Ghulam Muhammad Mir, former President of Plebiscite Front and National Liberation Front (NLF) was a close associate of Maqbool Bhat who was, at times, jailed along with him during his political activism in Pakistan including the famous Ganga Trial. On 25th April, 1986, G.M. Mir published a five-year report about the political activities of JK Plebiscite Front. In this report, he discussed the events during the years between the arrest and execution of Maqbool Bhat in great detail. Some excerpts from the report have been reproduced hereunder.
Plebiscite Front faced the biggest shock and tragedy of its history in February 1984. News surfaced during the initial days of February that an Indian diplomat Ravindra Mahatre had been kidnapped. Next day, the news was that a group called Kashmir Liberation Army claimed the responsibility and demanded the release of Maqbool Bhat and 10 million pounds as ransom. A day later, the news was aired that Mahatre had been killed. According to the newspapers, the abductors neither waited for an answer by the Indian government nor did they try to negotiate.
As soon as the news of Mahatre’s murder became public, the Indian government became active immediately. Indira Gandhi called an emergency meeting of her cabinet in which some important decisions were made. President Zail Singh was asked to reject the Maqbool Ahmad Bhat’s appeal for clemency. The writ petition filed by Maqbool Bhat in the Supreme Court regarding legal and constitutional aspects of the case was also dismissed. P.P. Nayyer form the Interior Ministry of India was sent to Jammu to remove all sorts of legal barriers and to bring black warrant for Maqbool Bhat’s execution and on 11 February, Maqbool Bhat was hanged.
How did all this happen suddenly? Its background should be explained in detail.
The departure of Maqbool Bhat to Occupied Kashmir in May 1976 is a deep mystery. It will take time to unravel its details. He was already been convicted of death by a court in Occupied Kashmir. Therefore, after the reorganization of NLF, the central committee of the Plebiscite Front, after a long discussion and deliberation, took the final decision with everyone’s consent that Maqbool Bhat would not go to Occupied Kashmir at any cost and he accepted this decision. Question is, what had happened that we came to know during the last days of May, 1976 that Mabqool Bhat had gone to Occupied Kashmir? The whole leadership of the Plebiscite Front and NLF was unaware of this step except one person. Some friends and sympathizers at that time feared that it was a conspiracy to trap or kill Maqbool Bhat.
After his arrest in June 1976, the executive and working committee of the Plebiscite Front overviewed the situation and inspected the possible ways to save him. India and Pakistan had signed an agreement related to the exchange of prisoners in 1952 according to which both the countries were bound to return their prisoners (regardless of the nature of their arrest). Bhat Sahib’s associate Subedar Kala Khan returned to Pakistan after getting released from Srinagar jail in the light of same agreement. Therefore, the Plebiscite Front had started pressing the Pakistani government that Maqbool Bhat should be brought back in the exchange of prisoners with India.
When President General Zia-ul-Haq visited Azad Kashmir, several delegations at Mangla demanded that arrangements be made for the release and return of Maqbool Bhat. Among those people were; K.H. Khurshid of Liberation League, Maulana Abdul Bari of Jamat-e-Islami and Maulana Muhammad Yousuf of Jamiat Ulma-e-Islam. The President of Pakistan promised that he would surely take some step in this regard. On the same occasion, the Minister of Kashmir Affairs, General Faiz Ali Chishti invited Advocate Khaliq Ansari for a detailed discussion in Rawalpindi.
On 6 December, 1978, a delegation of 17 people met the Minister of Kashmir Affairs in Rawalpindi and told him about the matter of Maqbool Bhat. General Chishti assured them that the Government of Pakistan would try every possible thing to get him released. He also demanded some necessary documents in this regard. Therefore, on 16th December, 1978, I and Abdul Khaliq Ansari sent a detailed letter along with the required material to the minister.
In the last week of December, we were informed that India had demanded the immediate return of all the Indian citizens in Pakistani jails. Therefore, on 30 December, 1978, Khaliq Ansari again wrote to the Minister of Kashmir Affairs and requested him to take the steps for the release of Maqbool Bhat and his comrades Riyaz Dar and Abdul Hamid.
Letters were continuously being written to the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan and the Chief Martial Law Administrator Secretariat. In reply, they assured Khaliq Ansari, Rashid Hasrat and myself that the matter was under consideration of the government and progress was being made in this regard.
Our friends in the foreign countries were also pressurizing the Pakistani government by different means.
Amnesty International and some other international institutions were also trying. We were regularly receiving copies of their letters.
Unofficial sources were also reporting that Pakistani government had raised this issue in front of India very seriously. Daily Sadaqat from Rawalpindi even published that Maqbool Ahmad Bhat was soon going to be released and return to Pakistan.
After the martyrdom of Maqbool Bhat, Indian Newspaper “Hind Samachar” published a piece of news from a reliable source that the Indian government wanted to exchange Maqbool Bhat with some important political prisoner inside Pakistani jails. An atmosphere was being created for negotiations about Maqbool Bhat and some other prisoners when Indian diplomat was killed which reversed the whole situation.
There, Maqbool Bhat had filed a writ petition against his death sentence in the Supreme Court of India in which he challenged the decision of the special court on legal and constitutional bases and requested the re-hearing of the case. The Supreme Court had appointed a commission of two lawyers which had to scrutinize all the records of the special court in Srinagar to select the concerned material to be presented in the Supreme Court.
One of the Maqbool Bhat’s friends, Ghulam Hassan of Baramulla, came here in the first days of February 1984. Ghulam Hassan, who had met Maqbool Bhat in January that year, told us that Maqbool was much hopeful about his writ petition and he believed that the Supreme Court would be forced to re-hear the whole case again. And this verdict would be our victory. Maqbool Bhat firmly believed that the Indian government could not hang him. On one occasion when he had said that “that rope has not been made yet which can hang me”, he was not bragging but there was a belief behind that. We, too, were satisfied that one day Maqbool Bhat would meet us after getting released in the exchange of prisoners.
Meanwhile, when all this was going on, a reckless person here was busy in some other business just for sake of his own political advertisement. Exploiting the spirit of independence of Kashmiri youths and utilizing them as a raw material for the publicity of his own self-image, had become his habit. Previously, he had also taken some actions which could have resulted in the death of Maqbool Bhat instead of his release. A similar kind of action by him in 1982 had sent Maqbool Bhat to death cell but since it was bluffing and threatening only and no damage was done to India at that time, India was compelled to shift him back to the ordinary cell under international pressure. Khaliq Ansari had warned Amanullah Khan at several instances that his stupid actions could result in the death of their companion. But Amanullah Khan not only did not listen to him but also used to highlight these objections. He used to say that he was criticized by them whenever he tried to do anything.
As soon as the news of Mahatre’s abduction and murder was aired, every conscious and patriotic Kashmiri became worried. Even a layman understands that demanding the release of your comrade after abducting an enemies’ man and killing him before the enemy answers, is equal to pushing your own friend near death.
According to reports, the Indian government sent a senior officer namely Gori Shankar on 4th February, 1984 to London, and told their High Commissioner in London, who had just been transferred to some other country, to stay there until the next order but since they were unable to trace the abductors, Gori Shankar and other Indian officers were not successful in negotiating with them. Next day, Mahatre was killed and the situation was changed completely. When Amanullah Khan was once asked the reason why Mahatre was killed so early, he replied that UK’s Scotland Yard is so expert in tracking the criminals that it was very difficult to hide Mahatre from them anymore. On such occasion, it is pertinent to tell that Agha Khan’s horse “Shurga” has been abducted for the last two years but Scotland Yard is yet to find any clue about it.
At the time of Maqbool Bhat’s martyrdom, everyone was saying that “Maqbool was killed by his own men.” As a poet puts;
“Dekha Jo teer khaa ke kameen Gah ki Taraf
Apnay hi dostun se mulaqat ho gayi”
(Met my own friends when I searched for the releasing point of the arrow which hit me.)
Several newspapers shared the same view about this incident. For instance, Srinagar Times wrote:
“Perhaps Maqbool Bhat would not have been hanged. Or at least not that early. If Kashmir Liberation Army had not claimed the responsibility of abduction and murder of Ravindra Mahatre.”
Weekly “Insaaf” commented: “Whosoever killed Mahatre is directly responsible for the murder of Maqbool Bhat.”
Srinagar based “Azaan” wrote in its editorial: “The killing of Ravindra Mahatre in UK by Kashmir Liberation Army became the reason of Maqbool Ahmad Bhat’s execution.”
Weekly “Inqlaab” from Rawalpindi wrote: “…it is due to the stupidity of these simpletons that the cruel morning of 11 February dawned when the Indian government took the revenge of the murder of its diplomat by hanging a Kashmiri freedom fighter Maqbool Bhat.”
Above all, Maqbool Bhat himself spoke these historical words to Mr. Pathak in his last meeting:
“I am being hanged after Mhatres murder in Birmingham as a result of the politics of revenge even though I personally do not like actions of such kind.”
President JKLF UK chapter, Mr. Abdul Jabbar Butt wrote after the martyrdom of Maqbool Bhat in a condolence letter to the Plebiscite Front:
“JKLF shares the national tragedy in the death of Maqbool Bhat, friend, patriot and ex-president of Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front. Our head droops in shame that he fell victim to a cheap publicity stunt to which some people of dubious character are given to resort. Their treachery has met our string unambiguous condemnation. Please expose people responsible for Bhat’s death. Do not allow them to manipulate this sacrifice. Circulate this message to all concerned circles especially youth and inform them that this was act of reckless adventurism.”
Plebiscite Front took the same stand on this tragedy that some youths full of the spirit of freedom and self-sacrifice were used by a selfish person for his own political advertisement and as a result, the nation suffered such a great loss. Abducting an ordinary worker Mahatre in Indian consulate, then killing him in haste without any negotiations, and the contradictory statements of Amanullah Khan during the whole episode and the subsequent arrests and trails of the freedom fighters, all indicate that it was nothing else than a reckless adventurism. In the lieu of an unimportant person like Mahatre, we bore the loss of great Maqbool Bhat, several innocent youths faced big punishments while others were deported from UK. Was the mastermind “unaware” of such consequences? The passion for freedom and patriotism of the youth who are said to be involved in murder and kidnapping is admirable. We value and respect their passion. But all the responsibility falls on that “mastermind” who kept these young people in the dark and used them for his own political gains.
The mind again goes back to the mystery of Maqbool Bhat’s departure to Occupied Kashmir, and then the incidents of foolish adventures by them from time to time and at last the death of Maqbool Bhat as a result of this misadventure. The whole issue is a big question mark whether all these incidents are linked to the same conspiracy?
Great poet Ahmad Faraz said for an occasion like this:
“Yaaro mujhay masloob karo na tum, ke merey bad
Mumkin hai ke tumhara qad-o-qamat nikal aye”
(Crucify me my friends so that your stature might get increased after me.)
A translation of excerpts from “Five Year Report” of Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front by G.M. Mir. The original document in Urdu is available here (at the end).