Magazine article Newsweek International

Death of a Spokesman : The Assassination of Moderate Leader Abdul Ghani Lone Closes off One of the Few Avenues for Peace in Kashmir

Magazine article Newsweek International

Death of a Spokesman : The Assassination of Moderate Leader Abdul Ghani Lone Closes off One of the Few Avenues for Peace in Kashmir

Article excerpt

The standoff between India and Pakistan is not the only battle brewing in Kashmir. Even among those locals opposed to Indian domination of the mostly Muslim state, fault lines between moderates and hard-liners are beginning to widen. The assassination last week of Abdul Ghani Lone, a 70- year-old separatist who favored dialogue with India, is being interpreted by many observers as part of an ongoing effort to radicalize the Kashmir insurgency. (Lone's son even accused Pakistan's intelligence agency of complicity in the murder, although he later claimed to have been overcome by emotion.) If true, the chances of resolving the Kashmir dispute peacefully look slimmer than ever--even if Islamabad and New Delhi don't themselves come to blows.

Lone, like many Kashmiri moderates, had changed his view on the wisdom of violent tactics after the attacks on September 11. Over the past decade, what had begun in 1989 as an indigenous movement against corrupt politicians and India's highhanded rule in Kashmir has been gradually usurped by fighters allegedly trained and armed by Pakistan. While spectacular suicide attacks have drawn attention to their struggle, they have also come to seem more a part of a worldwide Islamist struggle than a local quest for autonomy. As a top-ranking leader of the separatist All- Party Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference--an umbrella organization of nearly 25 political parties, labor organizations and trade lobbies representing the majority of Kashmiris--Lone worried about Kashmiri voices being drowned out. "We must have the sympathy of the international community," Lone told NEWSWEEK after the September 11 attacks, protesting the fact that Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters were sneaking into Kashmir. "Terrorism would rob us of respectability."

Other Hurriyat leaders like Ali Shah Geelani disagree, and openly advocate jihad against India. …

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