Written on Friday 30/05/08
Rawalpindi, Punjab - Pakistan
Islamabad, Capital Territory - Pakistan
I was privy to an intriguing yet almost believable narrative last night. Apparently, President Musharraf has made a flailing lunge at instigating martial law, in a last ditch attempt to 'turn the tide', only to be outwitted by his recommendee and successor as chief of army staff (COAS) General Kayani. The 'operation' is thought to have revolved around the president issuing orders to an 'elite force' over and above the COAS!
I do believe he needs one 'final kick', to accompany all the pushing and shoving that has been going on for the past so many months. I'll confess here that I 'kept faith in him' or rather persisted in giving him 'the benefit of the doubt', when most others had 'long washed their hands off him'. That was until one dark day in January, when I abruptly found myself amongst a sea of convicts at Adiala Jail -Rawalpindi (The Pakistani capital's version of Tihar in Delhi).
Meanwhile, back to my primary mission: Taking my Naani (maternal grandmother) across the LOC (Line of Control - dividing Kashmir).
I had an engrossing telephonic chat with the deputy Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad today. He maintained that Delhi had no say over the issuing of cross LOC permits and he agreed on my suggestion that I should track and pursue our application between the main district offices on either side of Kashmir viz. Muzaffarabad and Srinagar.
It would be a gross understatement to describe my mood as terribly anxious. A period of 61 years is too long to be separated from your siblings.
It may or may not come as a surprise to my readers that there are immense administrative problems associated with cross LOC travel i.e cumbersome and multiple form filling, applications routed through a multitude of bureaucratic and 'intelligence' loops on both sides of the divide. Add to that, the 'years' it takes for most applications to be processed. When the 'green signal' finally appears, travellers are severely restricted in terms of what they can take across. Letters, cassettes and electronic equipment; "Don't you dare even think about it". What particularly irks me is that; to date no Indian or Pakistani media outlet has given serious coverage to this issue. It futher re-inforces my impression that the 'Kashmiris' are an awfully marginalised community.
Plenty more on this topic to follow in due course, of course.
A key component of my daily routine will be to visit as many media outlets as possible. The aim: to highlight my four areas of focus - please refer to my first blog - and look for an appropriate medium to synchronise my efforts with. An hour's worth of airtime a day on Radio or TV would be pretty apt.
My first visit was to an Urdu daily newspaper 'ASAAS' (loosely translated as foundation or base), prominently located on the Murree Road (Rawalpindi's main thoroughfare and link to the capital Islamabad). It turns out be a fruitless exercise. After half an hour of thumb-twiddling I'm blithely informed by an assistant that, "The Chief Editor is not around, try tomorrow morning".
I probably will not bother.
While I'm winding down in the evening and reminiscing over my February visit to Jammu, I decide to give Rekha Chowdary (Head of Political Science at Jammu University) a call. "Rekha....Would you like to come to this side of Kashmir and accompany my grandmother and I across the LOC, so that she can finally meet her brother and sister after close on 61 years?"
She replied in the affirmative and inferred that she would love to be part of what could prove to be an instrumental CBM (Confidence Building Measure - A set of actions that India and Pakistan agreed on more than four years ago, amongst the more notable being people to people contact). Pity I haven't benefitted much thus far! Rekha did lament over the arduous application process though and didn't think this could all happen in a hurry.
Well, let's see if my activity over the next week has a greater impact than the last three years.
Do watch this space....
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