Shujaat Bukhari

``Protected persons are provided security on the basis of threat perception''

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq gets the highest security coverHurriyat given a chance to present its view to the world: AzadInteraction at all levels will help the peace process

JAMMU: Even as the Government is fighting a political battle with separatist leaders in Jammu and Kashmir, it is providing them high-end security. In 2005, the Government spent Rs. 1 crore on security for them.

In response to a question in the Legislative Council, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said that the amount was spent on the security of 10 separatist leaders, including Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference, his predecessors, Abdul Ghani Bhat and Moulvi Abbas Ansari, Democratic Freedom Party chief Shabir Shah, Sajjad Gani Lone and Bilal Gani Lone, the heads of two rival factions of the People's Conference.

Though Mr. Azad did not mention the specific threats against these leaders, he said protected persons are provided security on the basis of threat perception.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who leads the hard line faction of the Hurriyat Conference, now has security, though he refused it two years back.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who is also the head priest of the Jamia Masjid, has the highest security cover among these. Apart from a bulletproof car, two escorts and a few personal security officers, nearly 30 policemen guard his Nagin residence. Two observation posts and a barricade have been erected outside his house. Sajjad and Bilal Lone, the sons of slain Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone, also have significant security cover. So is the case of Prof. Bhat and Moulvi Abbas Ansari.

A top security official said the security of these leaders was reviewed from time to time. "Though a good amount of security is deployed we have not given them any particular category," he said.

Confidence-building measures

To a question on confidence-building measures, Mr. Azad said that allowing the Hurriyat leaders to travel abroad gave them a chance to present their viewpoint to the world community. However, he said, the world community did not support their rigid stands. He said the interactions with the world community and their visit to Muzaffarabad had helped leaders of the pro-freedom camp understand the ground realities. This had paved the way for mass interaction.