SRINAGAR: Pakistan's Senate on Monday evening unanimously passed a resolution recommending that Kashmir’s separatist patriarch Syed Ali Shah Geelani be conferred the country’s highest civilian award ‘Nishan-e-Pakistan' in recognition of his “relentless struggle for freedom”.
As the 91-year-old ailing leader is all set to receive the neighbouring country’s highest civilian honour, his supporters back home welcomed the passing of the resolution and said it was long-overdue. Corroborating the view, Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a former professor of law and international relations at the University of Kashmir, said “Syed Geelani has all along been in favour of Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan and has led the resistance movement back home on those lines only. I think it is in recognition of his services that he is being conferred Nishan-e-Pakistan. If you ask me he deserves more than that. It should not surprise anyone nor should it be objected to.”
He pointed out that in 1990, former Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai was conferred with this honour for his friendly overtures to Pakistan “so much so that he had turned down the suggestion from the erstwhile Soviet Union to attack Pakistan after its invaded Afghanistan in 1979.”
Syed Geelani quit as chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference last month and many analysts and sections of the Indian media had seen it and his strongly worded letter to his colleagues in the amalgam faction as an indirect rebuff to Pakistan and its clique in the Kashmiri separatist politics. While some people have termed the resolution passed by Pakistan Parliament’s Upper House as an effort to contain the fallout, Syed Geelani’s supporters said it is a “befitting reply” to those trying to create a “wedge” between the two sides.
However, BJP J-K unit chief, Ravindra Raina, criticised the move and alleged that Pakistan is conferring the national award on its “puppet and paid agent”. He said, “Geelani has along with Pakistan in the last over three decades played a noxious game in Jammu and Kashmir. It is now beyond any doubt that he is a Pakistani agent who with the ilk received money and weapons from its successive governments, the army and the ISI to kill innocent people in J&K. He is a murderer.”
Several people took to social media platforms to criticise the move. One of them, Pratiba Kaul, a Kashmiri Pandit, tweeted, “Pakistan’s rogue government conferred Nishan-e-Pakistan to Geelani for uprooting and killing Kashmiri Pandits, our valiant armed forces and thousands of innocent lives. Shame on Pakistan who supports terrorism without any regret”.
An Army veteran Brigadier (retired) R.S. Pathania asked whether the Indian government would still appease the separatist leader by issuing him travel documents to visit Pakistan to receive the honour for “fomenting terrorism in J-K” or “we are going to send him there permanently.”
Another netizen Dr. Kapil Sharma tweeted, “#Lahore Pak senate asking Nishan-e- Pakistan to Geelani. In that scenario the best candidate for Bharat Ratna should be Nawab Akbar Bugti, the Balochistan freedom fighter martyred in 2006. Gen. Musharraf is still under trial for his murder. Think over it”.
Though the sexagenarian separatist leader has yet to react to him being recommended for Nishan-e-Pakistan, one of his aides said, “Geelani Sahib’s stature is above all worldly recognitions. Nevertheless, it is a welcome decision and those who are criticizing it are only venting their frustration.”