Successor Ashraf Sehrai more rigid than Syed Ali Geelani

Sehrai was appointed interim chairman by Majlis-e-Shoora, a decision-making body of the TeH that met on Monday in Srinagar.

Sehrai's appointment as the interim chairman signals a change of guard in the separatist group at a time when some of the important TeH members are in the custody of the NIA, on charges of having received secret funding for fomenting unrest in Kashmir.

The Tehreek-e-Hurriyat led by Syed Ali Geelani today held a meeting at its office in Srinagar and elected senior member Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai as the party chairman, said a spokesperson.

Geelani would, however, continue to be chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) that is a strong separatist organisation in Kashmir.

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Sehrai, 72, also from Jama'at-e-Islami like Geelani, is seen as "straight forward" politician who at times has criticised Geelani in his personal communications on various issues and known to be more rigid than Geelani.

Geelani had cited health reasons as he offered to step down. He extended his fullest cooperation and honest wishes to the would-be leadership of the organization.

Till now Sehrai, who is Geelani's close aide and friend, was the general secretary of the party. Before that, Sehrai had given a miss to executive council meetings of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat and the Hurriyat as well. India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested several senior pro-freedom leaders in the past one year. They are now detained in Tihar Jail in New Delhi. He served at this position for 18 years.

Observers say that Geelani's departure from active politics would have far-reaching impact on the politics of Kashmir.

  • Lawrence Cooper