NEW DELHI: The naming of Masarat Alam, lodged in Tihar jail as an undertrial in an NIA terror funding case, as the next chief of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference is clearly an attempt by ISI masterminds to give prominence to hardline and pro-Pakistan voices within the separatist umbrella outfit and in J&K in general. However, the assessment within the Indian security establishment is that with Alam incarcerated in New Delhi, his appointment at the Hurriyat helm is only a symbolic move meant to enthuse pro-Pakistan elements in Kashmir, and may not have any immediate impact on the ground in terms of revival of protests or hartals.
“The choice of Alam for heading Hurriyat has the stamp of Pakistan and ISI. Pakistan clearly wants friendly, hardline voices to gain traction in Kashmir. But even though Alam will head Hurriyat, his writ is unlikely to run in the UT as he is in a Delhi jail miles away from Kashmir. We believe the encouraging effect that Masarat’s new status will have on the ‘hardliners’ and Hurriyat cadres in J&K may at best be temporary. We don’t see any immediate impact on the security situation in J&K, but remain watchful of any likely attempt by Pakistan to foment fresh trouble in J&K, using Geelani’s death and quick burial as a trigger,” an officer of the Central security establishment told TOI on Wednesday. “As of now, most of the Hurriyat leadership, either arrested or under the lens for terror funding, is quiet,” said an officer.
On reports in a section of the media hinting at a move to ban Hurriyat under UAPA, the official said while the Act empowers the Centre to proscribe any outfit involved in terror funding, the pros and cons of the action have to be weighed. “Hurriyat is currently down and out, and a ban may only bring it back into relevance,” reasoned an official.
A top leader of the Muslim League, Masarat Alam was the prime mover and motivator behind the stone-pelting protests in Kashmir in 2010 and also linked to the cycle of violent protests and hartals that followed the killing of Hizbul terrorist Burhan Wani in 2016.
Masarat was taken into detention under the J&K Public Safety Act (PSA) in 2010, but freed in 2015 after the J&K HC quashed his PSA detention. He was however re-arrested soon after in an NIA terror funding case and chargesheeted as an accused in the same case in 2019.

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