Pakistan announces official day of mourning to mark passing of the former chief of the separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference
Senior Kashmiri separatist leader and former chief of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference Syed Ali Shah Geelani died at his home in Srinagar on Wednesday night after a prolonged illness, according to party officials. He was 92.
An unflinching opponent of Indian rule in the Kashmir Valley, he had been under house arrest for the past 11 years. According to the Kashmir Media Service, he suffered from various ailments. Citing family members, it said that Geelani had chest congestion and breathing problems prior to his passing at around 10:30 p.m.
Born on Sept. 29, 1929, Geelani hailed from the Sopore area of Kashmir’s Baramulla district. A member of the Jamaat-e-Islami in his youth, he never wavered from his opposition to India’s occupation of Jammu and Kashmir and was a prominent leader of the movement to secure Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.
Geelani rose to prominence in the early 1960s when he began campaigning for the territory’s merger with Pakistan. He continued to campaign for separatism even as a member of the Kashmir legislative assembly, to which he was elected to thrice, in 1972, 1977 and 1987.
The freedom fighter was jailed for nearly 10 years in 1962 and spent much of life after that under house arrest. He also served as the chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a multi-party grouping of separatist parties of Jammu and Kashmir, until last year.
Day of mourning
Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that Pakistan would observe a day of official mourning and fly its national flag at half-mast to mark Geelani’s passing. “Deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Kashmiri freedom fighter Syed Ali Geelani who struggled all his life for his people and their right to self-determination. He suffered incarceration and torture by the occupying Indian state but remained resolute,” he said in a posting on Twitter.
“We in Pakistan salute his courageous struggle and remember his words: ‘hum Pakistani hain aur Pakistan humara hai’,” he added.
The Pakistan-administered Kashmir government, meanwhile, announced three days of mourning, adding that there would be a public holiday today (Thursday) to mark Geelani’s death.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in a posting on Twitter, said Pakistan mourns the loss of “torch bearer of the Kashmir freedom movement” Geelani. “Shah sahab fought for the rights of Kashmiris till the very end, under house arrest of Indian occupation. May he rest in peace and may his dream of freedom come true,” he added.
Pakistan Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa also expressed deep sorrow over Geelani’s demise and termed him an “icon of Kashmir freedom movement.” According to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), he added: “His lifelong sacrifices and ceaseless struggle symbolizes the indomitable resolve of Kashmiris against Indian occupation. His dream and his mission will live on until people of occupied Jammu and Kashmir win their right of self-determination.”
Fearing unrest in India-held Kashmir following Geelani’s death, the Indian government oversaw his burial at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday morning near his home, a police source told the AFP news agency. They said that Geelani had wished to be buried in Martyrs Cemetery of Srinagar but authorities had rejected that request.
The Indian government has also deployed the army in large numbers to prevent people from the rest of Kashmir from attending Geelani’s funeral prayers. According to a representative of the family, troops have erected barbed wire barriers on roads leading to Geelani’s home. There are also multiple reports that authorities are planning to impose a curfew and cut internet services in the region.
In a series of posts on Twitter, Pakistan National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf said reports of Indian authorities forcing an early morning burial and erecting blockades were “disturbing” and needed to be addressed. “We demand that India allow Syed Ali Geelani’s family to complete his last rites as per their wishes and warn India not to play with fire,” he said. “Kashmiris will resist such cowardly acts … India is once again demonstrating that is afraid of the Kashmiri voices that stand for truth. These are symptoms of a cowardly and insecure country that knows it is occupying IIOJK [Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir] against the wishes of the Kashmir people who want freedom,” he added.