In conversation with: ‘Wani’s martyrdom triggered a new intifada’ – Syed Salahuddin

Kashmiris will fight all the way to freedom

During the past one year, 182 innocent and unarmed civilians have been martyred; 58,000 Kashmiris have suffered bullet injuries

Syed Salahuddin, whom the United Stated has recently designated as a “global terrorist”, the ‘supreme commander’ of Kashmiri freedom fighters outfit Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, is back from oblivion. The martyrdom of Burhan Wani, the sudden rise of Hizb-ul-Mujahdidin in post-Wani scenario, and the US move orchestrated by India to tag Salahuddin as a global terrorist, have brought the 71-year-old veteran freedom fighter back to the limelight.

Born Mohammed Yusuf Shah, Salahuddin changed his name after taking over as head of the militant outfit in the late eighties. He is also the head of United Jihad Council, an umbrella organisation of militant outfits such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed that operates in the Indian Occupied Kashmir.

Hizb-ul-Mujahideen is one of the several homegrown freedom fighting groups that have for decades been fighting for a merger of Kashmir with Pakistan. Prior to joining the Hizb, Salahuddin unsuccessfully contested in the 1987 Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections from the Amirakadal constituency.

Salahuddin has been vocal in his anti-India stand. On the eve of the first martyrdom anniversary of Burhan Wani, DNA sat down with him to discuss the post-Wani scenario in IoK, the US sanctions against him and the uncertain future of the Indian occupation of Kashmir.

Question: How do you view your recent US listing in the global terror list? Do you think it would be helpful in addressing Kashmir unrest or would it further impact a new boil in the Kashmir struggle ahead of Wani’s first martyrdom anniversary?

Syed Salahuddin: First of all, let me make it clear that Hizbul Mujahideen is taking part in the struggle of Kashmiri people for a plebiscite according to the UNSC resolutions. Now tagging a freedom fighter like me to the global terrorist list is an act to flatter and please the Indian regime by the Trump administration. This decision is actually an anti-Pakistan move and a bid to sabotage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

However, the people of Kashmir have rejected the US announcement. They will continue their efforts of Kashmir liberation with more vigour and dedication. The UN conventions also allow freedom struggles against occupation forces. It was actually India that took the issue of Kashmir to the UN.

Jawaharlal Nehru himself had promised that Kashmiris would be allowed to choose between India and Pakistan. Kashmiri people have waged a peaceful struggle for the plebiscite for around 42 long years but their peaceful struggle was always responded by India through military incursions, atrocities and subversive acts.

Our youth were killed, women were subjected to rape, mosques were burnt to ashes and razed to the ground. Hence, the occupation forces left no other choice to the Kashmiri people but to take up arms. However, the mujahidin never attacked or targeted any civilian, Muslim or non-Muslim, in or across the IoK.

Mujahideen have never indulged in acts of loot and plunder and the freedom struggle has been conducted on the principles enshrined in Quran and Sunnah. Successive arrests, extrajudicial killings, fake encounters and torture of peaceful population are all part of the Indian genocide campaign of the Kashmiri Muslims at the hands of the occupation forces. These tactics are aimed at turning a vast majority into a minority through genocide. Moreover, the relocation and resettling of Hindus in Jammu is a part of an Indian plan for a demographic change in IoK to turn the Muslim majority into a minority.

Q: How do you see the recent developments taking place in IoK? Are the inching of former Hib leader Zakir Musa towards al Qaeda and Da’ish and the growing youth support for him part of a conspiracy against the freedom struggle or have the freedom seekers sympathies for Da’ish, etc?

SS: Let me make it clear that the Kashmir freedom struggle has nothing to do with the global terrorist organisations including Da’ish (ISIS), al Qaeda or the Taliban. As a matter of fact, the intelligence agencies of US, Israel and India are funding these terrorist organisations who like other parts of the world are also involved in terrorism and chaos in IoK. The attacks on civilian institutions and employees in Kashmir are the acts committed by the same clandestine terrorist organisations. America, India and Israel are the biggest terrorists of the globe. I say again, a mujahid never attacks any civilian.

Q: Since you are now a veteran freedom fighter who has quit practical jihad, do you plan to take up a political role in IoK?

SS: On your question of adopting a political role, I don’t need to enter politics because the political leadership including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Syed Shabir Shah, Yasin Malik and others are already playing their roles in the best possible manner.

India is following the Israeli model in Kashmir by settling Hindu pundits in new colonies of Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, the Kashmiris living near the forests are forced to vacate their houses to allow new settlements for Hindu pundits.

  1. Do you think that the US may move the UNSC to impose further sanctions against you, Hizbul Mujahideen and the United Jihad Council? If so, do you have a Plan-B?

SS: The state department notification is a vague one. Even the notification is in violation of the definitions of freedom struggle and terrorism enshrined in the UN charter as well as the US standards itself. According to the US definition of terrorism one is declared a global terrorist who is involved in acts of terrorism across the world and the one who also targets the US interests and installations.

I have never been involved in targetting any US installation or interest. Actually Indian intelligence agencies have conspired a lot to evolve Hizbul Mujahideen in sabotage across India but we never attacked anywhere in India despite the fact that we had such capabilities.

We are not against any country or state in the world, we are striving for the freedom of Kashmir and its people. Moreover, I doubt the US bid would succeed the same way successive Indian efforts to tag Maulana Masood Azhar as a global terrorist failed in the UNSC where China time and again vetoed this Indian resolution. So I hope that the international community would take cognizance of the matter and reject the US move at the UN if the matter is raised since the US has also been supporting the right of self-determination of Kashmiris. I hope the US would not raise the issue at any international forum.

  1. How do you rate the martyrdom of Burhan Wani and how it has impacted the Kashmir freedom struggle?

SS: Burhan Muzaffar Wani’s martyrdom has triggered a new intifada in Kashmir which is unprecedented in the history of the region. Millions of young and old, kids and women, thronged Tral to attend the funeral of the brave son of Kashmir while the people of Pakistan, Azad Kashmir and around the world offered funeral prayers in absentia for Shaheed Wani, which speaks volumes about the legitimacy of their freedom struggle.

I salute the great Mujahid Wani and his comrades who have internationalised the issue of Kashmir, which India has been striving to brush under the carpet. However, in the post-Wani scenario, the Indian oppressive forces have unleashed the worst atrocities in IoK.

During the past one year, 182 innocent and unarmed civilians have been martyred; 58,000 Kashmiris have suffered bullet injuries.

Moreover, over 7,774 civilians have been injured by palette guns, out of which 77 children and youngsters have been permanently blinded. Another 1,953 youth have been partially blinded. 15,600 Kashmiris have been arrested while due to successive curfews, the Kashmiri businessmen have suffered a loss of Rs170 billion. Yet, despite all these sufferings, brave Kashmiris are resilient and they would fight till they win freedom from the occupant forces.

Mian Abrar

The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He can be reached at [email protected]