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Amanullah Khan: Pioneer of the struggle for the J&K’s independence

Amanullah Khan, the leader of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) died on Tuesday at the age of 85, from a chronic pulmonary disease. Khan was admitted to a health facility in Rawalpindi a week ago, and died at 8:30am.

His death marked an end to his untiring and robust struggle for the reunification of Jammu and Kashmir and its emergence as a sovereign country.

“I am a well-wisher of Pakistan, but my loyalty is restricted to Kashmir,” Khan would often say.

He was the head of the JKLF, which he had raised in 1977 in the United Kingdom. The organisation saw a split in 1995, but reunited in 2012.

Khan was born on Aug 24, 1931 in the Pari Shang village of Astore, around 110 kilometres from Gilgit. In 1935, Khan was sent to live with his sister in the Hihama village in the Kashmir valley, where he attended primary school. He passed his matriculation from Handwara in 1950 and enrolled in the SP College in Srinagar, with a focus on science.

Due to political turmoil, Khan fled to Jammu and entered Pakistan through the working boundary in January 1952. After a few months in Rawalpindi and Peshawar, he moved to Karachi. Khan then enrolled in the Sindh Muslim College, and two years later set up the Kashmir Students Federation. He graduated in 1957, and earned an LLB degree from the SM Law College in Karachi.

In May 1963, Khan was among the notable Kashmiris who founded the Kashmir Independence Committee (KIC), which advocated the right of complete independence for Kashmir. It was due to the efforts of the KIC that the Jammu Kashmir Plebiscite Front (JKPF) was raised in Sialkot in April 1965, with Khan as its general secretary.

In August 1965, the National Liberation Front was raised as the JKPF’s militant wing, to launch an armed struggle for Kashmir’s independence. Khan was imprisoned on a number of occasions, some periods stretching as long as 15 months. In May 1970, JKPF leaders visited Gilgit to raise their voices for the people of what were then known as the Northern Areas. While some were exiled, Khan remained in prison from November 1970 to February 1972, in Gilgit and Chilas.

During the same period, an Indian Airlines aircraft – Ganga – was hijacked by two Kashmiris and brought to Pakistan. Following the incident, around 300 JKPF leaders and members were rounded up from across the country. Khan was brought from Gilgit to the Lahore Fort for two months, where he was among those who faced the ‘third degree’.

Khan married Zahida Parveen, the daughter for a former Gilgit-Baltistan inspector general of police, when he was 39. Their daughter Asma Khan was born in July 1974, and married Sajjad Ghani Lone, the younger son of late Abdul Ghani Lone, in 2000. In 1976, Khan travelled to the UK to highlight the Kashmiri struggle for independence, and also laid the foundations of the JKLF, in 1977.

In 1995, Yasin Malik – who was leading the JKLF in India-held Kashmir – publicly renounced violence, a move that precipitated a split in the organisation because Khan refused to own Mr Malik’s stance. In 2005, Mr Malik was allowed to visit Pakistan by the Indian authorities for the first time, and the two leaders agreed to unite the JKLF after they met, although the move did not materialise at the time. Mr Malik returned to Pakistan in 2012, which was when the final decision for reunification was taken, and was ratified by the central executive committees of both factions in August that year.

Throughout his life, Khan did not miss an opportunity to highlight his cause and advocate his belief in the reunification and independence of Kashmir. Equipped with excellent communication skills, he pursued his cause through speeches, publications and contact with all stakeholders. In addition to numerous pamphlets and articles on the Kashmir independence movement, Khan also authored two books on his life and struggle.

According to his spokesperson, Rafiq Dar, Khan travelled to Gilgit earlier this year and held meetings with the governor, chief minister and others, to warn them of the repercussions of GB’s conversion into a province of Pakistan. Mr Dar said Khan’s health deteriorated due to harsh weather, and he had to return to Rawalpindi to undergo a string of medical tests. Since April 5, Khan was bed-bound in various health facilities, but was always in a relaxed frame of mind.

Mr Dar said: “In his death we have a lost a leader, a benevolent father, a mentor, a guide and an ideologue.”

Khan’s funeral will be held at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi at 11am on Wednesday, following which the body will be taken by road to Gilgit for burial, in accordance with his will.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2016

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