The recently-released hardline separatist leader Masarat Alam's absence from the Pakistan Day function organised by the Pakistani high commissioner Abdul Basit in New Delhi on Monday might have raised eyebrows, but it was a viral infection which kept him away from the dinner that fellow Kashmiri separatists had attended.
The 42-year-old pro-Pakistan leader, who heads the Muslim League, a constituent of the hardline Hurriyat faction led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani said on Tuesday media should not read too much into his absence.
“I received the invitation from the Pakistan High Commission, but I had severe chest congestion and viral infection which kept me away,” Alam told HT.
“Not attending a dinner does not change my ideology. I am what I have been years ago,” he said.
The Pakistani envoy in India invites Kashmiri separatist leaders to the nation’s Republic Day function in New Delhi every year. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the Hurriyat’s moderate faction chief, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Yaseen Mallik and Geelani were the top leaders at the function this year.
Alam’s release early this month after almost 17 years in jail led to a political storm and drove a wedge between alliance partners PDP and BJP as the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government maintained that his further detention was illegal. Ally BJP expressed anguish for not being consulted before he was freed.
Alam, who reportedly played a pivotal role during the 2010 street protests, supports the cause for an independent Kashmir, though he idolises pro-Pakistan separatist leader Geelani.
Geelani’s views are radically different from that of the Mirwaiz and JKLF chief Mallik who believe in resolving the Kashmir issue in accordance with people’s wishes.