‘US move against me will stimulate forces like ISIS which we have nothing to do with us’

Kashmir Narrator spoke to United Jihad Council chief Syed Salahuddin in Muzaffarabad over a range of issues. The interview was conducted few days before Al-Qaida announced its presence in Kashmir


Q: 
The US recently designated you a global terrorist. What is your reaction to it?

The US move is legally groundless and morally unjustified. Instead of bringing us under any pressure, it will invigorate our resolve and operational efficiency and urge to free ourselves from Indian subjugation. It will have no impact on our freedom struggle. You see it is just a local executive order from the US government. It is not backed by any international sanctions and therefore can’t affect the image of the popular and legitimate freedom struggle of Kashmiris.The US recently designated you a global terrorist. What is your reaction to it?

Q: Does this declaration from the US point towards a weak Pakistani foreign policy on Kashmir and strong lobbying by India?

Weaknesses in Pakistan’s Kashmir policy is an admitted fact. But US’ foreign policy revolves around its material interest and global designs and keeps on changing from time to time. So we need not to get worked up on this issue and unnecessarily worry about it. In any case, the US has never been serious or sincere in supporting our cause. It has rather always exploited the Kashmir issue for serving its regional interest.

Q: Coming to the current situation in Kashmir, we see within a year, HM has lost two top commanders, Burhan and Sabzar. How severely has it affected the outfit and its operations?

Martyrdom of mujahideen is really very painful, but has always, in the long run, given a boost to the organisation and its operational efficiency. In this kind of a struggle you always lose men but there are many others to replace them. The HM is the largest indigenous organisation and has survived decades of brutal onslaught by the Indian forces. The HM retains its appeal for the local youth despite the reverses it has suffered from time to time. At present there may be some logistical crises, like shortage of weapons and trained men, but these are timely problems. We have seen these problems in the past and know how to overcome them.

Q: After Burhan’s killing, there has been a sudden spurt in militant activities. Has it been on part of the militant leadership a tactical move to upscale militancy or a natural response to events in Kashmir?

Both, a spontaneous reaction as well as a strategical move to sustain the struggle and continue it at the upper possible level.

Q: The pro-freedom leadership has been severely criticised for its hartal politics during the 2016 uprising in Kashmir and many say it mismanaged the movement. Do you think it could have been better managed?

Criticism of the leadership is not justified. After Burhan’s martyrdom, there was an unexpected massive public uprising. The timely intervention of leadership saved it from at least anarchy and fragmentation. In any case the uprising was too spontaneous and voluminous to be guided properly.

Q: Recently the UJC issued a week-long protest calendar to commemorate the death anniversary of Burhan Wani. You did it by bypassing the Hurriyat leadership in Srinagar as such programmes are announced by the Hurriyat. Is it because you have lost confidence in Hurriyat leadership?

Initially, the protest calendar was issued in response to a demand of our field mujahideen. Unfortunately, it was misunderstood and used to create cracks within pro-freedom groups, therefore we withdrew it and left it to the discretion of leadership which later issued its own protest calendar.

Q: We see the HM is concentrated in south Kashmir while in north Kashmir it has little presence where LeT militants outnumber it. Why have you decided to keep a strong presence of HM in south and not in north?

This impression is not right. HM has its organisational presence in every district, certainly at some places it is very thin. In south it seems stronger because the media is focusing too much on the situation in south Kashmir. We intend to strengthen our presence in all districts and spread the net of our operations.

Q: There seems a leadership crisis in HM after Sabzar’s killing and before that Zakir’s self-ouster from the outfit. You have not named any successor to Sabzar. Is it because of the dearth of men to lead the outfit?

Definitely not. HM possesses a well-trained cadre. Sabzar was mistakenly considered as a successor of Burhan. He was only a senior commander in his team. Mahmood Gaznavi continues to command after Burhan.

Q: There is criticism the way teenaged boys are recruited in HM in Kashmir. There is also criticism of the HM commanders exposing themselves through social media. Are these instructions coming from you despite the obvious demerits of both strategies?

Unfortunately, the criticism is justified. The sentiments of youth are too overwhelming to respond to the instructions of leadership.

Q: Zakir called for the murder of Hurriyat leaders and even labelled them as hypocrites. He even called Pakistan an idolatry state. What was this controversy all about as people are saying diverse things about it?

HM disowned his statement. Some elements whom I don’t want to name are having an identity crisis or personal grudges with the current leadership. They have influenced Zakir’s mindset which is why he has taken a separate route. All our men have to follow the organization’s code of conduct and abide by organizational discipline. If Zakir’s wants to be back in HM, he has to show wholehearted obedience to the leadership and organisation. You see it needs a certain level of understanding to think and talk about important issues. You can’t criticize the leadership or Pakistan just for the sake of it. It is essential for the success of a struggle to have the support of the base camp which we provide from here in Azad Kashmir. Ours is an indigenous movement but it needs a logistical assistance, moral and diplomatic support which Pakistan is doing despite pressures on it.

Q: Another breakaway HM commander Qayoom Najar is reportedly back in the Valley. Is he still part of HM or operating on his own?

Neither operating nor in Valley.

Q: What are the UJC’s links with LeT and Hafiz Saeed as you have been seen around with Hafiz Saeed several times?

Whosoever supports our cause, sympathises with the sufferings of Kashmiris and condemns Indian tyranny is our ally.

Q: The Indian Home Minister has been talking of a permanent solution of Kashmir. What do you think he and the Indian government have in mind with regard to a permanent solution?

In the light of the frozen mindset of BJP leadership and its repeated utterances, the permanent solution means to take Azad JK back by the dint of force or forcibly convert the ceasefire line into a permanent boundary, which Rajnath does not know will affect the Indian union itself.

Q: If the Indian government offers talks to Hurriyat leaders what would be your reaction as UJC chief to such an offer as you have been involved in talks before?

Talks have been and are futile unless they are Kashmir-centric, tripartite, time-bound and held in the light of UN resolutions which grant the right of self-determination to Kashmiris.

Q: There has been an added emphasis by militants on establishing an Islamic system in Kashmir. It is also reflected in the mood of the people. What is your stand on it – whether Kashmir struggle is a political struggle for azadi or a jihad for an Islamic system?

The ongoing freedom struggle to end Indian military rule is undoubtedly a glorious jihad carried on by mujahideen. The struggle is governed and guided by the code of conduct provided by Islam. There is nothing new in our outlook or approach in this regard. It is just that some people are trying to create confusion and sow seeds of discord among our ranks by raking up such issues.

Q: Some analysts say this move by the US to designate you a global terrorist will give a boost to ISIS  and Al Qaeda sympathisers in Kashmir. Do you share the view?

Definitely, all such unjustified moves and display of double standards and neglect of genuine humanitarian issues will stimulate forces like ISIS that have an agenda of global jihad which our movement has nothing to do with.

Q: Do you think ISIS or Al Qaeda can make any inroads in Kashmir?

Kashmir struggle is altogether an indigenous one. There is no need or scope for a foreign element and we don’t support or endorse the likes of ISIS coming to Kashmir or operating their franchises in Kashmir by indoctrinating the local youth.

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