US action on Hizb chief dampens Kashmiri separatists’ spirits

Salahuddin’s status now same as that of Osama Bin Laden once upon a time: Pakistan would have to decide if it can afford to treat him as a guest

GN Bureau | June 27, 2017


#Syed Salahuddin   #Hizbul Mujahideen   #Jammu and Kashmir   #Terrorism   #Diplomacy  
Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin
Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin

The USA declaring Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin as a specially designated global terrorist may not take the sting out of terrorists’ plans in Kashmir immediately but it has given a huge setback to Kashmiri separatists who had always hoped for American intervention in the Indo-Pak standoff on the Kashmir.

Salahuddin, whose real name is Mohammad Sayed Yusuf Shah, was a religious preacher till the late eighties and had even contested the 1987 assembly elections unsuccessfully. The 71-year-old ideologue has been based out of Pakistan right from the day Hizbul Mujahideen came into being as a pro-Pakistan militant outfit comprising Kashmiris in the beginning of the insurgency in the valley. The emergence of Hizb, which launched itself by killing pro-India Kashmiris, had upstaged the pro-freedom Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in the early nineties.

Interestingly, sources say, Salahuddin may not even know how to open fire, for he remains a figurehead for the ISI’s use. He may not even have absolute control on the activities of Hizbul Mujahideen in Kashmir though he sends recorded video edicts to Kashmir for propaganda purposes.

Only yesterday, a video clip in which he was seen exhorting Kashmiris to launch a week-long shutdown to mourn the killings of ‘mujahids’  was circulating on Kashmir’s social media. He was uncomfortable reading from a prepared text with an unidentified bearded man keeping close watch on him.

The US action has dashed the Kashmiri insurgents’ hopes of US mediation. It also serves to project the Kashmir imbroglio as a terrorism issue and not that of a freedom struggle.

Practically, the US declaration means the Trump administration can take strong action against people sending money to Salahuddin or Hizbul Mujahideen and will choke their sources of funds. However, Hizbul was never dependent on expatriates for funds as it was directly funded by the ISI.

But his continued presence in Pakistan as the government’s guest will be hugely embarrassing for Islamabad now. He stands in the same league as Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden once stood.

Meanwhile, Salahuddin’s wife and five children continue to live in their mud house in Soibugh village of Budgam district in central Kashmir. His only daughter is a schoolteacher and the sons are in government service.

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