In Kashmir, Why does the Gupkar alliance look up to a reformed Taliban?


Jammu and Kashmir’s two former Chief Ministers, the National Conference (NC) President Farooq Abdullah and the PDP President Mehbooba Mufti, are expecting Taliban 2.0 to deliver justice in Afghanistan

Jammu and Kashmir’s two former Chief Ministers, the National Conference (NC) President Farooq Abdullah and the PDP President Mehbooba Mufti, are expecting Taliban 2.0 to deliver justice in Afghanistan. At separate interactions with the Press on Wednesday, a day after Taliban announced their interim government in Afghanistan, the two senior most mainstream leaders in Jammu and Kashmir wished the new Islamic emirate to follow “true Shariat” and safeguard the rights of women and children.

Speaking to journalists in the militant-infested Kulgam, where inhabitants of two villages once fought a pitched battle over burying the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba chief Abu Qasim’s body in their neighbourhoods, Mehbooba reportedly said about Taliban: “It must follow true Sharia, which guarantees rights of all, including the women”.

"Taliban has come to the fore as a reality. Its image in the first time in power was that of anti-human rights. If it wants to govern Afghanistan, it will have to follow the true Sharia law as laid down in the Quran which guarantees rights of women, children and elderly," she said. She insisted the Taliban shun the “hard line interpretation of Islam and Sharia if it wants to do business with the international community”.

The same day at Hazratbal in Srinagar, Farooq, while speaking to journalists at a remembrance ceremony of his father Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, sounded optimistic of the Taliban following Islamic principles and providing good governance to the people of Afghanistan. “Afghanistan is a separate country. They [Taliban] must protect human rights in Afghanistan and follow Islamic principles in spirit. Taliban must build good relations with the rest of the world”, Farooq reportedly asserted. 

Both the parties’ spokespersons later contradicted the controversial statements attributed to the two leaders, claiming that the same had been ‘twisted’ by news agencies and television channels. Both, Farooq and Mehbooba, came under fire not only from the ruling BJP at the Centre but also from many of their familiar well-wishers.

“Very disappointed with the stand of @MehboobaMufti whose feisty spirit I’ve admired as she’s fought for more democracy for Kashmir. For her to endorse the Taliban ruling by the Sharia law, in effect enslaving women, is a complete letdown”, The Hindu journalist Malini Parthasarthy tweeted.

Farooq let out his optimism before the Centre would respond to his son and another former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s poser. “Is the Taliban a terror organisation or not? If it is not, will you move the United Nations to have it de-listed as a terror organisation, as right now you are presiding over the UN Security Council,’’ Omar had said a few days back while replying to a question whether India would engage with the Taliban.

Mehbooba’s soft corner for the guerrillas, who are of late perceived to be the last lifeline for the fast-diminishing militancy, is understandable. A section of the population in the valley has been sworn sympathisers of anyone posing a security threat to the Indian establishment and the nationalist population. Under the convenience of tactical support, apparently in lieu of protections from the government system, these people have become a vote bank for her party. Some of them boycott the Indian democratic exercises but many of them vote for a particular party ever since 1999 so as to get liberties in carrying out their secessionist activities.

When it was reported in the media that the foreign terrorists, who attacked Akshardham temple in Gujarat, killing 30 people and leaving 80 injured in September 2002, had stayed at the house of one of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s Cabinet Ministers and departed on the mission from there, the Minister was forced to resign. However, Chief Minister Mufti did not accept the resignation.

In recent times, one of the militant conduits escaped with 8 weapons from a PDP MLA’s government house in Srinagar and the PDP’s youth wing chief has been in jail for alleged terror links since October 2020.

However, Farooq’s change of heart for the Taliban has surprised many across India, notwithstanding a clarification from his party.

Over 4,000 NC leaders and activists are estimated to have died at the hands of the militants in Kashmir merely for their association with Sheikh Abdullah’s party. Farooq himself failed to visit the home of his close relative Sheikh Sadiq when he was gunned down by militants simply for his relation to Sheikh Abdullah’s family. He, as well as Omar, survived multiple terror attacks. Until losing power to Mufti in 2002, Farooq was known for calling the militants as terrorists. On several occasions, he even called for bombardment of the terror training camps in Pakistan.

None other than Farooq, then Chief Minister of J&K, strongly opposed the Vajpayee government’s decision of releasing the three dreaded terrorists—Azhar Masood, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Mushtaq Latram—in exchange for the hostages of the IC-814 flight at Kandahar in December 1999.

Even the separatists have been cautious in their statements when they had no fear of reprisals from the government agencies before August 2019. They used to call the foreigners as ‘guest militants’ but would not accord them much legitimacy.

Just on two rare occasions, one senior separatist leader once invited the Taliban to the “freedom struggle in Kashmir”. He was later shot dead by the militants. On another occasion, the same leader with another Hurriyat colleague visited the dreaded foreign terrorist Mast Gul at Chrar-e-Sharief and did a photo session with the gun-toting commander.

Head of the Taliban 2.0 government Mulla Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the co-founder of the Taliban in 1994, who served as Deputy Foreign Minister in Mullah Omar’s Taliban 1.0 government from 1996 to 2001, is himself on the UN blacklist. Minister of Interior Sirajuddin Haqani, is a foreign designated terrorist carrying a bounty of $10 million on his head from the US government. He is held responsible for scores of terror strikes, including a major attack outside an Indian mission, as also a bomb blast that left 150 people dead in Kabul, in 2017.

Mullah Omar’s son, Mullah Yaqoob, has been inducted as Defence Minister.

How do Farooq and Mehbooba at this embryonic stage of the so-called caliphate in Afghanistan expect the Taliban to behave differently from their tyrannical years of 1996—2001?