By any name, ‘IQ’ has traveled long road to peace for 40 years
OZAMIZ CITY, Philippines—For those skeptical of the peace process, the pseudonymous Mohagher Iqbal is equated with deception, dishonesty and trickery on the part of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which concluded a political settlement with the government after 17 years of negotiations.
To his comrades and colleagues in the MILF, he is simply “IQ or Sir IQ.” The use of this nickname to refer to Iqbal soon gained currency among journalists, civil society groups and international development organizations.
But for those who know him, the nom de guerre Mohagher Iqbal stands for a mild-mannered, softhearted and straightforward individual who has dedicated more than 40 years of his life to the struggle for self-determination of the Muslim people of Mindanao.
The preface to his 2007 book (writing under the name Salah Jubair), “The Long Road to Peace,” is revealing of the character of this now controversial man: “In the course of reading this book, readers may find some statements or passages offensive, but let me assure you I never intended to hurt people. I merely wrote what I think should be written for people to know, to agree or disagree with.”
Iqbal has chaired the MILF’s peace negotiating panel since July 2003, having been a member in previous years. As such, he has had the longest involvement in the peace negotiations, in both government and MILF panels.
“Be tough on issues, be soft on people,” is the principle that has guided him throughout the negotiations, Iqbal once told the Inquirer.
He is one of the main signatories of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), along with government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer. He has affixed his name to the major documents that embody the consensus of the parties in the negotiations, which form the core of the CAB, which in turn was the main reference used to draft the proposed charter of a new autonomous entity to be called the Bangsamoro.
This is what lawmakers find so troubling, that the MILF’s main negotiator and signatory to the peace agreement was using an alias, raising legal questions about the documents he signed and calling into doubt the sincerity and good faith of the rebel group.
In fact, nobody knew who he really was as Iqbal has declined to disclose his real name, saying that it was known to the Department of Foreign Affairs which issued him a passport.
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