There is good news for pro-dialogue separatist faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC). Fazal Haq Qureshi, a senior separatist leader and executive member of the APHC, smiles at the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) hospital for the first time after the attack as doctors observe significant improvement in his situation.
Pro-dialogue, unidentified gunmen shot at Qureshi, who heads the Peoples Political Front, on the evening of December 4. The bullet shaved off the head of Qureshi inflicting fractures in the back of the skull. Many pieces of skull bones had pierced in, which took doctors a lot of time to remove during the surgery.
"When I asked him to recognise me to check if he is able to, he smiled and said you are director of the hospital," said SKIMS director Abdul Hameed Zargar told the Hindustan Times.
After undergoing four-hour surgery and being in the Intensive Care Unit for more than a week, Qureshi has started talking since yesterday evening and recognised his family members too.
Doctors were apprehensive of memory loss and paralyses in the case of 60-year-old Qureshi. "No, I don't think so. There won't be any memory loss. He is able to see and recognise people. He is making good attempt to talk and seems cheerful and makes reasonable gestures," said Zargar.
The attack, condemned by Home Minister P. Chidambaram, came as a spanner in the dialogue process between the moderate separatists and New Delhi. Since the attack there was no movement even on track II diplomacy between the Centre and separatists.
On whether Qureshi will be able to give any statement to police or not about the attackers, Zargar said: "No. He cannot. We do not want to stress him out."
Doctors are only worried about the right portion of Qureshi's body that is showing little movement compared to the left. "He (Qureshi) is showing progress in grades. We hope the right side of the body will also show improvement," said Zargar.
Zargar said Qureshi has to stay in the hospital at least for a fortnight. Little known militant outfit Al-Nasreen had taken the responsibility of the attack saying "Qureshi was engaging Hurriyat in futile dialogue process."
The moderate separatist leader associated him with the armed insurgency in 1988 and returned to Kashmir in 1990. Arrested in 1991, Qureshi remained in the jail for many years. He became a media face in August 200 when Hizbul Mujahideen offered a ceasefire and appointed Qureshi as its emissary. He held talks on the behalf of Hizb with then Union Home Secretary Kamal Pandey in Nehru Guest House, Srinagar. However, the talks had to be called off as the ceasefire lasted only for 14 days.
Later Qureshi went on to join the APHC led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. He was also part of the delegation of the APHC that talked to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2001 in New Delhi.