Was Maqbool Bhat a Pakistani ‘Agent’?

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Maqbool Bhat has been given the title of ‘shaheed’ or ‘martyr’ in Pakistan. Maqbool Bhat was hanged in Tihar Jail in Delhi on February 11, 1984. He was the founder of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), which was instrumental in facilitating the early influx of jihadi terrorists in Kashmir.

Maqbool Bhat was born into a peasant household on February 18, 1938 in Trehgam, a village, in Kupwara district. At a young age he was influenced by the Jamaat-e-Islami, which was active in South Kashmir. Later he crossed the border with his uncle Aziz Bhat and entered Pakistan. He was admitted to the Peshawar University where he completed his Masters in Urdu literature.

During a meeting held by ‘Mahaz Rai Shumari’ or the Plebiscite Front on July 12, 1965 in Mirpur in Pakistan occupied Jammu Kashmir (PoJK), Maqbool Bhat proposed to raise arms against India. It was unanimously rejected.

Later, on August 13, 1965, Maqbool Bhat formed a secret militant organisation and named it the ‘National Liberation Movement’. It’s initial meeting was held at the residence of Pakistani army officer Major Amar Ulla in Peshawar. This is the first link that establishes Bhat’s links with the Pakistan Army.

On June 10, 1965 Bhat along with his three companions — Tahir Aurangzeb, Mir Ahmed and Kala Khan — crossed over into the Indian territory of Jammu & Kashmir. Their aim was to recruit young men for terrorist operations in the Valley. My question is whether it was his individual will or a task handed over to him by the Pakistan Army. Later events that led to the infiltration of Jihadists whom the JKLF smuggled over from Pakistan and the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits that was conducted in January 1990 and still goes on, in which JKLF played a major part, tend to confirm my suspicion that Bhat was not acting alone during the 1960s, 70s and early part of the 80s. Thanks to a Kashmiri who had managed to infiltrate Bhat’s inner circle, Bhat’s hideout was busted and an encounter took place in which Tahir Aurangzeb and an Indian CID officer Amar Chand were killed.

Bhat was arrested, tried for the murder of an Indian officer and on August 6, 1968 Bhat was sentenced to death by hanging. However, on December 2, 1968 Bhat along with his two accomplices managed to escape through a 38-foot long tunnel that they had dug out. Once out of prison Bhat reappears in Muzaffarabad in PoJK. The question is why did he head for Muzaffarabad if he was fighting for the ‘liberation’ of the whole state of Jammu and Kashmir?

Obviously, he ignored the fact that it was Pakistan and not India who had caused the breakup of the state of J&K by conducting an attack on October 22, 1947. How could he not know this fact? This fundamental omission from his political road map creates suspicion about the whole affair of ‘Azadi’ and further confirms my doubt that he was acting on instructions of the Pakistan military.

On January 30, 1971 an Indian airliner flying from Srinagar to Jammu was hijacked and forced to fly to Lahore airport. The hijackers are Hashim Qureshi, who now lives in Srinagar, and another person. They both claim Bhat to be their leader and say that they belong to the JKLF of which Bhat was now the supreme leader. Why did Pakistan not deliver them to India when the hijacking was over and Maqbool Bhat along with both hijackers were already in Pakistan’s custody? And how, then, did Maqbool Bhat manage to cross the border and enter India for a second time?

In 1976, Bhat was arrested in Srinagar while attempting to rob a bank. His previous death sentence was still valid and he made a clemency appeal to the then President of India Shri Giani Zail Singh. For 9 years no decision was taken regarding Bhat’s clemency appeal. Then, on February 3, 1984 Indian diplomat Shri Ravindra Mhatre was kidnapped in Birmingham in England and a demand by an unknown organisation that called itself ‘Kashmir Liberation Army’ made demands to the Indian government for the release of Maqbool Bhat. However, on February 6 they executed Mhatre. Bhat was hanged five days later in the Tihar Jail in Delhi.

Ever Since Maqbool Bhat has been hailed as a ‘hero’ by the stooges of the Pakistan military establishment and presented as the Che Guevara of Kashmir, which cements my doubts about him being a tiny, yet poisonous, proponent of the British sponsored Pakistani occupation of Jammu & Kashmir since October 22, 1947.

(Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoJK. He currently lives in exile in the UK.)

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