Thirty-two years later, when Amanullah Khan has silently died in Pakistan and the myth of his “Government in Exile” has exploded, the Kashmiris have turned their back on the militants who killed thousands and didn’t spare even the ‘Ministers’ of their own ‘government’
Senior separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone, Jamaat-e-Islami backed lawyer Mian Abdul Qayoom and human rights activist Hriday Nath Wanchoo were among the 23 Kashmiris who were nominated as ‘Ministers’ by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Chairman, Amanullah Khan, in 1990.
One of the Pakistan-based founders of JKLF, Amanullah Khan, who was wanted in India for the diplomat Ravinder Mhatre’s kidnapping and murder in Birmingham, announced the formation of “Interim Government of the Independent State of Jammu and Kashmir” at a Press conference at Muzaffarabad Press Club in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) on 18 June, 1990.
While Lone and Wanchoo were shot dead by none other than the militants themselves in Srinagar on 21 May 2002 and 5 December 1992 respectively, Qayoom survived an armed attack in which he was injured on 22 April 1995.
Even as the separatists’ intellectual ecosystem, as usual, left no stone unturned to put the blame of all non-combatant killings on the “Indian deep State” and security forces, Hurriyat’s two-time chairman and founder Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat spilled the beans.
At a JKLF-organised function on 3 January 2011, Bhat asserted that all the Kashmiri leaders and intellectuals, including Mirwaiz Maulvi Mohammad Farooq, the JKLF ideologue and professor of Law at the University of Kashmir, Abdul Ahad Wani, and the Hurriyat stalwart Abdul Gani Lone had been killed by “none other than our own Kashmiris, not India”.
Years later, on 26 April 2016, Amanullah Khan died a natural death at his residence in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, without contradicting Prof Bhat, whose own brother, Mohammad Sultan Bhat, was also killed by the Kashmiri militants. In April 2003, Prof. Bhat told Aljazeera TV: “I know he was killed by the militants of the Hizbul Mujahideen. I have absolutely no doubt about that. I even know I became the reason for his killing but I don’t want any revenge”.
Bhat, who taught Persian literature at J&K’s colleges for 22 years before his dismissal by Governor Jagmohan for “security reasons” in February 1986, played a key role in floating Muslim United Front (MUF)—mother of today’s Hurriyat Conference—in July 1986. On account of his high profile, he continues to be rated as the separatists’ most credible voice. His admissions about “our own white-collar killers” are taken as the gospel truth, straight from the horse’s mouth.
As JKLF disintegrated into half-a-dozen factions, in Kashmir, Amanullah Khan was totally eclipsed by Yasin Malik. Khan managed to lead a nondescript guerrilla group, known as JKLF (Amanullah), but almost all of his 32 militants were wiped out in a major operation at Hazratbal by the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Jammu and Kashmir Police under the command of the then IGP Kashmir, PS Gill, and SP Farooq Khan, now an advisor to J&K’s Lieutenant Governor, in March-April 1996.
Denying any space to J&K’s mainstream politicians—with glaring exception of the senior Congress leader, former Union Minister and former Sadr-e-Riyasat Dr Karan Singh—Amanullah Khan filled his so-called Cabinet with a host of the separatist leaders and militant commanders. They included hardliner JeI leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Dukhtaran-e-Millat founder-chairperson Asiya Andrabi, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, Shabir Ahmad Shah and Azam Inquilabi.
Khan also inducted as ‘Ministers’ a number of the then active militants—JKLF’s second ‘chief commander’ Yasin Malik, third ‘chief commander’ Abdul Hamid Sheikh, fourth ‘chief commander’ Javed Mir and the most dreaded ‘chief’ of the Jammu and Kashmir Students Liberation Front (JKSLF) Hilal Ahmad Beg. Beg, the architect of Kashmir’s high profile kidnappings and accused murderer of the Kashmir University Vice Chancellor Prof. Musheerul Haq, later founded Ikhwanul Muslimeen and the Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front (JKIF).
Hamid Sheikh, who was among the JKLF’s first commanders and one among the five militants released in exchange for Rubaiya Sayeed in December 1989, was killed along with some other militants when BSF opened fire on their boat near Aalikadal in downtown Srinagar on 19 November 1992. Hilal Beg was killed in an encounter with the SOG near Shalteng, on Srinagar outskirts, on 16 July 1996. Other ‘Ministers’ of Amanullah Khan’s ‘Cabinet’—Yasin Malik, Javed Mir, Shakeel Bakhshi, Bashir Ahmad Bhat, Ghulam Nabi Bhat (Maqbool Bhat’s brother) and Mian Qayoom—were arrested and released several times. Senior Hurriyat leaders like SAS Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Abdul Gani Lone, Prof Abdul Gani Bhat, Shabir Shah and Asiya Andrabi were also frequently detained and released till 2018-19 when National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed a terror-funding case against them and 40 CRPF men were killed in an unprecedented terror strike.
Since 2018-19, Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah, Asiya Andrabi and some others have been in Delhi’s Tihar Jail. Only one of them, namely Azam Inquilabi, was never arrested, even after he returned by air from Pakistan and drove straight to his home in Srinagar. Released in 1987 after the Mahaz-e-Azadi founder Sofi Mohammad Akbar’s death, Inquilabi went underground. As ‘chief commander’ of ‘Operation Balakot’, Inquilabi was the first militant who showed up with his AK-47 rifle in an interview to ‘Kashmir Times’ in 1989. He has since resigned his separatist activity.
Abdul Gani Lone
While Mirwaiz claims to be under ‘house arrest’, his Hurriyat colleagues have gone into oblivion at their respective residences after revocation of J&K’s special status in August 2019. Aga Syed Mustafa, SAS Geelani, Bhushan Bazaz and Ghulam Nabi Bhat have died natural death.
Thirty-two years later, when Amanullah Khan has silently died in Pakistan and the myth of his “Government in Exile” has exploded, the Kashmiris have turned their back on the militants who killed thousands and didn’t spare even the ‘Ministers’ of their own ‘government’.