Dukhtaran-e-Millat (Daughters of faith) chief, Asiya Andrabi, doesn’t shy away from calling spade a spade. Known to speak her mind, she has been critical of the resistance movement in Jammu and Kashmir and has openly warned leaders of the pitfalls. In an exclusive interview with Moazum Mohammad at her home in summer capital, Srinagar, she talks about her meeting with Al Qaeda. Excerpts:
MM: Tell us about your organisation and its activities?
AA: Duktharan-e-Millat came into existence in 1981; the year I completed my graduation. I intended to move to Dalhousie for post-graduation in Biochemistry but my brother didn’t allow me. It was bit shocking for me. That time I wasn’t observing purdah (veil). Fortunately, I came across a book Khawatien ki dilun ki baatien and it changed my life. I started reading Quran and never looked back.
Till 1987, everything was falling in place until we marched through streets against nudity and sprayed black paint on film posters in cinemas.
On that day police raided our office, my house and harassed my father. Police told my father that your daughter is mobilising Kashmir women against India. But, he told them that she was doing social work, propagating Islam but wasn’t talking about India yet. I had to go underground for 21 days.
Muhammad Abdullah Bangroo and Maqbool IIlahi, the first commanders who came from Pakistan, met me in 1988. They asked me about my roles as they were gearing to wage a fight against India. They assured me that besides youth some religious leaders were supportive. I told them to launch a war against India isn’t easy. When I raised concern they admitted that then chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, Maulana Saadudin, wasn’t with them as he believed time wasn’t ripe. I told them he was a learned man and mature enough to judge. I asked the two commanders to be careful, but as I too was young, I assured them of moral support. I told them if women will be in jihad it will create lot of problems.
I focussed on propagating Islam and opened Quran-teaching centres (darsgahs). The pattern of my teachings was altogether different from others. Currently, the centre of my movement is Quran teaching. I take classes in different districts including Srinagar, Islamabad, Banihal and other far flung areas. The network of teaching centres spreads across Jammu and Kashmir.
MM: You met a Pakistan delegation in New Delhi recently. How did Islamabad suddenly realize your significance?
AA: That is not true. Very recently they invited me to Organisation of Islamic Countries general assembly meet in United States. Pakistan has always invited me but I did not have travel documents.
MM: You said you don’t have travel documents, but in 1999 you travelled to Saudi Arabia?
AA: That time I had passport but Indian government wasn’t aware of it as it carried the name Asiya Ashiq Faktoo instead of Asiya Andrabi. I was invited to Saudi Arabia by Pakistan and I talked to high personalities of Islamabad establishment there about Kargil war. In 1998, I went to London and they (Pakistan) called me for talks. After Dr Ashiq Faktoo, my husband, was released in 1999, he went to London in 2000 to attend a conference but on return he was arrested and when Indian government saw his spouse’s name my travel documents were seized. They (Pakistan) talk to me in different ways. It’s not necessary they will call me to Pakistan embassy. On 14th August or 23 March, they always call me to come over there but I never went to Pakistan embassy to have a cup of tea. This time, I thought Sartaj Aziz is not an ambassador but at the helm of affairs as advisor to Prime Minister on foreign affairs. We must meet him. Pakistan knows my importance since 1981.
MM: What did you discuss with Sartaj Aziz?
AA: I just wanted to convey them that Kashmir people are not ready for any compromise. We have scarified six lakh people since 1947. You can’t compromise with an oppressor. I told Aziz you are building terms with India and we are not against that but not at the cost of Kashmir people. I told them you are encouraging some forces who are not loyal to Kashmir people and their cause.
MM: What do you mean by some forces?
AA: There are hundreds of leaders in Kashmir and Pakistan is also responsible for that. If they wouldn’t have given them legitimacy and acceptance, they would not have been leaders here.
MM: You are known for calling spade a spade. So why don’t you name them?
AA: Professor Abdul Gani Bhat, Bilal Gani Lone and Abbas Ansari from Hurriyat Conference headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Mirwaiz without these Indian stooges, I think, can’t harm the resistance movement if not benefit it. I told them to maintain quality rather than quantity.
MM: You have also been critical of Syed Ali Geelani as a leader?
AA: He is a leader but a leader is known through his companions. Syed Ali Geelani is not surrounded by top caliber selfless people.
MM: What was the response from Pakistan delegation?
AA: They told me that Islamabad wants to change its Kashmir policy and they want nothing less than right to self-determination. Aziz apologised that there were some u-turns on Kashmir policy and assured that there will be no betrayal.
MM: Pakistan government arresting your relatives during an anti-terror raid must have come as a shock?
AA: In September, this year, I received a call from my sister in Malaysia. She said the house of our elder sister has been raided in Pakistan and everyone has been arrested. I was shocked! How would Pakistan police arrest them? After few hours, I received call from Pakistan that only Shoaib Andrabi has been arrested and my sister, her daughter-in-law, children and her maid were taken to a safe place.
My brother-in-law Dr Mujhid Gilani is in hospital but there is no news on his son Irtiyaz Gilani who was studying aeronautical engineering. Pakistan police claim that Irtiyaz fled while shooting, but I confirmed, it’s not true. While coming back from his university, Irtiyaz was arrested. Then we came to know that their tenant, Tanveer Gonda, who was putting up in the house basement was a top Al-Qaeda leader. Shoaib Geelani will come out this week because there is nothing against him. He had come to Pakistan to pursue engineering degree. I am perturbed and I think Pakistan establishment is more disturbed over the affair.
MM: If Irtiyaz’s links with Al Qaeda are proven, would you regret him launching war against Pakistan?
AA: I don’t think it’s permissible to launch a war against Pakistan. It is a Muslim country and is a sacred land for we people. We will not even dream of a single gunshot against Pakistan. As far as Al Qaeda’s global jihad is concerned I don’t think there’s anything wrong if Irtiyaz would have been involved.
MM: Do you smell a rat?
AA: I think there are hundreds of spies working in Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who have been given tasks by India’s Research and Analysis Wing. So there are innocent people who love Pakistan but get influenced in the name of jihad.
MM: Tell us in detail..
AA: You know some people came to me from Saudi Arabia. They were from TTP and they told me that they were actually from Al-Qaeda and that we want to start Guzwa-e-Hind from Pakistan. They actually told me that we are some journalists from Saudi Gazette and want to talk to you. When they met me they told me that they were from Al-Qaeda and not from Saudi Gazette. They were 5-6 people and gave me pen drive and showed some lectures of Sheikh Osama’s (Bin Laden) and his subordinates on their laptop and told me we are going to start Guzwa-e-Hind from Pakistan. But I told them if you have come here for that you want to start Jihad from Pakistan then please get out from here. If you are from Al-Qaeda and you belong to Sheikh Osama’s Al-Qaeda then you are very welcome because he was a legitimate leader of Jihad. As far as Guzwa-e-Hind conception I think it will be started from Khurasan. That country is the fort of Islam and every Mujahideen got refuge in Pakistan. It was people like you who destabilised Pakistan. I told them that it’s some game plan of India… so if you are for that there’s no place.
They quoted verses from Quran and I told them I read and teach the holy book so don’t interpret the verse according to your plan. You cannot do this jihad in Pakistan. Now if you start jihad in Pakistan it will surely suit India and Pakistan will get more destabilized. They tried hard to convince me and told me If would be convinced I would convince others. I spurned them saying I will not act based on your interpretations.
MM: What’s the possible solution for Kashmir issue?
AA: The solution is right to self determination.
MM: Isn’t independent Kashmir an option?
AA: There’s no alternative than to fight against India politically, militarily, diplomatically and whatever means we have. We have to fight and we won’t backtrack. After 1988, independence was floated as an option. It’s the brainchild of DP Dhar, Prem Nath Bazaz and others. India wanted to divide us and it harmed the resistance movement.
MM: You have always been critical of dialogue?
AA: I am not a critic of dialogue but of compromise. We aren’t against talks but India must first accept Kashmir as dispute. In 2010, when interlocutors wanted to meet me in a jail in Jammu I refused saying they have come here saying Kashmir people are from their lot. I told them categorically we aren’t your people neither you are our people. You are our enemy, aggressor and have occupied Kashmir illegally. Why to talk to you? Whosoever goes with dialogue or talks with India is not in favour of Kashmiri nation.
MM: There are talks about Afghan Taliban or Al-Qaeda coming to Kashmir..
AA: When Afghan Taliban or Al Qaeda comes to Kashmir we should keep in mind that roadmap or agenda should be ours. We have to think that our brothers are coming to help us to liberate us from India but we shouldn’t surrender everything to them. Before they enter here, there should be debate with them and we must clear ourselves to them that there should be Islam in Kashmir not to propagate any ideology. It should be purely based on Islam.
MM: Many analysts say the international community won’t support Kashmir cause if Taliban make it to the region..
AA: We don’t need support of international community. They never supported us. They will support us only if we sacrifice our Islamic faith.
MM: How do you see Amina Wadud who is leading prayers in America?
AA: She is a fitnah. Last week she came here and somebody called me that she wants to meet me. I refused. She is the creation of some agency and is secularising shariah. She can’t lead men to prayers. She can lead salah among the women. She can’t be full-fledged imam and can’t give Friday sermon.