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Monday, 8 June 2009

MUZAFFARABAD - DAY 11


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.

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