Ending speculations, Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani stepped down as chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (TeH) and appointed long-time associate and pro-Pakistan leader Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai as his successor. Sehrai lost to the National Conference (NC) candidate.
Sehrai, in his late 70s, is a senior leader of Hurriyat's hardline faction and, like Geelani, has been in and out of jail for years together.
Political observers here believe that Sehrai will ultimately succeed 88-year-old Geelani as the head of the Hurriyat Conference as well. "The decision was taken after Geelani chose to step down", they said.
The Hurriyat hawk said he has remained steadfast on his stand despite testing times of Jails, Interrogations, domestic hardships, physical and psychological onslaught.
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Sehrai was elected chairman of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat unanimously at a meeting of its executive committee after Geelani chose to step down. Geelani parted ways from Hurriyat Conference saying that several leaders of the grouping tacitly supported Assembly elections in 2002.
Relations between Geelani and the Jamaat soured again in 2010 after Geelani made some unpleasant remarks in his biography. He has held various positions in JeI including that of Secretary General. Tehreek-e-Hurriyat is our party and Hurriyat has 23 allies.
Although Geelani said that he was stepping down because of health problems and his age factor, but sources close to him said that he was under tremendous pressure from various quarters ever since he had begun issuing calls for long-stretched shutdowns in the valley causing financial loss to small traders and those connected with tourism.