The All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) is an alliance of several political, social and religious organisations seeking Kashmir’s freedom from Indian occupation. Formed in July 1993, the Hurriyat provides a political platform to the people of Indian occupied Kashmir.
The APHC brought together parties of different ideologies but with a common stance against the occupation of Jammu and Kashmir and a collective demand that the wishes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir should be taken into consideration in order to achieve a resolution of the dispute.
Though the APHC split into two factions in 2003, their united objective to seek an end to Indian occupation, holds the organisation together. While there are differences of opinion amongst the leadership, they act together when pleading Kashmir’s case at all levels. The APHC now represents the collective will of the Kashmiri people.
The original APHC comprised seven members from seven organisations; Syed Ali Shah Geelani (Jamaat-e-Islami), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq (Awami Action Committee), Sheikh Abdul Aziz (Jammu Kashmir People’s League), Moulvi Abbas Ansari (Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen), Professor Abdul Ghani Bhat (Muslim Conference), Yasin Malik (Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front) and Abdul Ghani Lone (Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference).
Syed Ali Shah Geelani
Geelani is a separatist Hurriyat leader from Indian-occupied Kashmir. Born on September 29, 1929, Geelani was a member of the Jamaat-e-Islami (Kashmir) but later formed his own party, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat.
In his political struggle, Geelani has served as the chairman of the APHC. Aaker Patel, an Indian columnist, termed him as “the last true Maududist in India”.
Considered a hard-liner by many, the 87-year-old Geelani has not backed away from his demand for a plebiscite to decide the future of Kashmiris. A section of critics in India believe that the Kashmiri struggle against Indian occupation is mainly because of this man’s leadership.
Geelani is a staunch opponent of union with India, and a firm advocate of union with Pakistan. Despite being seen as closer to Pakistan, Geelani has never hesitated in criticising the country’s policies. He stepped into the political fray in 1950 and has reportedly spent more than a decade in jails.
Diagnosed with renal cancer 10 years ago, Geelani continues to resist brutal Indian occupation.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq
The Chairman of the Awami Action Committee, a key faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was thrust into the forefront of the Kashmiri struggle for freedom, after the assassination of his father, Mirwaiz Moulvi Farooq, in 1990.
Just a teenager at the time, he took over from his father as ‘Mirwaiz’ – the traditional title given to the spiritual leaders of Muslims in Kashmir. Mirwaiz Umar brought together several pro-freedom groups uniting them under the banner of the Hurriyat in 1993.
The 43-year-old Mirwaiz Umar leads a grass-roots coalition of pro-freedom parties in occupied Kashmir.
In October 2014, the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan listed him among the 500 most influential Muslims. The eloquent and soft-spoken young man holds the reputation of being amongst the more moderate Kashmiri freedom leaders.
Moulvi Abbas Ansari
Moulvi Ansari or Mohammad Abbas Ansari belongs to the influential Ansari family of Srinagar. Perhaps it was because of his strong family background that it did not take him long to enter politics.
But initially his political objective was to unite various sects of Muslims and to work for the social and economic welfare of the people of occupied Kashmir. Born on August 17, 1936, Ansari is the ex-chairman of the APHC and has frequently called for an end to violence in the occupied territory.
Ansari has a strong academic background. After completing his undergraduate studies from Lucknow (India), he travelled to Najaf (Iraq) to pursue higher education in Arabic literature, philosophy, Islamic economics and political science.
Furthermore, Ansari is considered by many as a moderate religious leader. Quite contrary to the opinion of most of the other leaders of the APHC for a United States-led mediation on the Kashmir dispute, Ansari has openly voiced his opposition to the idea.
He is a firm believer that “India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris could resolve the issue without the help of outsiders”.
Professor Abdul Ghani Bhat
The Kashmiri resistance’s maverick and hard talker, Bhat has been regarded less a politician and more a people’s man. He speaks in simple, awami words, often dismissive about being politically correct.
Nonetheless, he is sharp in his observations and his one-line remarks hit home. Al Jazeera has termed him “a master of body language”.
Time and again, Bhat has proved himself to be an unconventional leader. He has never shied away from criticising his Hurriyat colleagues when needed, emphasising that “sincerity of purpose is not enough, a leader should have brains too”.
Bhat is staunchly pro-Pakistan and a supporter of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. He believes that “religious bonds are stronger than ethnic character”.
In an interview to Al Jazeera in 2003, Bhat said, “Kashmiri Hindus and Sikhs never supported Kashmir’s struggle – a glaring example of how strongly religion binds people.”
Abdul Ghani Lone
A lawyer from Aligarh Muslim University, Lone entered politics as a Congress member in the State Assembly in 1967.
Eleven years later, he formed the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference that strived to restore internal autonomy in the occupied territory.
He was assassinated in May 2002 under unexplained circumstances.
Sheikh Abdul Aziz
A strong advocate of the Kashmiri right to self-determination, Aziz, born in 1952 in a district close to Srinagar, was a key leader of the APHC.
He was the chairman of the Jammu Kashmir People’s League and his rise from being a militant commander to a pro-freedom politician was something that gave him influence. Aziz was known for openly demanding Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan, for which he served many jail terms.
Not many know that Aziz wasn’t a Kashmiri by birth. His ancestors had migrated from Arab lands to Kashmir. Aziz was killed in 2008 by Indian paramilitary forces during a protest call, Muzaffarabad chalo, against the economic blockade of the occupied Kashmir valley by India.
According to independent reports, he was one of those leading the protest from Sopore towards the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan when occupation forces charged on the protesters.
Aziz was critically injured as a result of the Indian assault and later succumbed to his injuries.