Thursday 24 December 2009

Inaugural Civil Society Forum AJK - Muzaffarabad

Invitation Banner

This event is the beginning of a regular forum which will strive to bridge the yawning gap between the seemingly opaque governing structure in Pakistani-administered Kashmir (AJK - Azad Jammu & Kashmir) and it's evidently frustrated public.

Inaugural Forum (Sunday 20/12/09 -11am-1pm PST)

No ceremony, no fan-fare and definitely no VIPs.

Just five members of civil society (including one Pakistani citizen on the phone) engaged in candid conversation.

In fact, our technology for capturing this event was so tenuous that I had to keep one hand firmly on the wiring of the equipment to ensure it was recording. The weather wasn't polite either so our challenge to capture this event for the record, was as daunting as everything else related to public interest.

Here's the audio of the conversation:

Segment 1 of 2:

Segment 2 of 2:


Thursday 24 September 2009

Volcanic Ambition

We all have 24 hours in a day.

Our default commitments probably take up anything between 6 and 22 hours of our day. Eating, sleeping, spending time with the family/friends, daily chores, earning a living and depending on who we are and what we do; many other tasks (mundane and otherwise) which require our personal and undivided attention.

Of course, most if not all of us have no idea when we are going to die.

So what of volcanic ambition?

In this age of ours, the interaction of politics, society and technology has opened up a world of opportunity for anyone who can juggle their time and resources efficiently.

What lies in store for those of us who have embarked on this modern phenomenon of becoming an all-in-one soap box?

Can the boldly written word, a picture that cries out, an impassioned audio clip or that video which seeks to minimise the disconnect between the seemingly all-powerful, unaccountable polity and it's seemingly powerless, irresponsible public inspire positive change?

In short, will conscientious blogging lead to the end of tyranny?

Sunday 20 September 2009

The Hindu : Opinion / Op-Ed : A quiet triumph for humanity

The Hindu : Opinion / Op-Ed : A quiet triumph for humanity

Shared via AddThis

I received a lot of powerful comments on this page when the article was initially published. Unfortunately, those comments were taken down when the article was archived. I am continuing to search for an original version of the page, so that I can reproduce the comments here:

Meanwhile, here are some additional comments that I received via email:


Hello Tanveer,

A professor in Delhi forwarded me your article in The Hindu. It is deeply touching. It's very good to know that your grandmother was able to reunite with her siblings, but it's at moments like these - as I wrote to the professor - that one feels inclined to consider partition not just a mistake but a crime against humanity. I hope your article has also been published in Pakistan. The link below is to a column I wrote recently for Dawn, but it refused to publish it, so I sent it to The Hindu.

Mahir Ali

A case of mistaken paternity?


Respected Sir,
I read your article describing the long awaited reunion of your Naani with her brother and sister. What caught my attention was your commitment to the cause and the perseverance you displayed in the four and half year process. Obviously the results were worthwhile even though for a brief time period.

Sayan Chatterjee


My dear Tanveer Ahmed,

I read with all the care your feelings demand in your article in respected The Hindu. First, I sincerely thank The Hindu for giving you the space to share with the readers what you have in your mind and heart. I am proud of being born in this great Nation.

I scanned and attached your piece. Even though emphasising infringes one's thoughts, I have emphasised what attracted my mind. I am sorry.

First, we the Hindus believe next incarnation of our Lord would be in the form of a Horse. We in Tamil say thoughts are like horses. It traverses time and space so fast you see. Presently, the medium invented by our Western brethren have helped us to communicate so effectively you see. So, in my mind our Lord has already incarnated?!

You are right when you say 'politics and politicians herd us like sheep into a protective 'national' net that restricts and exploits us rather than allow us utilise our strenghts'.

I always wondered about the partition and its aftermath. Our politicians in India claim it is got by Ahimsa, and, that too of Gandhi. But when I saw and see so much pain and carnage inflicted on the poor - I have reserved my view on that preachings. We have paid a heavy price by way of loss of lives and pain to those who are torn in that turmoil and live to suffer it. Quite painful you see.

I could see that pain in you as an youngster who chose to work to see your close people come together. And, your naani could at least enjoy her food; for once. I was pained to read those words.

I thought - with those thoughts, I would reflect a few for our benefit?

When Japan was rocked by earthquake at Kobe the respected TIME brought out an article. It started something like this. When rich was not willing to share any, poor was willing to share whatever little they had. That defines life as lived by humans - I believe. But, you see, the rich and poor is relative. Period.

I sincerely believe religion is for our private life. Yet, the politicians play tricks on us to deceive us. In this I include the religious people too who infringe in the political space for their exploits. Any way life is like that.

I submit to you all my thoughts on Indutva as I see.

I wondered why my Northern people are so focused on the Hindu-Muslim divide and conflict.

I submit the Acknowledgement I wrote in my struggle to restore my honour as I saw with Department of Space and Government of India. It gives a glimpse of me as a person. Finally I shared my thought about the harmony which is needed for us to survive. I always wondered - how come people in the Southern most part of peninsula have evolved to do so. I would like to give a glimpse of my thoughts. You see, this region is protected by sea on all the three sides. North is the only way through which thoughts could have come - before the advent of sea being opened. The religion and language Tamil and the wisdom professed by it has stood a great steed in protecting the people.

When Alexander came - even though he could defeat Porus - he might have been sacred by the courage of Porus as well as the people who could tame the elephants. When the Mohals came they could defeat the Rajputs as they have the culture of fighting the battle leading and thus died physically. So they could conquer the major portion at their zenith. Yet, the South was not affected by them. I give credit to the language and the values of those people who existed and exist in the South. When the British came, they mainly governed through subservient locals. As we learn the governance part is on different who ever is at the helm (?!) they could rule us so long. When the momentum gained, the British left. But, they have sowed the seed of religious poison between the Hindus and Muslims which was not there until then. This is my perception.

The political class thrives on that poison even now as it is convenient for them you see. Otherwise what can explain the persons who were born in present Pakistan and live in India and play an important role in its governance and your President Musharraf who was born in India chose to lead the Nations like this. Of course the ruling class have their own way you see - when they have people to fight their proxy war to their entertainment - if I am not wrong?

I request yours and all those to whom I mark this to read HARIJANS, my thoughts on Gandhi. May be time has come for the young to see beyond Gandhi and look to live their lives to their best as they deemed it fit. The incarnation of Lord as Horse is doing a good stead for the poor.

I sincerely believe the goodness of the common man would see him/her through. As our Mumbai people live their lives, as the media says. I mean the common man. He is not worried about the material loss. And, even the lives lost. It is the living who should live their lives to their best you see.

I am glad you could give some moments to your elders and The Hindu shared it with the readers - to inspire the pained souls?

My best wishes to you and to all those in Pakistan and humanity in general.

Yours sincerely,
A. Rajakumar


Dear Tanveer,
I read your article in The Hindu dated 19th September 2009. It was so nice to know about your Naani's reunion with her siblings and the commendable support extended by your grandfather in the whole process. Hope everybody gets blessed with a grand daughter like you.
In your aforesaid article you mentioned your Naani's name as Leelo Begum and her siblings' as Lekh Raaj and Kamala Devi. Was there an intercaste marriage in your family? I am just being inquisitive. Hope that doesn't sound too intrusive.
I will be eagerly waiting for your reply.

Akshat Dwivedi

My response to Akshat:

Apologies for the awfully late response. I am the maternal grand-son of Leelo Devi. It was a forced inter-caste marriage if you like. It happened in the backdrop of a supposed war of liberation when my Naani was displaced from the rest of her family and found by my grandfather who took her as a bounty of war.


Tanveer Ahmed


Dear Tanveer Sahib,
I was so touched by your piece in Hindu today that forwarded it to hundreds of friends in groupmail and posted on twitter/facebook. Forwarding my piece on Pakistan for your perusal.

Chaman Lal

When he forwarded the article, he introduced it with the following insightful words... 

Perhaps such pieces make no impact on political class and military bosses of three countries-India, Pakistan and Bangla Desh. But for people, these are most touching human accounts of reality. When the rulers of three countries will make borders irrelevant, as they proclaim many times for public consumption?


I am from mumbai and am glad to read ur article.

U r first person to interact from ur part of kashmir.

V in india want to hear more wat u people say, do and think.

Kindly express ur opinions freely in other indian news papers even if u do not have favorable opinion of us. Ultimately u r still our people even if u don't consider it a fact.

Thanks and regards



Mr.Tanveer Ahmed

I am very happy to read your article in the Hindu today. You have succeeded in this mission because of your position in the society and personal dedication.

Hundreds of such similar cases where relatives have died and could not meet their kith & kin due to partition. Actually there are more Hindu & Sikh women who were taken to Islam religion.

I have been pleading in the Parliament that Pakistan & India government should allow all those people who were born before 1947 to go & visit their village or city and they should get some special permit for the visit. This would help the dying generation to fulfill their wish of visiting their birth place before death. No. of such persons is not much & is dwindling very fast. If this happens people may also find their separated relatives.

I admire your feelings and bold statement expressed in this article. I am thankful to the Hindu for this good coverage which will at least open the deaf ears of the government.

Eid Mubarik & may Allah bless you.

Tarlochan Singh

Member of Parliament

My response to the honourable Member of Parliament:

First of all, my deepest apologies for the late response. My life isn't as organised as I wish it to be. There are many limitations that I am confronted with on a daily basis. It's soothing and flattering words from readers like yourself that keep me motivated. 

Yes, taking initiatives for those old people is an absolute must. I would be willing to participate in any initiative that enables Hindus and Sikhs to come to Pakistani-administered Kashmir. In fact, I wish for them to come and re-build a Mandir/Gurdwara or two. 

Anything to give us a glimpse of our united past...I wish you all the best.



This is Suresh from Andhra Pradesh. The impact of partition is almost absent in this part of sub continent. But every time I read about the partition of India and subsequent riots and dismemberment of families like your nannies make me feel lucky as we escaped it as matter of luck and geography.

The way your presenting your essays is an eye opener for other journalists working on both sides. I would like to be part of your activism. Right now I am preparing for Indian Civil Service Exam (to become a diplomat). 

I wish I can meet you once in my lifetime. 

Suresh Nandigam


Thanks to you - Tanvir Ahmed for this writeup.

If only the Paharis and other peripheral eco-communities as those along the riverbeds ; sea'  forests or ilanders... whose eco-sphere is a natural habitat are given that degree of autonomy as required or valid.... and then the rurual areas also given a degree-less though of eco-socio-political self-management.... the the Nation can really thrive both as a civilization and an International Entity.

Aa a social anthropologist with a first hand familiarity with a hill tribe and its way of life I have also experienced that 'Oneness' which is virtually a spiritual and a cosmic one not needeing any human rights commission or a humanitarian assistance from the Outside.

Hope and Pray .. We the current humanity will work towards such a good precedent -- the miriad dividing forces nothwithstanding.



Dear Brother,

We are thousands of miles apart, but our goals are same. We want peace and prosperity in the land we are born. Our intentions are noble, hence the universe will conspire to help us. We may not succeed in our lifetime but 'time' will exist to witness our goal's realization.

I have posted my comment in Hindu webpage and your blog.

I understand your preoccupations.

Hum Honge Kamyab ek din.
I request you to address me as your Brother.
Thank you brother,
Satyameva Jayathe,

Yours sincerely,
Murugan @ Mourugaram.S.V,


Dear Tanveer,


I read this poignant article in The Hindu sometimes ago.  Well done.

There would be several such stories which will remain unnoticed. With the passage of time chances of these coming to the knowledge of the communities on either side of the border will get slimmer and slimmer since the real actors/witnesses now in their twilight years, becoming feeble by the day.

May be somebody or even you can start the process of inviting such real stories and compile a book for the next generation. Who knows this might become a powerful tool in bringing the politically alienated but culturally intertwined communities together.

With best regards

D.S. Pathania


Dear Tanveer, 
I very much enjoyed reading your article "A quiet truimph of humanity".  For years, I have been struggling to explain what politicians and countries really do and how it affects the common man.  I have not been able to express myself to my friends clearily.  Your article does that for me.
I like your idea of uniting two countries, it is a simple but very powerful idea.  Imagine the financial loss to our corrupt politicians from the collective defence budgets and not to mention so called developed countries that sell us all this equipment to keep the two countries seperate.  
Thank you.
Rajnish Radhakrishnan


Dearest Writer,

I read with great interest your story of re-uniting your family!

It must have been a wonderment to behold!

How truly lucky you and your family are to have had such a special time!
Although our world is torn asunder by higher powers with personal interests, the human spirit remains. 
Your experience is a testament to that!
Best wishes to you and yours! And, thank you for sharing your story!
TJ Britt - AmeriKa, The Formerly Free Republic


Dear Tanveer,
Thank you for sending this very poignant article. It brought tears to my eyes. My father came from what is today Bangladesh, when he migrated (wholesale with his family from there) it was East Pakistan.
So partition has a special meaning for me, for 'home' always remained for my dad that place across the Padma.



finally you did it!!!!

Dear Tanveer,

First of all, many-many congrats for your long aspired family rejuvenation (A quiet triumph for humanity, The Hindu,Sept.18th, 2009) !!!!

I remember your last article in The Hindu (I suppose some 7-8 months back) in which you talked the touching tale of your family history pened by partition and  the pain of the displaced siblings, relatives on the other side of the border. It really moved me for considerable in such a way that just reading the first few lines, I could easily correlate to the earlier one.

Indo-Pak partition, in its cause, has really been a matter of great interest and curiousity both in the academic circles as well as for the people in general. There is plethora of works done available on this subject.But to search for the impact of partition, we could find the only in the contemporary literature where we get to imagine the enormous stir caused by the event at every level of the then society. The impact had complex multiplicity and temporal effects of the fact in question.

The socio-politico-cultural diversity and the unique dynamism of social life across the region gave differential character to the impact of partition. What the partition meant to a Kashmiri was and is specifically different from that to a Sindhi or say, between a Punjabi and Gujrati, between a Bihar and Bengali etc. With the change of perspective and time, the impact changes. So, to an Indian from the province of U.P. may make only an occasional political or nationalist stand of Partition while in the snowfull terrains of the peaks, a Kashmiri (like your family) and in the fertile lands of Punjab, a Punjabi live with the persistent pain inflicted by it.

Moreover, the worst to the people affected, I think, came less from the event (of partition) than the fragile course of events succeeding partition. The political forces on the both sides of fences couldn't lay rest their mutual misunderstanding further aggravating the social fracture. The leadership easily devolved to the mass hysteria of chauvinism and misunderstood nationalism. The religious divides among community and sects furthered the notion.

In all this, I firmly believe, the poorest affected are those whose lives have been touched in day to day pratical affairs by the partition.

I hope the begining which started with you and your naani would not end as exceptions and the political leadership of the two sides would keep mutual conflicts away from the imperative humanitarian concerns. The borders of nationalism must not be drawn with the blood of the happyness and brotherhood for which they are actually meant. I doubt either the 'Qaid-e-Azam' or the 'Father of the Nation' could ever think of it, leave doing so.


Kunal Thakur

My response to Kunal who was a 3rd Year LLB Student in Delhi:

First off, I must apologise for the awfully late response. I thank you for your words and analysis which proves that we still feel the hurt of partition even though we were born many a year later.


Tanveer Ahmed 


Dear Tanveer Ahmed

First let me wish you a heartfelt Eid Mubarak!  

Your article ‘A Quiet Triumph for Humanity’ is so appropriate for this occasion and for this time of various festivals. I read it with tears of joy and sorrow. (You see I was born in Peshawer and my family and I lived in Arjun Nagar in Rawalpindi for a while just before Partition. I have distinct memories of my childhood in those newly built colonies between the Nala and Lei River!). 

I’d like to convey to you my admiration and gratitude for your efforts and for your expression to rebuild the bonds of unity on the subcontinent and for humanity at large.

With very best wishes


Kishore Saint 


With kind sharing of the article by Kishore Saint to the family mentioned below, I am hereby - in turn - able to share a moving exchange of letters between them as they reminisce over life in Rawalpindi before 1947:

Letter 1

Dear Family:

My brother, Chand Kishore Saint has forwarded this heart rendering story of a family reunion across the borders of a partitioned country in India and Pakistan. I am forwarding the article as well as attaching a picture of my brother and I, along with our father, taken in 1946, in Rawal Pindi from where the author, Tanveer Ahmed penned the article. We lived in Arjun Nagar with our Nani whom we called 'Beji'. I thought you'd find it insightful, since this year there is a convergence of Hindu Navratri with Muslim Eid and Jewish Rosh Hoshana . Enjoy.

Prem (Dad, Chacha, Nanaji)

Letter 2

Dear Prem, Tarun, Amita, Roopen

Today is conjunction of Eid and Navratri and I thought I'd share with you all this moving account of reunion across decades of division and distress, with the hope that future makes such occasions possible for all of us without all the hassle. During  the 'forties, Prem and I as children lived for a short while in Arjun Nagar, the locality in Rawalpindi mentioned in the article.  These were newly built modern colonies for the newly prosperous Hindu middle class.  I have quite vivid memories of those days before any inkling of partition emerged on the scene.  It was towards or after the end of World War II.  I distinctly remember Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's visit when he addressed a massive gatheirng.

With lots of love

Chand and Sudesh


I read your article in THE HINDU. I loved it. It was wonderful.

Well, my English is not that good but, still, your article demanded appreciation.

Yours sincerely,



Dear Mr.Tanveer Ahmed
I have read your article " A Quiet Triumph for Humanity " published in The Hindu dt.19.09.2009 and was quite moved by the content.

Tears rolled down my eyes while reading the last paras of the article - the description was so simple and revealing.

You may wonder why a gentleman from South India (I stay in Tirunelveli Tamil Nadu) is moved by your article.

There lies a tale. I did my 5 yr. Chemical  Engineering from Regional Engineering College, Srinagar J & K and passed out in 1972 - the year of your birth.

I have some classmates from Poonch and other Pahari areas and I am quite conversant with the topography anf other peculiar Geo Political issues of the Pahari area.

Of course I have not visited there again do not have personal touch with the latest developments.

The students (close to 400 no. belonging to all batches - from 1966 passout to 2008 passout) of REC Srinagar have a Forum - REC Srinagar Yahoo Groups - through which we keep in touch with each other.

If you can send the soft form of the article, I can mail to REC group, whose members have settled in every continent and they will really appreciate the content of the article.

I am attaching the satellite image of Indus basin. if one observes the ( artificial ) LOC passing through the Pahari area we can clearly understand their turmoil.

It is also an irony, south asian subcontinent was being called India or Hindustan by the British due to the presence of Indus flowing through it.

With Indus (Hind) river going out after partition - the place where it is flowing became Pakistan and rest of sub continent is still being called Hindustan.


B.Chalapathi Rao


As she finally began to enjoy food - key for the attached article - regarding

My dear Guddi and dear children,
I tell guddi every day when I wake her up over phone at 6.00 a.m. I ask her to enjoy her breakfast. You see having taste for food is most important in life.
When I was undergoing Management Development Programme in Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre a psychiatrist Dr Ooman asked us to go and enjoy our lunch without our mind wandering. It was a good lesson for me. As he was telling; most of the times we do not enjoy the process of eating - thinking about what works in our mind?
The article I attach was shared by me with all those who matter - earlier. Today being the day of Id Mubarak our All India Radio in Tamil was narrating about the fasting month. One story told was - if a person was not able to fast what is the remedy? This question was posed to Mohammad. He told - give food to a poor person. Then my mind thought - if only all those who feast after sun sets did not fast?! Poor would get some food to eat?
Anyway, I take this opportunity to wish Mr Tanweer Ahmad Id Mubarak and to all those close to him and those who follow Islam. The people to whom I have marked this mail are my children Tanweer. I hope they too would gain some insight from your feelings shared.
I am honoured to send this to you all - my dear children.
A. Rajakumar,


Hi Tanveer,

Your article printed in the Hindu on 09/19 was very moving. Stories like these are what can bring the peoples of Pakistan and India closer together. 

From my limited knowledge of history, the only way the british controlled much of India was by the divide and rule policy. If I had any animosity it would probably be directed more towards the british for developing such hatred, than to the people it has now bred into. I believe the british were scared, when the prospect of freedom seemed so close, I might be wrong. From the logic that if the british were ever planning a way of slowing the growth and development of peoples they feared, what better way have they learnt from history than to keep them divided, which was the only way the east india company got a foot hold on our motherland and which is now a major thorn in the development of both countries. 

Recently I had a discussion with a couple of patriots and citizens, regarding the 26/11 atrocity, my sole point was that the act was commited by fanatical elements using distraught elements through propoganda and brainwashing to commit mindless acts of violence. Sadly the counter just generalized these few fanatical elements into a much bigger category which included all peoples of a country as well. The ingorance of such a generalization causes hatred directed at so many people that in the end it just doesn't make sense. 

I hope to see a calmer world for the coming generations.


your neighbour,
Preetham Melanta


You fight a good fight my friend. Support is bound to come your way.  


Read your article in Hindu. Its a very good piece. Hope it gives some sense to our govts.

Shabnam Hashmi


Dear Mr Tanveer Ahmed,

Living in Bangalore, India and born almost 2 decades after the British left, the realities of the Pakistan-India divide is almost a far away truth. 

Your article on your Naani's reunion with her brother and sister evoked not merely sympathy but a rushing tide of emotion for the many many families who have been affected by the divide of the Indian subcontinent. Alas, as in a war soldiers are affected so also in a divide of this nature families are fragmented. 

I admire you for your persistence in affecting the reunion, and I agree whole heartedly with you on your view that we must evaluate history in a balanced manner and explore opportunity in a globalised world to permit us to embrace our diversity, and not to constrict the same.

Rosita Sequeira



i have read your wonderful article in THE HINDU.  There are other PAHAREES too, like the ones in the high reaches of HIMACHAL PRADESH.  Please dont ignore us. OUR IDEAS OF SOUTH ASIAN emotional unity is worth $ 100 million and more.  

May I be allowed to communicate regularly with you?  



Hello Mr Sahaafi,

I read your article in The Hindu  date :- 19th Sep 2009.

It's really a  treat to read. Please  accept my heartiest congratulation for your hard work which paid off after 22 years.



Kashmir Iron Curtain

Mr Tanveer Ahmed, 

I read your story in The Hindu today. I admire your persistence and sacrifice you made to enable your grandmother to meet her siblings across the LOC after 62 years.

Your dream of reunion of the subcontinent will remain a dream in my opinion. Moreover, I am not for reunion of India and Pakistan; much has happened in the last 62 yrs apart from centuries of prejudice and different narratives of history for it to work.

All that we can hope for is easing of anguish as that of your grandmother by allowing free movement of people, along with trade and commerce. Remember that the problem of Northern Ireland took 80 yrs for even semblance of a solution inspite of the fact that there wrere no restrictions on the movement of people or goods between the two parts of Ireland and between Great Britain and Irish Republic. 

Without it there is no hope of friendship between India and Pakistan and therefore for an easier life for Kashmiris sandwiched between them. India should take the initiative and declare unilaterally that Pakistanis don't need a Visa to travel to India including Kashmir.. The bogey of free rein to terrorists will be raised in India but do terrorists need Visas to indulge in their madness?

It is only when people, art and entertainment, goods and services move across the border without restrictions that there is a chance of normal relationship between the two nations.
Once again hats off to you!



I remember to have read your earlier article on the same subject published a few months ago. We are happy for your family and for your Naani for meeting up with her siblings.

As for status quo ante prevalent in 1947, we think it is a bad dream, and highly romanticised nostalgia is no substitute for the hard realities of life. Many would side with Arundhathi Roy's suggestion that parts of Kashmir where the Muslims want Azadi or join their brethern from Pakistan should be seriously considered as an option.

There seems to be an unbridgeable yawning gap in the value systems of the Muslim world and the rest of the 'civilized' world. Many want to be left alone this side of the Radcliffe Line and the LOC and don't want to court avoidable trouble.
VRN Prasad

My response to Prasad Sahaab:

Yes, re-union has practical boundaries to overcome but if we recall that India was number 2 in the world (economically) before the British came and if we consider that the Indian and Pakistani public cannot withstand unfriendly posturing between the two countries indefinitely, there is much room for optimism.

...I wish you all the best.

Monday 8 June 2009


Saturday 06/06/09

So, the godfather didn't turn up after all.

He was due in Muzaffarabad via helicopter at about 10:00am. He didn't arrive, the weather didn't permit him to fly, or so we have been led to believe. Re-schedule? Again, we are led to believe.

Before, I get to reality or at least as close to it as my sources permit; let me tell you that my morning has been spent procrastinating. Last night I deferred meeting the IG. It was late by the time I had finished from the netcafe. Another evening spent in being able to upload just 2 videos, with another 40 odd pending. I decided that I should be up nice and early before the security cordon kicks in and make a beeline for the IG's office, letter of intent and placard in tow.

In actual fact, I couldn't sleep much last night and spent much of it on the web. Sleep finally arrived after dawn and though I kept waking up at intervals, I decided that a prolonged snooze was in order. Whenever I woke up, I reasoned that Zardari would hardly be the punctual type. It wasn't until about mid-day that I finally mustered the resolve to get up. I still had the placard to write up sans stencil. My writing was a bit lop-sided as expected and here is what I wrote:









As soon as I reached my car, well after lunch, I was given what felt to be glad tidings that Zardari hadn't come after all.
Phew! What a relief. It would've been a travesty of grave proportions had I
missed out on this opportunity of a life-time (to agitate).


My sources inform me that the reality of Zardari's no-show are as follows:
-That at least 4 cabinet members of the ruling Muslim Conference, including the PM Sardar Yaqoob were to announce their shift of allegiance to the Pakistan People's Party. This move was allegedly leaked beforehand by 2 other cabinet members of the Muslim Conference. A storm was brewing and taking into account this would've been Zardari's first official visit to Azad Kashmir, an air of unpredictability prevailed.
-Allied to that, the previous PM Sardar Atiq had planned some heavy-duty
agitation to avenge his ouster in January. Zardari is thought to have been instrumental in that move, as per Pakistani tradition I might add.
-Uncertainty amongst the Kashmiri public (read-certain political agents) about America's incessant pressure on Pakistan to shift it's troops away from the LOC in Kashmir and it's international border with India by moving them to the Afghan Border, was also considered a significant factor.
-Last and possibly not least was the embarrassing news that a Chinese company which had been given a meaty contract by the MDA (Muzaffarabad Development Authority) to develop Muzaffarabad had cancelled it's contract and left. This was amidst rumours of the Chinese being constantly pestered by government officials for kickbacks and the like.

Besides, the godfather has enough on his plate than to make a grand regal visit to what he'll perceive as his "colony". It is estimated that tens of millions of rupees had been spent from the AJK budget to facilitate his visit.

Numerous advertisements in newspapers, billboards, a week-long paralysed government machinery, a grand feast prepared at the Pearl Continental (that overlooks my humble shack, as described a couple of blogs ago) and lots and lots of sundry expense.

All this expenditure prioritised over vital public infrastructure investment, is a smack in the teeth for the people of Azad Kashmir. The pipes which supply water to my neighbourhood haven't been updated for over 30 years. One of the reasons professed is lack of funds. All that wastage for someone who many consider to not only be the worst speciman of a politician that Pakistan has ever had: Rather, that he's the worst the world has ever seen. Having said that, he didn't have the courage to turn up and give us the pleasure of making our sentiments known to him, as loud and as clear as our throats could amplify.

On a rather more modest note, my meeting with the private college proprietor didn't take place. My diesel and hence my money were wasted as he wasn't there as scheduled. I don't enjoy being pissed about and I'm virtually resigned to dropping this as an avenue for desperately needed income.

Late in the evening, I learn that my ID card isn't missing after all. I left it in the guard's room at the Supreme Court last week. One of their drivers belatedly informs me at a vegetable stall, noticing me from afar.

After all that, tomorrow's a rest day for my blog...a lot to catch up on as my cliche and video uploading is still stuck on the 6th of May while time has raced to the 6th of June.

I'm having to confront a lot of limitations simultaneously. Be they technological, financial, energy related viz. electricity, water, desi ghee or others. Yet, I'll be willing to shout from the roof-top that I'm content, determined and what's more; I'm getting news that our cross-LOC permit applications are close to being finalised. A long, long journey has but just a few steps to go!


Friday 05/06/09

It appears that virtually all members of the capital's administration is just concentrating on one job: The impending arrival of the godfather Zardari. Most of the civil servants that I spoke to held himin as much contempt as I did. They were just doing the job that they were paid to do of course.

I spent most of today in the PM's secretariat, watching the comedy in sheer amazement and almost disbelief. Billboards had been put up to welcome the creep, banners professing Kashmir's accession to Pakistan and it's undying/unwavering support hung almost everywhere in the adminstrative complex. Amidst all the hustle and bustle, underhand deals between the public and civil servants continued unnoticed.

Before planning my mode of resistance for tomorrow, I decided to make a formal request to the AJK Government to meet the "President of Pakistan". The Chief Secretary's office assured me that the job of allocating time was the sole duty of "Secretary Services". He was in a high-level meeting with the Chief Secretary and others, discussing the nitty-gritty of the "President's" arrival. So I had to wait.

When I finally got to meet him, I was a tad surprised that he hailed from Mirpur. I was expecting a Pakistani civil servant. Nevertheless, a jovial chap he was, clearly well fed and typically having extended family in Bradford. He enjoyed my dissertation but regretted that he wasn't the person who deals with making appointments with the Pakistani President. That the Chief Secretary's office had erred in their judgement. Noticing my displeasure and in a bid to clear any "doubt", he phoned the chief's office and questioned them as to why they had effectively put me on a "wild goose chase". My doubts weren't cleared as far as I were concerned, the Secretary Services smile had much anguish anguish hidden beneath it. Antics of bureaucrats almost always included obfuscation and appeasing the public, where the public's reaction mattered.

Meanwhile, I also had the opportunity of meeting somebody in his office who described himself as a/the Commissioner. His tone was too conservative for my liking, his lack of imagination (or use of it) cut out any thought or prospect of reform for our people. He felt they were destined to doom and so what? who cares? He appeared overly keen to invite me to his office some day for a lengthy chat where I presume he would make a determined effort to "convert" me. Apathy is a great disease, I thought to myself.

Talk of one leads to another. In steps an old hand of the ISI. the most memorable part of his conversation related to a couple of political rallies he witnessed a while back. On one particular day, A very large public gathering was organised on behalf of the Muslim Conference Party (The ruling and dominant party in Azad Kashmir-till now anyway). Great speeches were made and ostensibly huge support and backing was generated from the public at large. A few days later, a similarly large rally was organised by the Pakistan People's Party at the same venue. The ISI officer noticed that many of the organisers and rabble-rousers were the same people as a few days before. Upon enquiry, he was plainly and simply told, "That day we supported the Muslim Conference, today we are with the PPP! Heavy laughter in the room followed; the only person who didn't laugh was I.

Back at the Chief Secretary's Office, another couple of hours were eaten while civil servants hurried to finish the preperations at hand. On of them took some time out to fraternise with me, taking great pains to explain how he was one of the very few bureaucrats who stayed aloof from corruption and who done most of their work on their own initiative. Great achievements over a long illustrious career working with one high official after another. Ultimately, after persistent enquiry from myself, they meekly informed me that meeting the President would be well nigh impossible. He would be spending a few short hours here and too many isues were on the agenda. "We are not organised or efficient or even intelligent-we're just akin to donkeys biding our time," lamented one of them upon an impulse of self-reflection.

As the evening progressed, I busied myself in drafting a letter for the IG (Inspector General) to inform him in advance of my intended action tomorrow. I also bought the essentials required for a placard and continued to think of how I could carry out a targetted, albeit individual protest that would grab the attention of the "godfather".


Thursday 04/06/09

I learn that the electricity employees strike did in fact end last night. Protracted negotiations between them and the Chief Engineer outlasted midnight. Needless to say, the strikers have all gone home for well-needed if not well-deserved recuperation; except that I learn that they contented themselves with a verbal agreement. Perhaps psychology came into play and the striker's weariness got the better of them. Omitting me from the discussion is also a cause for suspicion.

My pursuit of financial independence continues with a visit to a private language college. The relevant member of staff to deal with is not present but a discussion with his understudy is lengthy enough. I ask him whether or not they conform to a syllabus. His response is in the negative. Most people are simply concerned with improving their grammar and becoming fluent in the English language. They're not too bothered about how they get there. An exception is the MA English course which they teach on a sub-contractual basis from the AJK University. Anyhow, I'm asked to return on Saturday with a CV to meet the proprietor of the college.

As I'm keen on saving as much money as possible, I spend a lot of time walking. This enables me to maintain a modicum of fitness. I've lost my way a little since my cycle accident in Dhirkot. The good news is that my fractured shoulder is well on it's way to recovery and I'm rearing to start light physical training. The idea being: the fitter I am, the more energy I have to help others. Countering the mental anxiety that has engulfed me these pst few years is a much desired bonus.

I've been advised by a lawyer to report my lost ID card at the local police station.

The SHO (Station House Officer) is keen to have a detailed chat with me. This always brings me into my element as I relish every opportunity to pitch my ideas as well as my experience over the past few years. If structures of the state can be swayed to adopt fresh thinking about their environment, I would consider that to be half the battle won. By the end of our converstion I can see that the SHO feels as if he doesn't know what has hit him. So be it too!

With respect to the ISI he pleads ignorance and states that they have their own method of working which is distinctly independent of the local police. The young constable who writes my report can't figure out why I would want to live in Kashmir and forgo Britain. I candidly replied that if he can't figure out the potential of Kashmir and the work that needs to be done here, he should spend a bit of time on educating himself in his spare time. He lamented that, that was amongst the biggest regrets of his life. "As long as you have life, you have opportunity," I re-assured him.

I'm given news by an uncle of mine late in the evening that Zardari is coming to Muzaffarabad. Furthermore, that he'll be addressing the Legislative Assembly. My initial reaction is one of utter disgust. "Why is he coming here? As far as I'm concerned he's utterly unwelcome," I hissed at my uncle.

I understand that he has over 22 serious cases relating to murder, extortion etc. hanging on his head. Political expediency has waived those charges, albeit temporarily I hope. It's a matter of time before the Pakistani public's conscience picks up again. I feel they're spending too much time basking in the glory of the re-instatement of the Chief Justice.

I've a habit of avoiding daily newpapers, which are invariably part of the power structure andd originate in Pakistan. The headlines never fail to fluster me whenever I inadvertently glimpse at them from time to time. Hence, my ignorance of Zardari's impending arrival on the 6th ( a day after tomorrow). There are already plans for a protest and plenty of issues brewing under the surface.

I realise it's imperative that I make some preparations too. However modest they may be.


Wednesday 03/06/09

Yesterday was a well spent day of working from home...I am hearing reports in urdu newspapers that the chief secretary and the AJK PM are sounding out through newspapers that "foreigners" are creating problems in Azad Kashmir. Someone sugests to me that perhaps they're responding to my frank meetings with them over the past week by scaremongering the public through newspapers.

I am very conscious of my financial limitations. I always have been since I set foot in Pakistan in April 2005. Now that I've set up my stall on the net, I'm hoping financial help for my cause(s) will soon start trickling through. In the meantime, I've got to find a source of income that will at the very least pay for my children's necessities, feed my wife and then myself. As a bonus, if I can gain enough income to pay for my communication needs and the occasional use of my vehicle in dire necessity, I'll be content. A wise sage once told me that the richest people in the world are those that are content. That's what i aim for: contentment.

I'm aware that the English is in great demand here (as it is in most parts of the world). Further that in the Muslim World, there's a massive void in the education system in terms of social science. I'm fortunate enough to have a reasonable groundind and grasp of both.

First stop is the Azad Jammu and Kashmir University which has it's main campus in Muzaffarabad. While I wait to meet the VC (Vice-Chancellor), I take a close look at the institution's prospectus. What immediately comes to notice is what i suspected. It's very thin on social sciences; what they do teach is narrowed down to islamiyaat and political science is more or less confined to pakistan's national ideology (Which has developed as a source of confusion for mosty Pakistanis over time). Learning and understanding how the Europeans transformed their societies from what were essentially feudal and aristocratic to where public opinion increased it's influence merits a closer look. If budding social scientists of the Muslim World are allowed the necessary political space to conduct contextual research, this could act as a catalyst for positive change.

I also noticed that most lecturers in the Arts had a relatively weak (meaning local-Pakistani) academic background compared to those that taught the physical sciences, some of whom had post-graduate degrees from abroad.

Meeting the VC was a damp squib after all. Despite my elaborate pitch, he was having none of it. Noticing that I didn't have a Master's degree, he nwas adamant that a First Class Masters was a pre-requisite to teaching in his University. Despite a universal acknowledgement that there are always two routes into teaching: One being formal and the other informal (based on real-life experience/s) he refused to budge. Not one to give up, I suggested that he give me the syllabus for any of the dozen or so courses that I felt competent in and then examine me after a week. Even if I had to write-up a Masters dissertation, that too I could complete in 7 days.

My final question to him was: How many words is a student expected to write-up for a Masters dissertation? About 100 to 200, he replied. That was the juncture where I felt compelled to get up and leave.

On my way out, a local who had graduated from the University gave me an example of the geology department in the University. They were totally out of sorts in the wake of the earthquake of October 2005. Even though foreign NGo's committed a healthy amount of expertise and funding for Research and Development of the Geology Department, little of substance transpired. The bulk of funding was allegedly pocketed by those responsible and the Department is more or less in it's pre-earthquake condition.

As I proceeded towards my new home, a novel event occured. Two young men on a motorbike approached me at speed and braked within a couple of inches of my injured leg. "Could you please tell us who you are sir?, one of them somewhat politely enquired. "There's two things I'm obliged to ask you first," I proposed in response. "Who are you and where does the sense of recklessness emanate from?" I assertively demanded. He mentioned that he belonged to a "sensitive organisation" and that he was from the Punjab. I confirmed that he was from the ISI and explained that a person from Punjab had absolutely no right to ask someone from Kashmir and in Kashmir as to their identity. Furthermore, the ISI was the source of many of the problems that have crippled our society. Regardless of his protestations about some "bad apples" upsetting the cart and that his organisation existed for people's protection, I advised him to return to Pakistan and serve his country where his country needed him most, to leave us alone and if his organisation were keen to talk to me, that they should apply in a formal manner through the local police, give me time to have a lawyer present and that their representative must be of senior rank, ensuring he has the capacity to converse with me.

Today's blog has yet another story to tell.

Monday witnessed the beginning of a hunger strike by employees of the electricity board. Camped outside their office in the Turkish built secretariat, today was the third day and by this stage, three of the strikers were on life-saving glucose drips. They had been struggling within the legal framework for over 2 years for equal access to promotions (in line with other departments) and they felt singled out for discrimination.

This compelled them to form a union and take the action that they had. Thus far, they had provoked a less than modest response from those concerned. I decided to phone the Minister for Electricity Mr. Riaz Mehmood. He was an English "import" and former Overseas MLA (Member of AJK Legislative Assembly). He is widely considered to have bought his way into political power and a dark cloud of fraudulent dealings hangs over his "English" source of income.

Mr. Riaz response was somewhat nervous and definitely deceitful. He claimed ignorance over the employee's hunger strike as well as their demands. This despite advance notice to his ministry of the impending strike, two years of litigation in the AJK High Court as well as Supreme Court and a litany of applications to Mr. Riaz's secretary. I calmly explained that if these employee's just demands were not met and if god-forbid any of them were to perish in their struggle, the public would hold him accountable.

This episode evoked a response. He instructed the Chief Engineer to hold talks with the strikers with a view to coming to a settlement. Interestingly, I was requested by one of the main strikers to pardon them for asking me to not take part in these discussions. I merrily obliged (It wasn't my problem after all-I was just trying to help as much as I could) but strongly suggested that they get a written confirmation of acceptance of their demands.

Staying on the subject of electricity, I've no option but to try and upload my daily videos since the beginning of my cycle ride from a netcafe. Constant outages don't help at all. My ride began on the 2nd of May, today is the 3rd of June and I've only uploaded videos upto the 6th of May so far.

Another dilemma to add to the many generated thus far.


Monday 01/06/09

This morning is partly devoted to my cousin, the "disgraced" police officer who has been forced off duty since 2006. The PM in his note the other day, instructed the IG (Inspector General) to look into his case and if he has genuinely been wronged, to re-instate him in his role. Except that the new IG hasn't yet come to take up his new post. Just as most critical and strategic posts in Azad Kashmir are taken up by Pakistani civil servants, so with the role of Inspector General.

The incumbent is Javed Iqbal of Sindh and in his "absence", I get to meet the DIG (Deputy-Inspector General). A haughty piece of work if there ever was one. Apart from my cousin's isue was that of my uncle; who has been forced to spend the last 7 months here due to the machinations of a local land mafia. The DIG asked me a couple of times as to why my uncle had been here for so long. Where I'm forced to repeat myself, I've developed a habit of sarcasm. This usually works and so it did on this occasion too.

I'm coming across a lot of people who originate from the Kashmir Valley in my day-to-day interactions with the public. Large hordes of them filtered over during the 1980's and early 1990's. Many to get military training as far West as Afghanistan. Most of those I have met, acknowledge that the past 20 years have proved a disaster and what I find most heartening is that they've come to realise the benefits and prospects of peaceful resistance. I tend to give the example of the "Muzaffarabad Chalo" agitation last summer in the Valley, along with other instances of mass (yet peaceful) agitation that followed on from that march. Some notable Indian writers were quite forthright in their criticism of the Indian establishment's posture on Kashmir. They were particularly scathing on the Indian military's use of force to quell what were essentially peaceful protests. An opinion piece by Pankaj Mishra in the New York Times comes to mind.

It's the human restrictions that cause most concern to me. Many of these Valley-ites are aching to go home. The cross-LOC permit system exposes these people to intelligence agencies of both sides who on evidence thus far, have made it nigh on impossible for most of these people to travel. Other acute examples of the shortcomings of the permit system include the case of a pregnant woman who applied to visit her relatives across the LOC. When her permit arrived, her child had been born, yet she was not allowed to take him. This resulted in her cancelling her trip and re-applying again!

Muzaffarabad suffers or benefits from inclement weather, depending on what suits you of course. A hot stuffy afternoon can transform into a stormy and stiff breeze within a matter of seconds! The dust that kicks up can quite easily force you to inhale it, irrespective of how much effort you make to avoid doing so.

As I settle into my 2-room abode in Domel (A suburb-if I can call it that-in the vicinity of the PM's residence), a small consolation is that I have the most luxurious hotel in Azad Kashmir in my line of sight. It's situated on a prominent hill-top. Though I haven't visited it yet, I'm reliably informed that it's made of the finest wood, sourced from the Neelum Valley. As the sun sets each evening, it's glass dressed in electric lighting emits a superficial illumination throughout the vicinity, teasing and taunting the locals with a sense of: you can see it (at a distance) but you can't touch it.

Tomorrow is gonna be a rest day. Not in it's strictest sense of course. I will be working flat out at home. It's becoming increasingly imperative that I keep on top of matters at hand so that I can provide maximum benefit to the people here. If my data is not in order ot If I allow disorientation or diversion to sidetrack me, I'll be of no use to anybody.

Wednesday 3 June 2009


Sunday 31/05/09

Here's a Urdu couplet that somebody recently recited to me, opining that it summed me up in a nutshell.

Ya meri hi naseeb me araam nahi hai
Ya gardishen doraa koi kaam nahi hai

(Either rest is not in my destiny - or I have no utility at the time of commotion)

It's time to move on from the accomodation that we've been in since last week. Although the old man has decided to agree to my terms and there is mutual regret in our parting, I decide that a more functional living space within the city and in close proximity to the PM's residence would suit my family and I better.

I decide to spend a couple of hours with the 90 year old old man in search of a few pearls of wisdom. We agree that consumerism and rural flight has dramatically altered the lives of people and the natural environment. Even upto about 15 years back, school children could pluck apples and pears all day long and forego the need for lunch. Today, there remains little of what were an abundance of orchards. The political and economic reliance on Pakistan meant that Kashmiris had to submit to a increasing number of injustices.

A young engineer who joined our conversation informed me of tonnes of marble and logs of the finest wood being (openly) "smuggled" out of the Neelum Valley (Northern-most district of Azad Kashmir) on a regular basis. The destination in almost all cases was Pakistan, with the tacit collusion of the Pakistani state.

In my heated conversation with the Chief Secretary (remember, he's Pakistan's de facto governor here) last week, he was adamant that royalties were being paid to the Azad Kashmir government for electricity that is generated from Mangla (District Mirpur). I'm yet to find any evidence of that.

Despite our new residence resembling a shack (albeit one of concrete), it's self-contained. The major problem being water which has to be stored in containers, as it comes through the pipes just twice a day. My neighbour explains that the pipes serving them are over 30 years old and rusting. The population has muiltiplied by many in that time, yet the infrastructure is still the same. Apparently the previous PM Sardar Atiq was "dragged" to see the water pipes for himself on a couple of occasions. He did what most politicians do: promise yet fail to deliver.

An Indian Muslim writer that I was reading the other day wrote quite a memorable sentence. He lamented that in the Muslim World there was plenty of recognition of the past, yet very little cognition in the present. How society needs to develop and be appropriate to modern modes of thinking. How cognitive thinking should follow up with implementation in the social and political sphere, is ruefully absent in Azad Kashmir. This is what furstrates me and drives me simultaneously.

I realise that I've lost my (Pakistani) ID card. This may prove to be a blessing as I'm keen to disassociate myself from Pakistan in every sense. Perhaps I should be content with carrying a certificate that proves that I'm a State Subject of Kashmir. I'm even seriously considering making an effort to fly out of Kashmir (via Jammu and on my British passport), when I eventually and hopefully re-unite my naani with her siblings. Not a day passes by without me thinking about this issue. After all, it is what has kept me here since April 2005.

I met the chap who looks after the cross-LOC applications, a few days ago. Just like his colleagues in the Assistant Commissioner's office in Kotli, the pile of applications in front of him iis way too much for him to handle. It is litttle wonder that the people of Kashmir have to wait years before their permits are ready. Many applicants have been seperated from their families since 1947, others since 1965and some since 1990. All wait years to travel what in most cases is less than a 100 kilometres.

My naani's separation could complete 62 years in October.


Saturday 30/05/09

I feel a lot more orderly now that I spent the whole of yesterday on the PC. I'm also pretty confident of becoming efficient at what I'm trying to achieve. Adding to that is my increasingly boisterous sense of purpose. Namely to expose Pakistan for what it is. Those among my readers who have faith in Pakistan and/or give it a sacred status need to peer hard at the salient features of this country, most prominent that it is primarily a security state; it's existence ostensibly to provide "security" to any country or organisation in the world bar India. I do apologise profusely for being so harsh but as events are gradually unfolding before our eyes, I'm confident that Pakistanis will come to understand the sanity of my reasoning.

Today's schedule involves a meeting with the AJK (Azad Jammu & Kashmir) Prime Minister Sardar Yaqoob Khan. I have other people's issues to raise with him beside my own and after a two hour wait, I'm ushered in to his office.

His first question is to ask me about the sling on my right arm. This is a ready-made opportunity for me to explain my recent cycle ride. The first issue that I raise is that of my cousin's return to the police force. Upon careful study of the latter's features, the PM surprises me and my cousin by remarking that he looked like a thief! He in turn, never slow to fire back, informed the PM that he had served in the police force for 23 years. I seconded him by stating if one were without an income for over 3 years, what is one expected to appear as?

Having dealt with other issues and noticing that the PM was anxious to leave for Islamabad, I explained that our discussion needed at least 30 uninterrupted minutes of his valuable time. My conversation would centre on the relationship between Azad Kashmir and Pakistan. I gave a slight gist of the theme by outlining that advances in communication technology necessitated that we cease to be complacent. Old formats of governance that paralysed the development of the Kashmiri people for almost 62 years can not withstand the rapidly changing emotions of the people.

Sardar Yaqoob Khan appears an efficient and no-nonsense type of character; in line with what one could and should expect of someone from a business background. Having said that, he spent a couple of unnecessary minutes in praising himself for being so accessible. This was a chord that was reminiscent of his predecessor Sardar Atiq. In any case, I'll probably have to wait til the 7th of June before I get his undivided attention.

I know his focus is on the annual budget that Pakistan pretends to dole out to the Kashmiri people. It's due in a few days and no doubt the PM will be made to grovel for the scraps that come this side of Kohalla (The bridge near Muzaffarabad that connects Pakistan to Azad Kashmir).

On my way out, his principal secretary was keen to delve into my background.

Our conversation made it's way to the partition of the sub-continent. I explained my stance that partition was a horrible error of immense magnitude. The creation of Pakistan complicated our region viz. Kashmir and bridging the divide required a herculean effort. His alternate analysis reflected the historical narrative that has been taught to people in Pakistan and this part of Kashmir. Namely, that Hindus and Muslims cannot co-exist and that in an un-divided India, muslims would have been marginalised and their political influence minimal.

Everyone is undoubtedly entitled to their viewpoint but I politely suggested that he keep an open mind for the future.

Solutions almost always necessitate a change in mindset.

Daily Diary (DD) - Day 112 of 2024

1006hrs: It is now routine that I automatically wake at around 0500hrs. Even an alarm clock is no longer necessary. Today I got up at 0515hr...