Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of the hardline faction of the All Party Hurriyat Conference, on Tuesday demanded the immediate withdrawal of security forces from the Kashmir Valley.
Addressing a mammoth gathering of over 1,00,000 people at Srinagar's Tourists Reception Centre Grounds along with fellow leaders Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Shabbir Shah and Yasin Malik, Geelani laid down three immediate demands: The withdrawal of security forces from Kashmir, the continuation of the peaceful agitation for right to self-determination and the unity of the Muslim Ummah.
The Hurriyat, which had announced a three-day suspension of its agitation from Tuesday, changed its decision and declared that the complete shutdown in the valley will continue.
The Hurriyat leaders also called off their planned march to the United Nations Military Observers Group office. "Either we all go, or nobody goes. Since the security forces won't allow all of us, we will not go to the United Nations office today," Yasin Malik said.
"The United Nations must send its peacekeeping troops to ensure the safety of the people both in the Valley and Jammu," he said, adding that the Valley will take the Muslims of Jammu along with them in their fight for self-determination.
"But at the same time, we also assure that we will safeguard the lives, property, religious places and the honour of the minority in the Valley," he said.
Geelani, who was the last speaker, also criticised General Pervez Musharraf, who had stepped down as Pakistan President, moments before his speech began.
"Musharraf had destroyed both Pakistan and Kashmir. Now he has had to step down. The people of Pakistan have rejected him. We take this opportunity to urge the new establishment in Pakistan to change its policy towards Kashmir," he said.
Upping the separatism rhetoric, Geelani said, "Pakistan was created for Islam and must continue to safeguard the interests of Islam.
"Likewise, here in Kashmir, nationalism will not work, the American world order will not work. Only Islam unites us. We have religious affiliations with Pakistan and we will continue to remain affiliated with that country," he added.
Image: Supporters of the Hurriyat Conference participate in the march to the United Nations office at Sonwar in Srinagar on Monday.