Senior All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Fazal Haq Qureshi has been critically injured in a Friday evening assassination attempt, evidently intended to disrupt ongoing covert negotiations between the Government of India and secessionist groups in Jammu and Kashmir.
The 65-year-old secessionist leader was shot at point-blank range while returning home from a local mosque after prayers, and is battling for his life at Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences.
Mr. Qureshi is believed to have been a key player in the secret talks held between the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led APHC and Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram.
Early this winter, as the talks began, Mirwaiz Farooq tasked Mr. Qureshi with securing hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s support for the dialogue.
In October, at a conference organised by the Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, Mr. Qureshi also offered to engage pro-India formations like the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party.
The Srinagar-based Kashmir News Service said a spokesman for the al-Nasireen group claimed that it had carried out the attack as Mr. Qureshi was playing an important role in dialogue with New Delhi.
Believed to be a name used to designate joint operations by the Pakistan-based Hizb ul-Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the al-Nasireen had claimed responsibility for several bombings and suicide squad attacks — as well as the 2003 assassination of the pro-dialogue Hizb ul-Mujahideen commander, Abdul Majid Dar.
Dar, who helped to co-found the Hizb ul-Mujahideen along with Mr. Qureshi, initiated a 12-day unilateral ceasefire with the Government of India in 2000. Mr. Qureshi played a key role in brokering the ceasefire, along with Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone, who was assassinated in 2002.
Intelligence sources in New Delhi told The Hindu that there was credible information that the assassination bid was carried out by a Srinagar-based Hizb ul-Mujahideen cell, which is also thought to have been involved in the targeted killings of police personnel in the city earlier this year.
In a November 26 interview, Hizb ul-Mujahideen chief Mohammad Yusuf Shah attacked Mr. Chidambaram’s efforts to bring about a dialogue between New Delhi and the APHC as “a ploy by India to create fissures in separatist ranks.”