Hurriyat rejects charges of selling MBBS seats amid reports of ban
A faction of the Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Monday rejected charges that the separatist group was “selling” MBBS seats in Pakistan colleges to Kashmiri students and funnelling the money into terrorism .
The denial came a day after reports quoted officials as saying a ban under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act may be imposed on both factions of the Hurriyat Conference. The reports said a recent probe into the granting of MBBS seats to Kashmiri students by institutions in Pakistan indicated that the money collected from aspirants was being used for funding terror organisations.
“All Parties Hurriyat Conference(APHC) led by incarcerated chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq completely rejected and denounced the propaganda being promoted in print and other media by authorities, that it’s executive leadership, who could recommend aspiring Kashmiri candidates to medical and technical colleges in Pakistan, would ‘sell’ the admission seats to students for money,” the separatist group said in a statement.
On Sunday, news agencies quoted unnamed officials as saying that both the factions of the Hurriyat are likely to be banned under Section 3(1) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or the UAPA. The separatist conglomerate broke into two factions in 2005 with the moderate group being led by the Mirwaiz and the hard-line by Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
“APHC said that it wants to put on record that this is completely unfounded, and can be verified by those students or parents whom they have recommended, many among them being from among economically weak sections,” the statement quoted above added.
The hard-line Hurriyat, to which Syed Ali Shah Geelani belongs, did not issue any reaction but eyewitnesses said that the organisation removed its sign board ‘Tehreek-e-Hurriyat’ from its office at Hyderpora.
The united All Parties Hurriyat Conference was formed in 1993 with 26 separatist groups and then split after a section of Hurriyat put up a proxy candidate in 2002 assembly elections. Mirwaiz led one group and Geelani another. Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, a constituent of hard-line Hurriyat Conference, was formed by Geelani in August 2004 after he left politico-religious organisation Jamaat-e-Islami. Geelani stepped down as Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chief after 14 years in March 2018.
The Centre banned Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and Jamaat e Islami under UAPA after the Pulwama attack in 2019.
The APHC said that its chairman Mirwaiz, who is also the chief priest at Jamia Masjid Srinagar, has all along been giving recommendation letters to students for colleges and universities in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Turkey and elsewhere.
It also stated that the sentiments of the people of J&K with regard to the resolution of the Kashmir dispute in a peaceful and fair manner “cannot be altered despite repression, legal tactics or propaganda”.
“Led by the Miwaiz, APHC will always represent those aspirations and seek their fulfillment through its principled stand of dialogue and deliberations among the stakeholders of the conflict,” it said.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) registered cases and arrested several separatist leaders in 2017 in a militant funding case. Those in jail are Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Ahmed Shah, Mirwaiz’s aide Shahidul Islam, hardline Hurriyat former spokesman Ayaz Akbar, Mehrajuddin Kalwal ,Peer Saifullah, businessman Zahoor Ahmed Watali and Nayeem Khan. JKLF’s Yasin Malik and Dukhtaran e Millat chief Asiya Andrabi were arrested later.
Member of Parliament and National Conference leader Hasnain Masoodi said that banning was not an option in a democracy. “By banning an organisation, the thought is not going to die. It is better to deal with a narrative with a counter narrative,” he said.