JKLF founder Amanullah Khan is dead

Srinagar, April 26 (IANS) Amanullah Khan, considered to be the architect of Kashmir’s armed insurgency and the founder of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), died on Tuesday in Pakistan after a chronic lung disease. He was 82.

His son-in-law Sajad Lone, a minister in the BJP-PDP alliance government in Jammu and Kashmir, said Amanullah Khan’s last rites will be performed in Pakistan’s Rawalpindi city on Wednesday.

“He was seriously ill for the past three weeks. My wife Asma Khan and our children were with him. He died early today in Rawalpindi,” Lone told IANS.

Khan, listed among the most wanted fugitives in India by the Central Bureau of Investigation for “murder and criminal conspiracy”, was born in Gilgit region of an undivided Jammu and Kashmir in 1934. He lived in Srinagar after the state was divided between India and Pakistan following the 1948 war.

However, he migrated to Pakistan four years later and began his political career by launching a movement for an independent Jammu and Kashmir.

Amanullah Khan was part of several separatist campaigns, including the Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front — a movement for the right to self-determination co-launched by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, who later became the chief minister of the state in 1975.

In the late 1960s, he co-founded the National Liberation Front (NLF) with Maqbool Bhat for Jammu and Kashmir’s independence — the same group that owned the responsibility of hijacking an Indian Airlines plane to Pakistan in 1971.

As he continued to be on the run in Pakistan following the plane hijack, Amanullah Khan shifted to the United Kingdom in 1976 and renamed NLF as the JKLF in 1977. Meanwhile, Bhat, who had emerged as Khan’s close confidant, was arrested in India for the murder of a police intelligence officer.

In 1984, a little known group Jammu and Kashmir National Liberation Army allegedly abducted an Indian diplomat, Ravindra Mhatre, in Birmingham. The group demanded Bhat be released from an Indian prison. India declined and Mhatre was assassinated on February 5 that year.

Six days later, Bhat was executed in Delhi’s Tihar Jail. Amanullah Khan was briefly picked up by the Scotland Yard for questioning in the murder-assassination of the diplomat but was set free soon.

He returned to Pakistan in 1986. A year later, he started armed separatist movement in Kashmir by clandestinely inviting selected Kashmiri youth for military training in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Among the first to join him were Hameed Sheikh, Ashfaq Majeed, Javaid Mir and Yaseen Malik.

While Sheikh and Majeed were killed in anti-militancy operations, Javaid Mir and Yaseen Malik are still active in political separatist campaign in Kashmir.

In 1991, India got an Interpol arrest warrant issued against Amanullah Khan for his alleged involvment in the abduction and murder of Kashmir University vice chancellor Mushir-ul-Haq. Despite the arrest warrant, he managed to get a Belgian visa for an international conference on Kashmir. He was arrested in Brussels and jailed for 21 days at Saint-Gilles prison in the Belgian capital.

Amanullah Khan could not be extradited to India as prosecutors failed to prove his involvement in the crimes. He quietly returned to Pakistan where he was always under the keen eyes of intelligence agencies.

He, however, managed to stay politically active with public speeches and press statements in favour of Kashmir’s complete “independence” from both India and Pakistan.

Lone, his son-in-law, said Amanullah Khan’s death brought an “end of an era”.

“He was a text book Kashmiri nationalist who struggled all his life,” Lone told IANS.

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