Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front

The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) is a formerly armed, political[2] separatist organisation active in both the Indian-administered and Pakistani-administered territories of Kashmir. It was founded by Amanullah Khan, with Maqbool Bhat also credited as a co-founder. Originally a militant wing of the Azad Kashmir Plebiscite Front, the organization officially changed its name to the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front in Birmingham, England on 29 May 1977; from then until 1994 it was an active Kashmiri militant organization.[3][4] The JKLF first established branches in several cities and towns of the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe, as well as in the United States and across the Middle East. In 1982, it established a branch in the Pakistani-administered territory of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and by 1987, it had established a branch in the Indian-administered Kashmir Valley.

Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front
جموں کشمیر آزادی محاذ
LeaderYasin Malik
ChairmanYasin Malik
FoundersAmanullah Khan
Maqbool Bhat
FoundedMay 29, 1977 (1977-05-29)
Birmingham, United Kingdom
BannedMarch 22, 2019 (2019-03-22) (Indian branch in the Kashmir Valley)[1]
Split fromAzad Kashmir Plebiscite Front
Preceded byNational Liberation Front
HeadquartersMuzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan
Think tankJKLF Media Cell
Student wingJammu Kashmir Student Liberation Front (JKSLF)
Youth wingJKLF Youth Wing
Women's wingJKLF Women Wing
IdeologyKashmiri nationalism
Regional affiliationAll Parties Hurriyat Conference
Colors  Green   Red   White
Election symbol

Maple Leaf

After 1994, the JKLF wing in Indian-administered Kashmir, under the leadership of Kashmiri separatist Yasin Malik, declared an "indefinite ceasefire" and reportedly disbanded its militant wing. Following this, the organization committed itself to a political struggle in order to achieve its objective of independence for the entire region of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir from both India and Pakistan.[3] However, the JKLF branch in Azad Jammu and Kashmir did not agree with this change of direction and subsequently split off from the JKLF wing in the Kashmir Valley. In 2005, the two groups merged again, retaining the organization's original identity.

Although the JKLF has only Muslim members, it is notionally secular. It continues to assert that a secular, independent Kashmir—free of both India and Pakistan—is its eventual goal.[5][6] Despite having received support in the form of weapons and training from the Pakistani military,[7] it regards Pakistan as an 'occupation power' and carries out a political struggle against it in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.[8]

The JKLF in the Kashmir Valley was officially banned by the Indian government under an anti-terror law passed in March 2019—one month after the Pulwama attack by Jaish-e-Mohammed.[9][10]


JKLF was founded by Amanullah Khan in Birmingham in June 1976 from the erstwhile UK chapter of the 'Plebiscite Front'. Maqbool Bhat is often credited as being its co-founder.[5] Khan was born in Gilgit, studied in Srinagar and emigrated to Pakistan in 1952. Bhat was born in Kupwara and also emigrated to Pakistan after studying in Srinagar. The duo had earlier formed Jammu Kashmir National Liberation Front (NLF) in the late 1960s, along with Hashim Qureshi. The group carried out the hijacking of Ganga, an Indian Airlines plane flying from Srinagar to Jammu, in January 1971, and diverted it to Lahore. The Pakistani government returned all the passengers and crew to India, and subsequently tried the hijackers and several members of NLF on charges of being Indian agents. Khan was imprisoned in a Gilgit prison during 1970–72, released after protests broke out. Maqbool Bhat was released in 1974, and he crossed over into the Indian-administered Kashmir where he was arrested in a bank robbery.[11][12]

Amanullah Khan moved to England, where he received the enthusiastic support of the British Mirpuri community. The UK chapter of the Plebiscite Front was converted into the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in May 1977. It also formed an armed wing called the 'National Liberation Army'. Amanullah Khan took charge as the General Secretary of JKLF the following February. With the active support of the British Mirpuris, the group expanded rapidly, setting up branches in Pakistan, Denmark, Holland, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and the United States. It organised well-attended conventions in Birmingham (1981) and Luton (1982).[11][13]

In 1979, the JKLF planned to disrupt the international cricket match being played in Srinagar. The visiting Australian team was guarded with high security and no untoward incidents occurred.[14][15] Praveen Swami states that the JKLF made plans to bomb the March 1983 conference of non-aligned meeting in New Delhi and to hijack an airliner from New Delhi, both of which were aborted. After the arrival of Hashim Qureshi in the UK in January 1984, another hijacking was planned.[16]

However, on 3 February 1984, members of the National Liberation Army kidnapped the Indian diplomat Ravindra Mhatre in Birmingham and demanded the release of Maqbool Bhat as ransom. Amanullah Khan was named as the interlocuter. Unfortunately, the kidnappers panicked at the possibility of a police raid and, allegedly upon Amanullah Khan's instructions, shot the diplomat. India executed Maqbool Bhat six days later, turning him into a martyr and giving JKLF the visibility it lacked earlier. A British court convicted two members of the JKLF for the killing of Mhatre. Hashim Quresi and Amanullah Khan were expelled from the UK.[16][11]

Kashmir insurgency

Amanullah Khan and Hashim Qureshi returned to Pakistan in 1984,[17] establishing the JKLF headquarters at Muzaffarabad.[18] Pakistan under Zia ul-Haq, which was already supporting the Khalistani militants in Punjab, was ready to support an insurgency in Kashmir, and Khan was ready to work with the Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Hashim Qureshi, on the other hand, refused and went into exile in Holland. JKLF started political planning and continued till the end of 1987.[19][20][21]

Following the allegedly rigged state election in Jammu and Kashmir in 1987, the disaffected youth of the Kashmir Valley started crossing the Line of Control to Azad Kashmir to obtain arms and training. Khan's JKLF was their natural destination. Scholar Paul Staniland states that the JKLF was "reborn" in the Indian-controlled Kashmir in this period. It was led by young activists from Srinagar and environs, who crossed into Azad Kashmir for arms and training and returned to Srinagar. Yasin Malik, along with Hamid Sheikh, Ashfaq Wani and Javed Ahmad Mir, formed the core group — dubbed the "HAJY" group — of the JKLF militants in the Kashmir Valley. The enormity of popular support received for their call for independence surprised them. Within two years, the JKLF in the Valley emerged as the "vanguard and spearhead of a popular uprising" against the Indian state.[19][22]

The JKLF waged a guerrilla war with the Indian security forces, kidnapping of Rubiya Sayeed, the daughter of Indian Home Minister, and targeting attacks on the government and security officials. In March 1990, Ashfaq Wani was killed in a battle with Indian security forces. In August 1990, Yasin Malik was captured in a wounded condition. He was imprisoned until May 1994. Hamid Sheikh was also captured in 1992 but released by the Border Security Force to counteract the pro-Pakistan guerrillas. By 1992, the majority of the JKLF militants were killed or captured.[23][24]

A pro-independence JKLF was not in Pakistan's interest. Pakistan is believed to have accepted the collaboration with JKLF only as a "necessary compromise," because the Islamist groups did not yet have currency in the Kashmir Valley. However, the cadres of Islamist groups were also trained in the JKLF training camps in Azad Kashmir. This quickly led to a dilution of the JKLF's nationalist ideology.[25] Independence and Islam became interchangeable slogans. The Islamist attacks that ensued on Kashmiri Pandits, liberal women in general, liquor shops and beauty parlours were never condemned by the JKLF. According to Hasim Qureshi, such outrages were "official Pakistan policy" and the policy was endorsed by the Islamic Right as well as the Amanullah Khan's JKLF. "The ISI ran this movement on communal lines right from the beginning," said Qureshi, "and for that Amanullah and his underlings became its agents."[26]

Transition to peaceful struggle

By 1992, the majority of the JKLF militants were killed or captured and they were yielding ground to pro-Pakistan guerilla groups such as the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, strongly backed by the Pakistani military authorities. Further encroachment by pan-Islamist fighters infiltrating into the Valley from Pakistan changed the colour of the insurgency. Pakistan ceased its financial support to the JKLF because of its pro-independence ideology.[23][24]

After release from prison on bail in May 1994,[27] Yasin Malik declared an indefinite ceasefire of the JKLF. However, according to him, JKLF still lost a hundred activists to Indian operations. Independent journalists mentioned three hundred activists were killed. They were said to have been compromised by Hizb-ul-Mujahideen members, who informed their whereabouts to the security forces.[28]

Malik's call for peaceful struggle was unacceptable to Amanullah Khan, who removed him as the president of JKLF. In return, Malik expelled Khan from the chairmanship. Thus JKLF had split into two factions. The Pakistan government recognised Yasin Malik as the leader of JKLF, which further complicated the situation.[29]

Ellis and Khan state that, during the Azad Kashmir elections in 1996, JKLF commanded more support than all the traditional parties, even though it was not allowed to contest elections due to its pro-Independence stance.[30]

Splits and reunification

The JKLF split into two factions after the group based in Indian-administered Kashmir led by Yasin Malik publicly renounced violence in 1995. Their counterparts in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, led by Amanullah Khan refused to do so, thereby precipitating a split in the party.[31]

Since 1995, Yasin Malik has renounced violence and calls for strictly peaceful methods to come to a settlement on the Kashmir issue. [1] Yasin Malik also considers the Kashmiri Pandits, about 400,000 Hindus who were driven out of Kashmir after violent attacks by the separatists presently staying in refugee camps in Jammu and other Indian cities, to be an integral part of Kashmiri society and has insisted on their right of return.

Yasin Malik said,

"We want our Kashmiri Pandit mothers, sisters and brothers to come back. It is their land. They have every right to live in it as we do. This is the time that Kashmiri Muslims must play a constructive role so that we can restore the culture for which we are famous all over the world."[32]

In 2002, in an interview to Reuters, Amanullah Khan blamed Pakistani backed non-Kashmiri Muslim militants for having harmed his cause.

"I've been saying for the last two to three years that (non-Kashmiri militants) are changing the Kashmir freedom struggle into terrorism."[33]

After the December 2001 attack on Indian Parliament, Amanullah's name figured in the list of 20 wanted terrorists[34] India provided to Pakistan to be extradited for various terrorism-related offences. In January 2002, Amanullah Khan offered to surrender to Indian authorities provided an "international court issued a verdict against him".[34]

In 2005, India allowed Yasin Malik to visit Pakistan for the first time. The two leaders, Malik and Khan seized the opportunity to meet each other in Pakistan. In June 2005, a decade after the split, Malik and Khan agreed to reunite the JKLF.[35] The JKLF in Pakistan-administered Kashmir is currently under the leadership of Sardar Saghir Ahmad.[36]

In December 2005, some senior members of the JKLF separated from Yasin Malik and formed a new JKLF with Farooq Siddiqi ("Farooq Papa") as its Chairman along with Javed Mir, Salim Nannaji and Iqbal Gundroo, later joined by former militant Bitta Karate. Lately Tahir Mir, former chief of Students Liberation Front, too parted ways with Malik and joined JKLF headed by Farooq Papa.[37] Kashmir watchers think that Yasin Malik's shifting policy of seeking an internal solution with India after its alleged secret meeting with the Prime Minister of India led to the secession of its senior leaders.[38][39] Farooq Papa supports the involvement of the European Union in resolving the dispute, and has called on EU officials to follow up the visit of an ad hoc European parliament delegation to Kashmir in 2004.[40][2]

See also


  1. ^ "A Brief History of the J&K Liberation Front, Now Banned Under UAPA". The Wire. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  2. ^ Congress, Library. "Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front". Library of Congress. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  3. ^ a b Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (7 August 2003). "Pakistan: Activities of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF); whether the JKLF practices forced recruitment, and if so, whether this is done in collaboration with the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP)". UNHCR. Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  4. ^ "Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front". SATP. 2001. Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  5. ^ a b Jaffrelot, Pakistan: Nationalism without a Nation 2002, p. 186.
  6. ^ Pakistan: Activities of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), UNHCR,2003-08-07
  7. ^ Bose, Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace 2003, p. 3
  8. ^ Jaffrelot, Pakistan: Nationalism without a Nation 2002, p. 299.
  9. ^ Singh, Vijaita (23 March 2019). "Centre bans JKLF under anti-terror law". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  10. ^ "Yasin Malik-led Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front banned under anti-terror law". 22 March 2019. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  11. ^ a b c Cheema, The Crimson Chinar 2015, p. 404.
  12. ^ Swami, India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad 2007, pp. 108–109, 112–113.
  13. ^ Swami, India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad 2007, pp. 129–130.
  14. ^ Widmalm, Kashmir in Comparative Perspective 2014, p. 67.
  15. ^ Test Cricket Tours - Australia to India 1979-80, test-cricket-tours.co.uk, retrieved 31 August 2016.
  16. ^ a b Swami, India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad 2007, pp. 131–133.
  17. ^ Swami, India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad 2007, p. 163.
  18. ^ Ellis & Khan, Kashmiri diaspora 2003, p. 176.
  19. ^ a b Swami, India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad 2007, pp. 163–164.
  20. ^ Behera, Demystifying Kashmir 2007, p. 148.
  21. ^ The Rediff Interview/JKDLF Chief Hashim Qureshi, Rediff News, February 2001.
  22. ^ Staniland, Networks of Rebellion 2014, pp. 72–73.
  23. ^ a b Bose, Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace 2003, pp. 3–4, 128–129.
  24. ^ a b Bhatnagar, Islamicization of Politics 2009, pp. 8–9.
  25. ^ Staniland, Networks of Rebellion 2014, pp. 76, 81.
  26. ^ Swami, India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad 2007, pp. 167–169.
  27. ^ Schofield, Kashmir in Conflict 2003, p. 166.
  28. ^ Bose, Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace 2003, p. 130.
  29. ^ Schofield, Kashmir in Conflict 2003, pp. 174–175.
  30. ^ Ellis & Khan, Kashmiri diaspora 2003, pp. 176–177.
  31. ^ Samii, Cyrus. Seizing the Moment in Kashmir. SAIS Review vol 26, no. 1.
  32. ^ "Come back, Yasin Malik tells Kashmiri Pandits". 21 January 2004. Archived from the original on 14 February 2007. Retrieved 22 August 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  33. ^ "Amanullah Khan fears Pak may target JKLF". 11 January 2002. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  34. ^ a b "JKLF chief Amanullah Khan offers to surrender". 11 January 2002. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  35. ^ "Kashmiri separatist group unites". 9 June 2005. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  36. ^ Profiles: Political parties, Al Jazeera, 2 August 2011.
  37. ^ "Malik under fire, rebels call for 'less autocratic' JKLF". 24 December 2005. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  38. ^ "PMO in secret talks with secessionists". The Hindu. 25 January 2006. Archived from the original on 22 May 2006. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  39. ^ "Malik Under Fire, Rebels Call For 'less Autocratic' JKLF". 23 December 2005. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
  40. ^ Farooq Siddiqui (31 May 2007). "India's democracy deficit in Kashmir". Retrieved 22 August 2012.


Further reading