The Ageless Kashmir
The place that everyone wants to visit at least once in their life time, recalled as “The Heaven on Earth” or The Paradise on Earth, Kashmir is truly blessed with an eternal natural beauty .
From those charming Houseboats and Shikaras to those thrilling skiing and sledge rides, from the magnificent Gulmarg to the Holy Vaishnodevi temple, the Jewelled crown of India offers everyone a dear memory of Kashmir to behold. A lot has been written about this region, movies and documentaries have been made, Kashmir has been a prominent part of Bollywood for ages. It is truly about embracing the nature.
Let the exploration begin…an inimitable gateway is guaranteed!
First stop -Srinagar
I arrived at the Srinagar International Airport, booked a cab and headed to the beautiful extended House boat. Living on the water in ceda-paneled bedrooms with all the facilities and the charming interior , the Houseboat appears…
View original post 903 more words
Munir Ahmed// Federal government (Pakistan) is still reluctant to withdraw its order imposing ban on the foreign tourists visiting Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) without obtaining an (additional) no-objection certificate (NOC) from the ministry of interior in Islamabad despite of a formal request from the GB chief minister. A letter recently sent by the ministry to the Gilgit-Baltistan government says that it has been reported that foreigners are frequently visiting Gilgit-Baltistan without obtaining an NOC or security clearance from the ministry, which is against the rules. The letter asks the authorities concerned to take concrete measures to curb the practice.
This gallery is hardly one you would associate with danger. Yet, the instinctive reaction of family and friends when I expressed my decision to travel to Kashmir, was one of astonishment at our ‘daring’. For my non Indian readers, Kashmir is the strife torn region of the Indian republic, sandwiched between India and Pakistan, that has had […]
”What is to be done?” : “In the meanwhile, it is doubtful that tying a Kashmiri who had just cast his vote to the bonnet of an army jeep is the best way of winning over the people.”
When in 2014 the Peoples’ Democratic Party, having fought the Assembly elections on an anti-RSS plank, decided to tie up with the Bhartiya Janata Party for governance, well-meaning observers believed that this was done not to occupy state power but on an act of faith.
The Party’s faith was that its coalition partner who ruled New Delhi with an absolute majority in parliament would be as keen to resolve the political issue of the Jammu & Kashmir state—and would be best placed to do so, since the Hindu right wing had historically remained the chief obstacle to such a resolution—as the PDP itself. There were those more cynical ones who had at the time pointed out that such faith may be grossly misplaced, since it involved a far-too-naïve misreading of the “nationalist” interests in the matter of Jammu & Kashmir.
As we have seen, the coalition’s “Agenda of Alliance” became, especially in its promised political content, first a farcical and now a tragic dead letter with incalculable damage to the material and psychological profile of the valley which, like it or not, remains at the centre of the problematic.
In the last three years or so, not only have the usual indices of “disturbance” become viral, democratic forces in the valley have come to suffer grievous, if not terminal, demise. To wit, by refusing to turn out to vote in the least of respectable numbers, it is the people who have disenfranchised the leaderships and their political structures rather than the other way around.
In that context, the defeat of the PDP in the Srinagar parliamentary constituency is a clear proof that the mere “faith” does not measure up to the travails and aspirations of the people. Indeed, had people voted in larger numbers, the results would have been the same. Only the terminally uncaring—like the “nationalists”—or the terminally imbecilic may still persuade themselves that militancy in the valley is a “fringe” phenomenon fueled by the wicked enemy from across the border.
The more caring and the more objective watchers of the situation know that the cruel refusal to dialogue and the cruel readiness to shoot have turned every young Kashmiri Muslim today into a willing militant, with complete loss of faith in the secular-democratic promise of the Idea of India. Indeed, the more that right wing forces gain ascendance in the mainland, the more the valley sees itself pushed back into an answering Muslim majoritarian assertion.
So what is to be done? It would be a helpful beginning to disregard the ostrich-inspired “deliberations” that routinely happen at prime time—deliberations that are characterized forever by one chief motif: talk about everything but the real problem.
Then set up back-channels with mandate from the Center to address the diverse contours of the issue as reflected in the spectrum of opinion available in the state with no exceptions. And do so without laying any a prior conditions or time lines. Carry forward that process for as long as it takes, remembering the time that similar issues in other parts of the world have taken (for example Ireland).
Weaken the toe-hold of the interventionist elements in Pakistan by owning our own, and by showing a determination to listen and dialogue till the cows come home, although not in the way they have in Uttar Pradesh. Keep channels of dialogue open with Pakistan on the back of the earlier exchanges, some of which were fraught with substantive promise.
All that taking into account also that the contemporary situation in Pakistan may truly be materially different from what it was some years ago, although Indian “experts” seem forever unwilling to keep abreast with that truth.
Easier said than done. Who will bell the cat? Alas, had I half the faith in god as Mehbooba ji continues to have in the promise of the coalition partner, my Easter may well have happened.
In short, so decisive is the rejection of India in the valley that “mainstream” opposition parties there have not the smallest leeway. If you are not blinkered, expect only more of the same at least till the next general elections in 2019, if not much worse.
The article was first published here in online newspaper Kashmir Observer.
Aneela Shahzad// Based on similar physiognomy between Kashmiris and Jews and many similar names and toponyms, Jewish descent of the Kashmiri people is also claimed. Yet at the accumulation of their long historical evolution, they chose Islam as their way of life.
Like the great Hindu Kush, the Karakoram and Himalayas, the world’s three most complex mountain ranges, meet at their extremities in Kashmir – they separate at their feet, three distinct cultures, Islam, Hinduism and Communism. Three cultures that are just as well-grounded as the Karakoram, as stanch as the Hindu Kush and as definite as the Himalayas, and that have proven to be unsurmountable by the other.
As of the Kashmiri people themselves, the prevalent theory is that they were of Aryan descent, their language being an Indo-Aryan Dardic one. Based on similar physiognomy between Kashmiris and Jews and many similar names and toponyms, Jewish descent of the Kashmiri people is also claimed. Yet at the accumulation of their long historical evolution, they chose Islam as their way of life.
The Greater Kashmir that is disputed between Pakistan and India includes Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract (Shaksgam Valley).
War broke out between India and Pakistan in 1948 over the enticed accession of Kashmir to India. As a result Pakistan was able to liberate Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan from Indian occupation, while Jammu, Ladakh and the Kashmir Vale remains under Indian occupation to this day.
Aksai Chin is a large swath of land controlled by China, bordering both Gilgit-Baltistan and Indian Occupied Kashmir. Aksai Chin is vital for China as it connects the remote provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet. In 1962, China and India fought a war over Aksai Chin; in 1996, the two countries signed agreements to respect the Line of Actual Control. In 2014 China made a build-up of troops in Aksai Chin that made incursions into Ladakh causing a stand-off between the two countries. This is in addition to the Arunachal Pradesh tension, which China claims to be a part of its province Tibet.
Gilgit-Baltistan, the cradle of the Hindu Kush Mountains, was not a part of Kashmir when the British sold Kashmir to Gulab Singh, founder of the Dogra Dynasty, in 1846, after they had defeated the Sikhs in the First Anglo-Sikh War. But later the Dogra waged a number of battles to occupy Gilgit-Baltistan. The Dogras incorporated Gilgit-Baltistan into Kashmir even though the people had more cultural affinity to the people of Ladakh. As of post-partition, the population of Gilgit-Baltistan wants to be merged into Pakistan as a separate fifth province and is opposed to integration with Indian-held Kashmir. But the Pakistani government has to pend the Gilgit-Baltistani calls for integration with Pakistan on the grounds that this would jeopardize the resolution of the Whole-Kashmir Issue according to UN resolutions.
The article was first published here.
By: Ali Ahmed Ali (Gojal-Hunza); Writers’ workshop held at Bulbulik Heritage Centre Gulmit to review the research and documentation of Wakhi Folk Poetry being done by Bulbulik. The famous Wakhi poets and writers from allover Gojal participated in the workshop and reviewed the research work. The workshop ended with a musical show at midnight at Gulmit Gojal Hunza.
Al-Waiz Nasir a prominent thinker of Gojal Hunza is presenting his work
The role of religion in state affairs has always been a matter of debate in Muslim societies. The employees in courts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir consider themselves fortunate to have been practising their religious duties alongside professional responsibilities.
In his first address to court staff soon after he took oath as the 12th Chief Justice of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Supreme Court, Justice Chaudhry Muhammad Ibrahim Zia had announced that the annual increment for court employees would be conditional on the regular offering of prayers, which he said will be secretly checked.
The judge also announced that the offering of prayers would be mandatory for all employees and that there would be a designated court break for prayers. The orders are similar to General Zia’s mandatory prayer instructions to the members of armed forces in late 1980s.
“There shall be two groups of employees for prayers. I will lead one group, and our regular prayer leader will lead the other group,” Justice Zia seemed to implement his religious order more fervently than court orders.
In a more traditional vein, the highest ranking judge in AJK encouraged government servants to discharge their duties with complete dedication, devotion, honesty, and sincerity.
“In the discharge of duties, all public servants should rise above their personal likes and dislikes, regional or ethnic prejudices, besides doing away with negligence, or dereliction of duty,” he added.
The ceremony was attended by AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, ministers and other notable persons. Justice Zia will continue as the Chief Justice of Azad Jammu and Kashmir until 2020.
The Azad Jammu and Kashmir Supreme Court comprises three judges, including the chief justice. Unlike elsewhere in Pakistan, judges in the AJK Supreme Court can also be appointed directly, apart from being elevated from the AJK High Court.
Judges in AJK’s superior judiciary are appointed by the AJK president on the advice of the chairman of the AJK Council, which is headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, and after consultation with other chief justices.
By Daalat Ali//
The purpose of this paper is to inform all concern on the plight of the People of Jammu & Kashmir and Northern Areas (Gilgit Baltistan and Ladakh) politically known as Kashmir. It particularly aims to highlight the impact of the undetermined status of Jammu and Kashmir on the Kashmiri Diaspora, especially on the question of identity and its recognition in the countries of settlements of the Diaspora.
The main aspects of Kashmiri Diaspora, I am going to highlight include the following:
· The existence of Kashmiri Diaspora in Europe,
· Its exclusion in Britain at various levels of state and society, including:
· Service delivery,
· Political and human rights,
· Meaningful engagement and input or lack of it at various levels,
· Implication of their exclusion, both here and their country of origin,
· This paper will also make some comparisons with Kashmiri ethnicity re-identification/re-classification and African slave’s re-identification/re-classification. Hence, questions are raised, if EU countries are playing an active role in human rights abuse within their sphere and are bringing indirect colonial practices at their door steps. (This may be so in ignorance)
Kashmir was an independent state for many centuries and has five thousand years of chronological written history (Raj Trangani by Pandat Kahllan).However, for the past few centuries it has been occupied by Moughals of India, Pathans of Afghinstan and up until 1846 by Lahore Durbar (Punjab) and from 1846 to 1947 by Dogra dynasty.
When the British rule came to an end in 1947 India became independent and Pakistan was created, Kashmir and other princely states were not part of the division formula, hence, the state of Jammu Kashmir Ladakh and Northern areas popularly known as Kashmir became independent until both India and Pakistan invaded it. There after Kashmir ceased to exist as one nation and it lost its independent status. There are claims and counter claims by both occupiers; however, in the process of division the views of inhabitants were not seeked, though promised by UN that still remains the case.
The exact process leading to the division is disputed but what is not disputed is that Kashmir is still divided and occupied by foreign forces against the wishes of the people of state of Jammu Kashmir. In reality, it isdivided in to three open jails, people of one region cannot visit another region, hence it divides millions of people i.e. parents from children, friends from friends. It needs more research but there is evidence that this has affected communities across the state mentally, physically and has given opportunity to right wing forces to exploit ordinary people, hence resulting in both Islamic and Hindu fundamentalisms as seen recently in the Valley and Jammu regions.
Most social commentators, including Roger Ballard, Nasreen Ali, Vrindar Singh Kalara and many more, write that in Britain there are nearly a million
people of Kashmiri origin. Given that, there were nearly 800,000 Pakistanis recorded in 2001 census. According to Ballard’s estimation nearly 6,00,000 of those are of Kashmiri origin. It should be noted that over 23,000 Kashmiris self wrote Kashmiris and also it is estimated that; around 250,000 Kashmiris did not return census forms because they thought it is not for them. Lord Ahmed of Rotherham in a letter to Baroness Emma Nicholson in 2005 quotes this figure at one million, this then is followed by his Excellency Wajid Shamas, Pakistani high commissioner to UK. In an article to Owsaf news paper he also quotes this figure to be one million.
Majority of Kashmiris living in Britain came from the Pahari region of Jammu Kashmiri primarily Mirpur Division .These Kashmiris started coming to Britain in early part of 20th century, however due to division of India and lack of opportunities in Pakistan , they started coming to Britain in greater numbers. Early Kashmiri migrants especially 1950s and early 1960s came for shorter periods, however, the economic and political situation back home dictated otherwise and that early migration changed in to chain migration. With current insurgency, India and Pakistan’s organised terrorism in the state of Jammu Kashmir many Kashmiris are forced to flee their home land, hence, now Kashmiris can be found in every European city and country. Therefore it is believed that there are close to two million Kashmiris within EU. We do not know exact numbers, why not? That is the question.
As mentioned above, there are half a million to one million Kashmiri people residing in United Kingdom , most of them come from Pahari region of the state (Mirpur Division), they speak distinct language (Pahari) and share long history and culture which is different than that of other South Asian languages and cultures. This perhaps makes Kashmiris the largest distinct group of all ethnic minorities from South Asia for example Bangla speaking are just over three hundred thousand, Sikhs around two hundred and fifty thousand and same with other groups from South Asia. Despite the numbers and despite massive awareness and inclusion campaigns for decades by Kashmiri Diaspora, British Authorities continue to exclude Kashmiris from all its systems.
At one level the Authorities i.e. census regime and its users advocate that the services are Taylor made for individuals and that census data amongst many other uses is for individual, regional and communities socio economic profiling. If that argument was taken forward then British and other EU authorities are working against their own set rule and criterion, and perhaps are breaking the law. Though recently there have been rafts and rafts of local (British) and EU inclusion legislations from which ethnic minorities benefit safety and enhancement opportunities but Kashmiri Diaspora is not only excluded and unprotected from these legislations, but in the case of bigotry and discrimination, by other South Asian communities, the system does not protect the victims, because the system does not recognise Kashmiri Diaspora, hence if you don’t exist you cannot be discriminated against.
Office of statistics describes Kashmiri Diaspora as Pakistanis and office of registration for deaths births recognises Kashmiris as Indians, Some politicians and decision makers come up with an excuse that it should be Pakistani Kashmiris and Indian Kashmiris, while the same authorities include Irish as one rather than Irish republic and northern Ireland.
It is also often quoted that Kashmir is not an independent country therefore Kashmiri Diaspora can’t be included and identified as Kashmiri but at the same time Palestinians, Kurds, Romany, Gypsies, Sikhs, Muslims and many more country less minorities are included for the purposes of monitoring service delivery and protection against discrimination.
1991 and 2001 census included many more categories than previous census exercises including the religion categories, hence Kashmiris can be Muslims, Pakistanis, Indians, Asians, Blacks but not Kashmiris which they actually are. This than means that their socio economic profile cannot be measured therefore Kashmiri Diaspora is excluded from any decision making process.
At the lobbying end as soon as one mentions Kashmir, it automatically becomes politically sensitive and all concern are very happy to talk about Kashmir and Kashmiris in the South Asian contest, hence deliberately avoiding or ignoring a significant Kashmiri Diaspora.
Kashmiri Diasporas exclusion at every level in Europe has detrimental implications both for the Diaspora and host Nation. Though in-depth research is needed on the subject but I will try to high light some of the issues faced by the Diaspora in Europe, Both sides of Kashmir at home and internationally especially post 9-11 and 7-7.
In Europe especially in United Kingdom where majority of Kashmiris live, all researches show that Pakistanis are:
· At the bottom of the pile in educational achievement,
· Living in overcrowding conditions,
· Suffering from above average ill health conditions,
· Living in deprived excluded enclaves,
· Under represented in business,
· Over represented in criminal justice system,
· Under represented in politics and the list goes on
· Due to Kashmiri exclusion, Kashmiris fleeing violence seeking asylum in Europe, do not get privileges that other such refugees do
Some academic researchers, service providers and decision makers, have looked at the exclusion closely. They have concluded that Pakistani achievement level is in par with Indians, it is Kashmiris when mixed with Pakistanis infact bring the Pakistani attainment level down. The researchers also indicate that Kashmiris are excluded from any meaningful decision maker’s consultation in service delivery and design.
Other South Asians
Other South Asian communities particularly Pakistanis( who are put in the positions of power by the British state and society i.e. by excluding Kashmiris living in United Kingdom and by consulting and engaging with Pakistani community leaders on behalf of Kashmiris.) Bigot and discriminate against Kashmiri Diaspora at every level. The relationship can be compared with the relationship that exists between English and Irish. Pakistanis refer to Kashmiri community as Mirpuris and deliberately negating their National (Kashmiri) identity, which is followed by many academic researchers in ignorance of course. Kashmiri Diaspora is legally un-protected against this ongoing discrimination; hence, their human rights are violated or not is a question for the relevant authorities.
This than means that Kashmiri first second and third generations are growing up identity less and confused. Of course they seek identity and feel safer in Muslim identity, which in turn means that they are open to exploitation and recruitment by organisations which have right wing agenda i.e. terrorism. For example there seem to be no example of any British Kashmiri’s involvement in Kashmir but it should be noted that suicide bombers in Israel were from UK and were of Kashmiri heritage, similarly there are examples of British Kashmiris involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as 7/7 but they are of course referred to as Pakistanis. Most of the Inner city riots In Birmingham, Bradford Leeds and East Lancashire were by Kashmiri youngsters but of course they were referred to as Pakistanis. Above are few examples of implications of exclusion of Kashmiri identity and ethnicity from the decision makers. This is so despite many local service providers’ inclusion and recommendation for example more than fifteen local authorities in UK include Kashmiri category for service delivery and employment.
In Jammu and Kashmir
Kashmiri exclusion in Europe means that all Kashmiri living in Europe are likely to lose their hereditary rights which they have by virtue of State subject. (Kashmiri Nationality) was introduced by Maharaja Hari Sing, (The last Ruler of the state of Jammu Kashmir). this was introduced in October 1927. Without the State subject one cannot buy, sell, own or inherit land or property in the State of Jammu Kashmir. Both India and Pakistan have ingrained in their relevant constitutions to respect this position. However, from time to time both test waters to do away with this restriction, infact Pakistan has suspended this in the Northern Areas, which are under direct rule of Pakistan. This has resulted in massive demographic changes. India from time to time has tried to violate this too. Most recent example is “Amar- Nath -Yatra Shrine Board” against which Jammu and Kashmir witnessed a massive strike and ultimately India had to give in.
What this means for Kashmiri Diaspora is that:
· Kashmiri Diaspora is forced to obtain Pakistani Nationality (By virtue of dual Nationality agreement with many European countries including UK)
· Kashmiris are forced to obtain Pakistani identity card popularly known as Nadhra card,
· Office of death Birth registration registers all Kashmiris as Pakistani, therefore all documentations state that Kashmiris are Pakistanis,
Kashmiri exclusion and Kashmiri none recognition within Europe means that All legal documentations erase Kashmiri identity and replace it with Pakistani identity. This is also true of academia especially Pakistani academics like Anwar, Madood and Saiuf-ulla Khan. There seem to be similarities between slavery’s dark days “Where African slave’s identity, religion and names were changed and a new identity was given to them”. Kashmiri Diaspora perhaps is suffering from similar inhuman treatment as far as their ethnicity re-classification is concerned.
This than means is that:
· Kashmiri Diaspora cannot reclaim or inherit any real estate from their forefathers in Kashmir,
· Kashmiri Diaspora cannot participate in much promised UN plebiscite, hence has no say on the fate of their future,
· By virtue of act 1954 where Pakistan states that Azad Kashmir (POK) is sensitive area therefore entry of none Kashmiris is discretionary, what this means is that whole of Kashmiri Diaspora can be denied to visit even their parents if Pakistani authorities so wish.
· In practice both Pakistan and India take measures to stop State people visiting other parts of the state, while no restrictions are in eveidence to Pakistan and India’s citizens.
In conclusion the above evidence suggests that:
· Kashmiri Diaspora has existed in Europe for at least over a century, and currently there are around one million to two million Kashmiris living within Europe, majority being in United Kingdom.
· Due to continuous exclusion, Kashmiri Diaspora has failed to progress as fast as identified and included Diasporas, therefore, Kashmiris have formed their own excluded enclaves and live in very poor conditions, with above average unemployment, extremely below average economic and educational attainment and well above national average are represented in Criminal justice system.
· Identity less Kashmiri Diaspora is likely to suffer above average unreported discrimination both from indigenes and South Asian communities.
· Kashmiri Diaspora is invisible and is deliberately excluded from any meaningful contribution at political, and decision making level, For example India and Pakistan talk to each other on Kashmir but exclude Kashmiris from those meetings, does Europe not do the same? Of course the west does.
· Kashmiri Diaspora suffers worst human rights abuses back home and in Europe, with Europeans indirectly practicing colonialty by aiding neo-colonial powers in South Asia, This is so by not recognising Kashmiri Diaspora,
· Kashmiri people are treated as second class citizens both by India and Pakistan in South Asia and Kashmiri Diaspora is treated with contempt by Indian and Pakistani Diasporas in Europe. This process is aided by European (Specifically British authorities), By excluding Kashmiri Diaspora at every level.
· In most academic researches Kashmiri Diaspora has been re-classified for example the research subjects would be Kashmiris but they would be written on as Muslims, Pakistanis, and Asians or if some researchers go deeper they would stop at Mirpuris (Punjabis). Is this re-classification not similar to that of Slaves taken from Africa and given new identity? Is this not human rights abuse?
It is recommended that:
· This forum should pass a resolution in favour of Kashmiri ethnicity inclusion at all levels and write to all EU members including United Kingdom census authority, home Ministers, relevant UN department and all other relevant bodies.
· Write to Pakistani and Indian Governments to make provisions for Issuing state subjects to Kashmiri Diaspora
· Kashmiri category should be included for monitoring purposes with all government departments including, LGA, NHS and Police
(This paper was read at a seminar titled ” India-Pakistan Peace Process: the Way Forward” in London on 28 February 2012. The writer of this paper is an author, researcher, film script writer, director and founder chief executive of International Pahari Literary Society. His three books “Punch-na-Sarmad”, “Taharan-ni-Agh” and “Mela Asman” are the best sellers in Pahari language . His two more books are in print. His campaign on Kashmiri identity in the UK has gained momentum in recent months. He is co-ordinator of Kashmir National Identity Campaign (KNIC) in the UK. He could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The article source is Press for Peace
“If there is heaven on Earth, it is here, it is here, it is here!” – Firdaus
Little did the heaven know about man’s greed – so little that it carved the heaven into a slaughterhouse where heroes live and rise from time to time, just to be buried forever.
What Maharaja Hari Singh initiated in 1947 was to leave profound scars on the…
View original post 647 more words
The 150-year-old Poonch House standing in the heart of Saddar on Adam Jee Road, Rawalpindi has served as a rest house for kings and princes, an office and home for prime ministers of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and even housed military courts.
|Balconies made out of walnut wood, in traditional Kashmiri style, overlook the main hall. The upper galleries allowed women a view of the performances in the hall below.|
It was built by Raja Moti Singh, the ruler of Poonch, to serve as a rest house for Rajas of Poonch. Later, in 1914 when Poonch became a part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the Poonch House became the property of the ruler of Kashmir Maharaja Gulab Singh. After Pakistan came into being, in the 1950s it was the home of AJK’s first prime minister and camp office of AJK president and prime minister.
|Windows and skylights built into the wooden ceiling to light the narrow passage below without electricity.|
“When General Ziaul Haq imposed martial law in 1977, military courts were set up at Poonch House where prominent politicians and political workers were tried,” said former district nazim Raja Tariq Kayani.
The majestic mansion combined the best in European and Indian architecture. It incorporated intricate Kashmiri woodwork with fine masonry.
|The outer wall of the women’s chamber. The door leads to the narrow passage which connects the two parts of the building.|
The complex included separate living quarters and courtyards for men and women. The main hall was where the Maharajas held court or hosted grand parties.
The walls were embellished with intricate artwork and beautifully carved wooden balconies. The Maharaja’s own chambers were located on the upper storey along with small rooms for his servants.
|A stylised arched window with broken glass panes represents the dilapidated condition of Poonch House today. This was once part of the men’s chamber.|
Once the grounds of Poonch House spread over 37 kanals, but today the area has been reduced to 23 kanals.
In 1983, a 10-storey building was constructed in the lawn of Poonch House and bits of land were sold by the government until Prime Minister Junejo in 1986, imposed a ban on sale of Poonch House land.
|A recently renovated room, with whitewashed walls, is being used as the office of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Properties administrator. This area once served as the durbar of the Maharaja of Kashmir.|
The colourful history and past grandeur of this old building are fast fading. The derelict old building is serving as the Sub-office of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Properties and Azad Jammu and Kashmir Election Commission office.
The main hall where music echoed late into the night, now houses offices where telephone bells ring instead. Whitewash covers the artwork on the walls and cement has been filled in where decorative tiles are missing.
|This section of Poonch House, which today serves as AJK Election Commission Office, once housed the military courts set up by Ziaul Haq. Here a number of politicians and political workers were tried.|
Masroor Ahmed, administrator AJK Properties Sub-office, told Dawn that Rs0.5 million have been allocated by the government for restoration of the exterior of Poonch House and work will begin at the end of the month. (The article was first published here in daily Dawn.)