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Confusion over what injured the Hurriyat leader

By Mukhtar Ahmed
Last updated on: December 05, 2009 09:50 IST
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Even as the condition of 65-year-old senior separatist Hurriyat leader Fazal Haq Qureshi remained critical, confusion prevailed late on Friday night on what injured the leader with conflicting reports on whether he had been shot or had been hit with a blunt object.

After a three-hour-long brain surgery on Qureshi, the doctors were unable to locate any bullet although his skull was fractured, a senior police official said while not ruling out the possibility that the bullet was still lodged in the head.

Another speculation focussed on the possibility that the Hurriyat leader may not have been shot but may have been hit with a blunt object, which fractured his skull.

However, there was no official confirmation as to what was the actual cause of the serious injury on Qureshi.

It was earlier said that Qureshi had been shot point blank in head by suspected terrorists at Soura in Srinagar on Friday evening in an apparent attempt to derail the dialogue process in Jammu and Kashmir.

Doctors at the Soura Medical Institute, where Qureshi was rushed and underwent emergency surgery, said the condition of the close aide of Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, leader of Hurriyat Conference's moderate faction, was 'very very critical.'

The 65-year-old moderate face of the separatist outfit was known for his simple ways and travelled in a bus refusing police security.

No militant outfit has claimed resposibility for the attack which occurred at around 6.30 pm when Qureshi was coming out of a mosque in the city's downtown after offering prayers, the police said.

Meanwhile, the moderate All Parties Hurriyat Conference in a statement asked people to observe a complete shut down on Saturday to protest against the dastardly attack on Fazal Haq Qureshi, chairman of People's Political Front and an important member of the APHC executive committee.

Almost all the separatist leaders including the moderate APHC chairman, Mirwaiz Moulvi Umar Farooq, rushed to the medical institute after hearing about the attack on Qureshi.

Leaders across the political spectrum condemned the attack  with Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah saying the attack was a 'clear attempt' to derail the peace process in the state.

Qureshi was behind the first ever peace talks between terrorist group Hizbul Mujahideen and the Central government in 2000. The militant group was led by Abdul Majid Dar.

According to senior police officials, the attempt on the life of Qureshi was to 'stall' the dialogue process between the Centre and the Hurriyat.

The officials said the separatist leader had refused security from the state government.

Umar Farooq condemned the attack on Qureshi calling it as an act of 'cowardice.'

"It is an act of cowardice. The attack was carried out by those who do not want resolution of the Kashmir issue," the Hurriyat leader said.

He, however, said his amalgam would not be cowed down by such dastardly acts and would pursue the line of dialogue to resolve the issue.

Opposition Peoples Democratic Party patron and former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed while condemning the attack said that 'violence is no solution to settle political problems.'

Omar Abdullah said, "It is the most unfortunate incident and a clear attempt  to derail the peace process. Qureshi was one of the separatist leaders who wanted to find a solution to Kashmir problem at the negotiating table."

Omar's father and Union minister Farooq Abdullah hoped there will not be a breakdown in the 'quiet diplomacy' in Kashmir. "It is a great tragedy. Those who do not want peace have started targeting such people who are interested in peace."

Asked who could be behind the heinous crime, Omar said, "Things will unfold in due course of investigations, but definitely it is the handiwork of those who do not want peace to return to the state."

"This is the work of enemies of peace," the chief minister said, adding, "This incident won't be an impediment in the quiet diplomacy that is going on between the Centre and the separatists."

The chief minister also noted that Qureshi was offered security on various occasions but he turned it down.

Senior Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami said frustrated people who did not want Kashmiris to live in peace carried out the attack.

Qureshi, who rose from a humble beginning to be the most trusted aide of Mirwaiz Farooq and a prominent face of Hurriyat's moderate faction, has been instrumental in intiating many truce attempts in the past, which however failed. He did not own any vehicle.

He took the lead for the maiden peace talks between Hizbul Mujahideen and Centre in  2000 as a representative of the outfit's chief Syed Sallahudin.

Although the talks failed to make any headway, he engaged in talks with then deputy prime minister L K Advani again, but pulled out of the second round in protest against alleged human rights violations in the state.

Qureshi was the member of Plebiscite Front, but later launched his own political party by the name of People's Political Front and was elevated to the Executive Committee of the Hurriyat following the split in 2003.

Additional reportage: PTI

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Mukhtar Ahmed in Srinagar