an offshoot of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Qureshi was rushed to the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Science (SKIMS) Soura where doctors were operating upon him. Doctors said a bullet pierced through his skull and his condition continued to be critical. Police said they have registered a case and the investigations have begun. Preliminary reports suggest that there were two assailants who fired two bullets at him using pistols before fleeing.

Qureshi was part of the pre-militancy al-Fateh, a separatist group in the early eighties. He later joined state government and served as an officer and was finally dismissed from services after militancy broke out. He was detained for a prolonged period as well. Later along with his friend Musadiq Aadil he founded Peoples’ Political Front and became a member of the then undivided Hurriyat Conference.

Chief minister Omar Abdullah condemned the attack and said the assault was aimed at derailing the negotiations. Terming it “most unfortunate”, the CM said: “Qureshi is one of the separatist leaders who wanted to find a solution to Kashmir problem at the negotiating table”. He said it seems to be the handiwork of “enemies of peace” but asserted the attack would not impact the quiet diplomacy that is going on between the Centre and the separatists.

He also said that the security of all moderate Hurriyat leaders was being reviewed. "We are reviewing the security provided to all the moderate separatist leaders. Fazl Haq Qureshi had also been offered security, but he had declined the offer", the chief minister said.

Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq condemned the attack on Qureshi calling it as an act of "cowardice". "It is an act of cowardice. The attack was carried out by those who do not want resolution of Kashmir issue," the Hurriyat leader said.

He, however, said his amalgam would not be cowed down by such dastardly acts and would pursue the line of dialogue to resolve the issue. Hurriyat has given a strike call for Saturday to protest the attack.

Qureshi shot into prominence when the Hizb-ul Mujahideen appointed him as their pointsman for negotiations with the ministry of home affairs in the wake of 2000 ceasefire. The ceasefire was withdrawn within a fortnight.
For most of the later developments, Qureshi was more comfortable with moderates and was part of all rounds of negotiations that Hurriyat had with prime ministers Atal Behari Vajpayee, Dr Manmohan Singh, the then deputy prime minister L K Advani and more recently with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Unlike his colleagues, Qureshi leads a simple life. He travels in public transport and is accessible to everybody. Police say he never accepted security. A staunch supporter of talks with New Delhi, Qureshi believes that negotiations are the only way out. At present, he is one of the executive members of the moderate Hurriyat that is engaged in secret parleys with the home ministry.

It is not the first assault that observers here link with the negotiations. Hurriyat lost one of its tall leaders Abdul Gani Lone amid the hype that he was willing to talk with the central government.

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