‘His condemnation of Masood Azhar has to do with his efforts to expand AIMIM beyond Hyderabad’s Old City and Muslim community.’
HYDERABAD: All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, whose recent strong condemnation of Pakistan and Jaish e Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar has won him wider acclaim from across sections, has said that there was nothing new in his political line and that he has been professing the same views when it comes to national security.
However, those who were associated with the closely knit Muslim-dominated party with over 70-year history say that the open condemnation of Pakistan and the terror groups based out of that country by Owaisi since recently, has something to do with his decision to expand AIMIM beyond Hyderabad’s Old City and Muslim community.
Owaisi, who not only condemned the dastardly attack on the CRPF convey at Pulwama on 14 February but also rebuffed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s arguments and demanded safe return of Wing Commander Abhinandan, evoked huge praise from people all over the country. “His Twitter and Facebook accounts got huge likes and appreciation,” said an AIMIM legislator who preferred not to be quoted.
Owaisi was in the forefront in attacking Masood Azhar by calling him “not a Maulana but a Shaitan” who was out to destroy the innocent youth of Jammu and Kashmir. Owaisi was first among those who found the video of Abhinandan being thrashed by some locals in Pakistan objectionable and demanded that he be returned to India as per the Geneva convention.
Of course, Owaisi who turns 50 on 13 May, explained at a media-sponsored event in Delhi on Friday that he was dismayed over the fact that he was congratulated “for speaking out against Pakistan, even being a Muslim, not because of my Indian identity”. Owaisi wanted to straighten the record, saying that he had spoken just like any other Indian and there was nothing uncommon that he was congratulated.
In fact, this has been the case for the last several years as the UK-educated barrister turned MP more than once denounced Islamic radicalisation in the form of ISIS or Jihadi terrorism launched from across the borders. However, his views were never highlighted outside the Urdu media or the social media groups operated out of Old City of Hyderabad.
Over a period, Owaisi, whose party has seven MLAs in the Telangana Assembly and two in Maharashtra besides sprinkled presence in civic bodies of Karnataka and Andhra, has been joining hands with mainstream parties on a range of national issues. He won “Sandsad Ratna” in 2014 for his speeches in Parliament on various subjects.
Though Owaisi was under pressure from the Congress-led UPA to join them after the 2014 elections, he remained neutral since then and has been adopting an independent course on an issue-based approach inside Parliament. AIMIM has a sort of alliance with the ruling TRS in Telangana in the 2018 Assembly elections and now got its second MLC from the MLAs quota in March elections.
The legislator close to Owaisi over the years told this newspaper that a clear-cut and nationalistic approach by AIMIM was intended to make the party a choice of people, especially from the SC/ST and OBCs. “He (Owaisi) is modern and his outlook, too, is modern on a range of issues. He may appear to be defending the interests of Muslims, but not as a dogmatist,” the legislator said.
Sources close to the Hyderabad MP pointed out that he used to help the parents whose children were taken by the police suspicious association with the ISIS, but on the ground that they should never again commit the mistake. “Outside Hyderabad, Owaisi is seen as a hardcore pro- Muslim, but actually he is not just that and wants to spread the party across the country,” said a writer who knew Owaisi for long.