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The Kashmiri property rows that date back to British India


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Kashmir unrest


 

Indian-administered Kashmir is facing widespread unrest involving violent clashes between student protesters and Indian police, the beheading of a man by Pakistan-linked terrorists, and deadly gunfights pitting security forces against militants, all of which ultimately prompted authorities to impose travel restrictions.

Pakistan, its ally China, and their rival India all have competing claims to the predominantly Muslim Himalayan region of Kashmir.

India’s Outlook magazine reports, referring to Easter Sunday:

Indian security forces on Sunday gunned down 13 militants in three counter-insurgency operations that also claimed the lives of three Army [soldiers] and four civilians in Anantnag and Shopian districts of [India-controlled Kashmir].

The situation in the portion of the Kashmir controlled by India prompted Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif to accused India of trying to resolve the Kashmir dispute “through the barrel of the gun.”

On Friday — “Kashmir Solidarity Day” observed in Pakistan —Minister Asif declared, “The recent killings of 20 unarmed civilians in Indian Kashmir are again a manifestation of the Indian policy of trying to resolve the dispute through the barrel of the gun.”

Although India describes some of the men gunned down by Indian troops as militants, Pakistan describes them all as civilians.

Despite a 2003 ceasefire, India and Pakistan have repeatedly clashed along the Line of Control (LoC), the border that separates the regions they respectively control in Kashmir.

China is known to primarily stay in the shadows of the disputes between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, but it provides Islamabad with military and economic support.

While India accuses Pakistan of backing Islamic terrorists in Kashmir, Islamabad blames New Delhi of violently oppressing pro-Pakistan separatists.

The killing of civilians at the hands of Indian troops also fueled the violent clashes that erupted between student protesters and Indian police across the city of Srinagar in Indian-held Kashmir.

Al-Jazeera reports:

Indian security forces fired tear gas at demonstrators on Thursday as they were protesting against the recent killings of 20 people, including separatist fighters and civilians by government troops in south Kashmir’s Shopian district.

On Friday, authorities in Indian-controlled Kashmir recovered the decapitated body of a 24-year-old man, a day after suspected militants affiliated with the Pakistan-linked Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist group abducted him, reports Hindustan Times.

Moreover, the Indian army in Kasmir killed an “unidentified militant” on Friday, reportsIndia’s Firstpost news outlet.

The unrest has driven authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir to imposed travel restrictions “as a precautionary measure to maintain law and order in view of protests called by separatists and strike by trade bodies,” points out the Press Trust of India (PTI).

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed concern over the situation in Kashmir.

“The secretary-general has expressed and will continue to express his concern at the situation. I think we spoke about it earlier in the week, reminding all parties of the need to protect civilians,” Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for the U.N. chief, said on Thursday.

Source : Breitbart.com

 

Mahjoor: The poet of Kashmir


Dr. Farooq Ahmad Peer

Mahjoor, the poet of Kashmir, whose anniversary we are commemorating today, introduced his pen name Mahjoor when he visited Punjab and started writing poetry under the influence of great Urdu poet, Shibli Nomani. Mahjoor’s poetry reflects a Kashmiri emotion at social, political and psychological level. It’s music in words that flows from the tongue of a common Kashmiri. mahjoor_wordsworth_of_Kashmiri_poetry

The poet under discussion was greatly influenced by his father who was a scholar of Persian language. He received the primary education from the Maktab of Aashiq Trali (a renowned poet) in Tral. After passing the middle school examination from Nusrat-ul-Islam School, Srinagar, he went to Punjab where he came in contact with Urdu poets like Bismil Amritsari and Moulana Shibi Nomani. He returned to Srinagar in 1908 and started writing in Persian and then in Urdu. But he was more interested to write in his native language to express his emotions.  He spent his free time writing poetry, and his first Kashmiri poem ‘Vanta hay Vesy’ was published in 1918.

The ability and proficiency of Mahjoor as a leading twentieth century Kashmiri poet has been accepted by all in the state as well as in the country.   He is great because he symbolizes the brilliance of the Romantic movement of the Kashmiri literature. He is not confined to poetry only, but his words depict the society of the times he lived in. It was the voice of the voiceless. He continuously wrote his beautiful verses in Kashmiri and wrote many lyrics romantic in taste. One among these famous lyrics is ‘Bage Nishat ke Gulo’ the verses of which activate excitement in the hearts of the readers.   He had deep interest in the bounty of nature in Kashmir and he invariably depicts the scenic gardens, moors, forests, waterfalls, rivers, lush green fields and mountains as a source and means of conveying his heartfelt emotions and messages to awaken his countrymen to raise their voice against all kinds of injustices and ills perpetuated against them. He expresses his emotions in this manner;

“Bulbulan Dup Gulls Hussan Chui Pur 

Keyha wanai , zew chai ne, su chui kasur”        

Through his verses in Kashmiri, Mahjoor contributed to the sentiment and movement of freedom struggle during the tyrannical and autocratic Dogra regime. His poems gave momentum to the struggle and served as a clarion call to the masses to free their nation from the chains of slavery. He express his patriotic fervor in the poem “Walo Ho Bagewano” and stresses upon his fellow countrymen to embellish their nation and land with the flowers of honour and dignity.

In other beautiful poem, “Gulshan Watan Chu Souni” Mahjoor expresses his love for his nation and breathes out the idea symbolically and that too with candor and pride that there is nothing dear to him than his nation.

“Bulbul Wanan chu poshan Gulshan watan chu souni          

Andi Andi Safaid Sangar Deware Sange Mar Mar”      

There is no doubt that the  themes of the poetry of Mahjoor involved freedom and progress in Kashmir and his poems awakened latent nationalism among people against the barbaric regime of those times. His popular verses engaged such topics as love, communal harmony, social reform, and the plight of the Kashmiris. He also wrote on such timeless themes as youth, the flowers of Nishat Garden, peasant girls, gardeners, and the blond shades. He is considered as a poet who revolutionized the traditional forms of poetry  which put him in the company of great  poets of  the valley.

Mahjoor through his immortal verses teaches lessons about nature, love, peace, unity, faith in God, upholding of human values, dangers of jealousy, animosity and hatred. Given the quality and the tone of his poetry, he could be easily called as the harbinger of modern Kashmiri poetry because he widened and diversified its parameters, enriched its language and extended its use of idiom and put it on the pedestal of vibrancy and exuberance.

The source of this article is Daily Greater Kashmir 

An Honest Memoir On Traveling Through The Kashmir Valley


NEHA SAIGAL

I am a wanderer and an explorer, I will travel to any corner of this planet if it intrigues me or catches my fancy. Somewhere in 2017, I decided that I must travel to Kashmir, maybe I was attracted to the place as it was a boiling cauldron of careless politics and tragic lives. It is strange to think about it now, as I sit and type away in my relatively comfortable and humble setting in Delhi. Not once before my travel did I really expect to be blown away by the sheer beauty, I guess I was more excited about the stories that awaited me.

Our landing in Srinagar was spectacular, we were greeted by the Himalayan range on either side. My mouth wide open, I stared in amazement as I had never been this close to the mighty Himalayas.I was just getting my head around the snow-covered ranges, my body and mind filled with excitement that I didn’t realize when I walked into the members of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). These men clad in brown uniforms were everywhere and to describe the feeling accurately, it was a rather “quick low after a good high.” Many instances during my travel through the Valley this feeling kept resurfacing.

The air was cold, if I remember, it must have been one degree the day we landed. The chill was secondary, I was well equipped as traveling to Kashmir in the winter is no laughing matter for someone who has grown up in the warm climate of South India. Primarily I was interested in taking in whatever I could like a greedy child, but the ride from the airport to my hotel, felt a bit dystopian (I am saying it felt not that it is). But that changed very quickly as we reached the Boulevard road and we drove past Dal Lake, everything changed that minute. The houseboats on the lake made me feel at ease and I started noticing the men and women in their pherans (Kashmiri dress), noticing me.

That night I slept in a beautiful house in Wakil Colony which was under the care of the nicest and warmest family, who gave us cups of Kahwa at the very mention of “chai.” The temperatures must have dropped to minus four but I slept like a child wrapped in flannel blankets. The next morning was hard, it took me a good two hours to get myself out of bed as it was freezing. But the “kangri”, which is a Kashmiri essential, is defined by many as the firepot that helps keep Kashmir warm, was a life-saver and helped in getting by the morning.

A road trip in Kashmir requires a trustworthy car and a driver who is a good story teller, trust me the Valley is full of stories, but you will need a good imagination to fathom them all. Driving around Srinagar transported me almost immediately to a Tim Burton film, dark and gothic. The Chinar trees lining the roadside had lost all of their cover that brought out a different personality. The gardens be it Shalimar Bagh or the Chashme Shahi, were similar yet different. On that cold winter day, it was difficult to imagine the Mughals walking through these paths. Despite the eeriness around me, I felt comfortable, I felt at ease and not a for a moment, did I feel I do not belong. But why should I not belong? Why was the feeling of ease in the Valley a surprise? Is it part of the Indian psyche to look at Kashmir and its people with doubt? These questions trouble me now, but didn’t really matter as we drove higher into the mountains.

Amir Khusro’s also known as the “father of Qawwali” was responsible to bring the gazal style of music to India, which still exists here as well as Pakistan. Something amongst many others that the two countries share in common, but I digress why I remembered the Sufi poet was his famous poem on Kashmir,

“Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast,

Hameenast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast.”

which translates into:

“If there is a paradise on earth,

It is this, it is this, it is this.”

It is almost as though I can hear Khusro insist that if there is paradise on Earth, it is in Kashmir. I heard him while I walked through the soft white snow in Gulmarg, with every sinking step, I could swear by the marvel around me. There was no getting away from the cold, as Mushtaq bhai told me in Srinagar “In Kashmir, just simply enjoy the cold.” His words had a whole new meaning 8000 ft in the mountains, hot cups of tea and bowls of maggi really added to the experience. In Gulmarg you can forget the Kashmir you read in the papers, amongst the frolicking travelers. I surely forgot, I was too busy imagining how Gulmarg in the next couple of months would turn into the valley of flowers. Once the sun becomes strong enough, how all the snow will melt away and give way to new life. But that’s how nature works and possibly every winter the scars of unrest are covered temporarily.

No trip to Kashmir is complete without the visit to Pahalgam, it was on the top of my list. I don’t say this because of all the famous Bollywood movies that were shot there. The locals will very proudly tell you about the various points in the beautiful valleys of Pahalgam, where Salman Khan displayed his acting skills for Bhajrangi Bhaijaan or the fact that the film “Betaab” was named after the Betaab Valley. Pahalgam is also famous as many enthusiastic Hindus begin the journey to the Amarnath temple, which is a 5 day trek from this town. The interesting fact, is that out of respect for the yatris, it is almost impossible to find the spread of meat dishes that you will find elsewhere in Kashmir. I found this action by locals endearing, an act of embracing the diversity.

There were many moments in Pahalgam when words fail and you can’t express what you see before your eyes. Sometimes these very words fail when you hear things spoken by the men and women in the Valley. We were at the end of our journey and traveling through the saffron fields of Pampore back to Srinagar. There was news about shooting of some jawans in Pulwama, which is not very far from where we were, almost immediately our kind Kashmiri driver Amir, responded “It is because of a handful of people that Kashmir’s name is ruined all over the country.” He further added “ Why would we not want to live in peace, after all we are Indians as well.” The car fell silent, not because we were surprised at what he said, but, the fact that he had to justify on behalf of all Kashmiris which side they were on.

As we drove past the naked Chinars, I felt sad and helpless, I really couldn’t say anything to comfort this man or his family or his community. It’s best if I said nothing as I am part of the problem. The problem that lives in Delhi and very rarely raises the voice about the reality of people in the Valley. The problem that uses twitter to voice an opinion but feels that there is nothing else one can do. As we approach Srinagar, we discuss politics as we pass by posh houses of Ministers. Amir points out to Omar Abdullah’s home (ex CM of J&K) and tells me about the tragedy of the current government and he hopes to have Abdullah back in power. I see his point and empathize with his/their reality but say nothing as we drive towards the Dal Lake, where I spend the last few hours of my travel, taking in every bit of beauty which is now mired in reality.

Source: Kashmir Observer 

Mountains, Urbanites and Tea that smelled of Horses


https://influencers.grsm.io/source99

It was a long drive up the mountain, and all I remember is the odd happiness I felt in not feeling nauseous. Those of you who have never suffered from Altitude Sickness, more commonly known as mountain sickness, cannot understand the happiness an inherent patient of altitude sickness feels upon not being sick on mountains. […]

via Mountains, Urbanites and Tea that smelled of Horses — Obsessed With Words

AJK President terms CPEC a win-win project


The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a win-win project for both Pakistan and China; and is a reflection of the strong relationship between the two friendly countries, Sardar Masood Khan, the president of Azad Jammu & Kashmir State said in Kotli, AJK.
The AJK president made these remarks while addressing a seminar titled “CPEC and Azad Jammu Kashmir” organised by the University of Kotli on Monday. The event was the part of a series of seminars to be held at public-sector universities of AJK to highlight the opportunities and the challenges of the CPEC.
Sardar said that Kotli University has taken a positive initiative in arranging the seminar on CPEC, and would act as a catalyst for further research. The president said that CPEC was not a stand-alone project but is, in fact, a part of the One Belt and One Road Initiative. He said that almost 65 countries including Pakistan are part of BRI which was aimed at global economic connectivity across the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe.
Highlighting the prospects of CPEC, he said that the project was not to be considered as a substitute for Pakistan’s overall economic progress but rather a huge catalyst helping evolve and develop the national economy. Pakistan, he said, was an emerging economy, well on its way to becoming one of the leading economies in the next three decades.
Underscoring the importance of geopolitical stability through enhancing economic and commercial activities, Masood said that CPEC and the BRI were initiatives structured around inclusiveness which would be instrumental for connectivity, productivity and promoting conducive circumstances for prosperity and building peaceful neighbourhoods.
He said that under the CPEC project, Pakistan and China would in the medium-to-long run explore and expand the cooperation fields to financial services, science and technology, tourism, education, poverty elimination and city planning, to meet the demands of deepening and promoting substantive cooperation between the two countries. He also brushed aside all the apprehensions connected to CPEC being China’s plan for colonisation.
The president said that Azad Kashmir had been included as a key region for CPEC with multiple projects for highway linkages, energy generation and establishing an industrial estate would help revive local economy making it into an ideal location for business and tourism activity.
The AJK president said that with the formal inclusion of Azad Kashmir in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, four projects had exclusively been earmarked for the region which includes Karot (720 MW), Kohala (1124 MW) Hydro-power projects, Special Industrial Zone in Mirpur and the Mansehra-Mirpur Expressway.
He said that CPEC would generate thousands of new jobs in specialised fields like logistics, supply chain management, hydraulics, artificial intelligence and other post-modern subjects. He urged the students to understand and adapt to the upcoming challenges, especially in the ever-changing job market.
CPEC’s projects in AJK, he said, would also help promote national and international investors to the region. He said that an economic revolution is unfolding in Azad Kashmir, led by the present government’s transformative initiatives towards building new roads, energy production, health, industry, agriculture, promotion of tourism and telecommunications.
The president stressed a need to address the potential prospects of CPEC by adapting to the change and increasing our absorptive capacity. He said it could be achieved by the efficient and equitable allocation of resources by heavily investing in human and organisational development. He added, “We must innovate and strive for technological advancements in order to fully exploit the opportunities that CPEC will bring to the region.”
The seminar was attended by eminent figures including a large number of researchers, scholars, faculty member and students from various departments of the university. After the event, the president also inaugurated the newly built Administration Block at the university campus.

News Source: The Nation 

The Kashmiri property rows that date back to British India


Scores of families in Pakistan-administered Kashmir are still fighting to prove they own property lost more than 70 years ago when British India was partitioned.

Jiwan Singh’s family once owned more than eight acres of land along the river in the city of Muzaffarabad, as well as more than twice that in a village to the south-east. They grew pears, apples, wheat and corn and ran several shops.

Today, Mr Singh’s grandchildren are tenant farmers.

The land they claim is mired in a decades-long legal battle that goes back to the creation of India and Pakistan in 1947. Up to a million people died in the religious violence that accompanied it, and about 12 million more were displaced.

As Hindus and Sikhs living in Pakistan migrated to India, what they left behind was classified as “evacuee property”. India did the same for properties vacated by Muslims fleeing to Pakistan.

But not everyone who left their homes in Kashmir – which today remains split between Indian and Pakistani controlled areas – crossed the border. Some took shelter in refugee camps. Others stayed and converted to Islam.

Seventy years on, those who stayed are still fighting for the right to their property. But all Mr Singh’s family has is a court decree acknowledging their right to little more than an acre of land.

When Pashtun tribesmen from north-western Pakistan stormed Kashmir in 1947 to wrest control of it from India, their chief target was the region’s non-Muslim population.

Many Hindus and Sikhs were killed or fled. Most of those who remained were later sent to India in a citizens’ exchange.

Their properties – nearly 200,000 acres across what became Pakistan-administered Kashmir – were handed to a custodian of “evacuee property” with powers to allot them to “deserving” people.

On the morning of 21 October 1947 as tribal warriors invaded, Jiwan Singh had no time to take his wife and three young sons to the local gurdwara, the Sikh place of worship, where they might have been safe.

When tribal warriors invaded Kashmir
“Instead, he left them at the house of a Muslim neighbour and went out to join other members of the Sikh community who were preparing to defend their neighbourhood,” says his grandson Munir Shaikh, who is now 40.

No one ever saw Jiwan Singh again, or any male members of the wider family.

Three days later, when the invaders had moved on to attack Srinagar, Mr Singh’s wife Basant Kor went out to find out what had happened.

As she would later tell her family, their house had been destroyed and there were dead bodies lying around.

“She realised that she had to take her children to safety, so she decided not to go looking for her husband, assuming he was dead,” Munir Shaikh says.
Over the next few days Mrs Kor, then 27, underwent a personal transformation. She arranged to walk to the residence of a family friend, a Muslim landowner in the village of Parsaoncha, 18km (11 miles) to the north of Muzaffarabad.

There, she converted to Islam and married an ageing Muslim widower in order to secure her social position in the new world that was being born around her.

In 1954, after her second husband had died and her sons were old enough to till the land, the landowner leased them fields nearby for share-cropping and built them a home. This is where they still live.

Mrs Kor, who was renamed Maryam after she converted, never told her sons about the property the family had once owned, and never allowed them to travel to Muzaffarabad, fearing they would be arrested and exchanged for people stranded over the border.
But things changed in 1971 when her first grandson was born and she decided to speak to her eldest son. “Dadi [grandmother] told him, ‘now that you are blessed with an heir, I should tell you about your family wealth’,” Munir Shaikh says.

Basant Kor died in 1997 and her eldest son Faqirullah Shaikh, who started the legal process to reclaim his family property in 1973, died in 2009. Since then Munir Shaikh has led the battle.

But their property remains elusive. Munir Shaikh – and before him his father – have battled in the courts to no avail.  “The problem lies in the legal system that the government of Pakistani Kashmir adopted after the state was split in 1947,” says Manzoor Gillani, a veteran lawyer and the region’s former chief justice.

Evacuee properties on both sides of Kashmir were taken over by the respective governments and kept as a trust of their real owners, pending a United Nations-sponsored plebiscite that was to decide whether Kashmiris wanted to join India or Pakistan.

“But while a Custodian Department in Indian Kashmir remains the sole caretaker of such properties, its Pakistani counterpart was given the legal powers to ‘temporarily’ transfer its ownership rights to a Kashmiri refugee family or a ‘local destitute’ – someone who owns less than two acres of land,” he says.

This meant the families that were allotted such land became virtual owners of it, with the right to sell or rent it out, or use it in any way they deemed fit.
This opened the floodgates for other claims – many of them, it appears, based on documents forged by corrupt officials.

“Theoretically, the law still requires the property to be reverted to the real owner if and when he or she returns to claim it,” says Mr Gillani. “But there are complications; the property may have changed many hands, or its nature may have changed, entailing prohibitive fees.”

Those who converted to Islam are at a particular disadvantage when wading through this legal maze – they tend to have little money and low social standing.

It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that Munir Shaikh and his family have little to show for 45 years of legal battles.

Even the acre the court decree entitles them to is beyond their reach because part of it is held by the Forest Department and the rest was allotted to “refugee” or “local destitute” families, many of them influential locals with land of their own.

As Mr Gillani puts it, “a court decree is a powerful tool, provided you also have influence. Without it, a decree is just as good as the paper it’s printed on”.

Perhaps the biggest movement of people in history, outside war and famine
Two newly independent states were created – India and Pakistan
About 12 million people became refugees. Between half a million and a million people were killed in religious violence tens of thousands of women were abducted.
Munir Shaikh’s predicament is similar to that of Zahid Shaikh and his family.

In a quiet corner of Muzaffarabad’s Naluchi neighbourhood, Zahid Shaikh, 50, shows me around his family property. It contains two houses with a family graveyard in between.

“This property has been allotted to the wife of an influential lawyer, posing as a refugee, and a court has already issued our eviction orders,” he says.

When the tribal warriors invaded, his grandmother Thakuri, then a young widow (her husband died before violence erupted), took her two young sons and daughter and hid under a bridge on the Neelum river.
A view of Muzaffarabad, where the Neelum River divides the main city from hillside settlements.  They were there for several days and at some point, her daughter was spotted by the invaders and jumped in the river to avoid capture. She was swept away to her death.

Thakuri and her sons were rescued by one of the family’s former employees, a Muslim, and taken to the safety of a stranded citizens’ camp at Garhi Habibullah, just across the border from Muzaffarabad, by local Muslim landowner Aslam Khan. There she was reunited with other relatives.

Her social position was secured when the landowner married one of her nieces. Thakuri then converted to Islam rather than going to India and three years later used Aslam Khan’s connections to secure the property at Naluchi.

Image caption
Zahid Shaikh (right) and his family face eviction and have nowhere to go
“Our house had been burnt down by the invaders, but a stone wall built along a ridge to reinforce our courtyard was still there, so Aslam Khan sent labour and material to rebuild that house,” says Zahid Shaikh.

The family moved into the house permanently in 1959. Zahid’s father died in 1973 and Thakuri lived until 2000.

It’s not clear how but in 1990 the house was classified as “evacuee property” and allotted to others. All the family’s appeals have been rejected and a court has ordered the demolition of their two houses.

The family’s hopes now rest on a final appeal.

In a mercy petition sent to the prime minister of Pakistani-administered Kashmir last month, the family pleaded that if they are to be evicted from their homes, “then we have nowhere else to go, and it would be better that we are sent over to India, because we converted to Islam and are being punished for it”.

Source of article: BBC News

India cannot take Pakistan-administered Kashmir back


National Conference president Farooq Abdullah on Saturday said India cannot take Pakistan-administered Kashmir back from the neighbouring country.

The three-time Jammu and Kashmir chief minister made the remarks while speaking at Zee India Conclave on Saturday.

Abdullah said: “It will be resolved. It will certainly be resolved. But you have to first acknowledge that a part of Kashmir is with Pakistan. And you have to acknowledge that you are not going to be able to take it back. And Pakistan has to acknowledge there is no way they are going to take any more of the land”.

While maintaining that “Kashmir is an integral part of India,” Abdullah said that the issue can only be resolved through dialogue.

He said that the idea of divide and rule must be taken out of “our hearts if we want to bring peace in the Valley.”

“I don’t have the power to stop or control the stone-pelters,” Abdullah said.

During his speech, he also promised to bring the Kashmiri Pandits back home.

When asked if he thinks Pakistan is a “rogue state,” the NC chief said, “There is a rogue Army in Pakistan. Not every Pakistani hates India, there are many who love us.”

He also spoke on women empowerment and said that it is necessary for the development and peace in the state.

Claiming that he believes in the theory of Live and Let Live, he said that the leaders are the ones who have to fight against the forces whether Hindu or Islamic.

The Ageless Kashmir


Spinnin'Wheels

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

Economic murder of Gilgit-Baltistan


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.

The GB government and the tour operators have a valid stance that the foreign tourists wish to visit Gilgit-Baltistan do not get visa until they have compulsory NOC and clearance from the federal ministry of interior. Why another NOC after their arrival? There has been no precedent for foreigners to obtain an NOC for visiting tourist points after getting visas — a process of two to three months. This seems to be intentionally discouraging Gilgit-Baltists tourism — the only seasonal source of livelihood for the natives after the small portion of dry-fruits sales.

On the other hand, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government withdrew the NOC required for foreign tourists visiting Malakand division in March 2016 to promote tourism in the area. The only threat they are facing is an increase in the tourism.

To me, this letter reflects the cowardly defeat of the federal government to prevent the country from security breaches. Despite the deployment of heavy contingent in Gilgit-Baltistan spearheaded by a Corp Commander, I believe the agencies could not impede and arrest the culprits involved in unfair practices. So, they are suspicious about every activity in the northern parts, and discourage every foreigner coming to Pakistan. In many cases, the locals are also monitored minutely by the army while they go for trekking.

The federal government letter to strictly implement the NOC shows that the agencies have totally collapsed to interrupt the outflow of information. The letter seems to be an out-dated approach that reminds the era of British slavery when every place was no-go-area. The outflow of information depended on the piece of paper. Maps and photographs were manually done and developed. Skilled riders and trained horses were used to send information from one place to another.

The dearest federal interior minister shall know that those who want to spy on any part of Pakistan need not to visit these places. They have the best spying tools to monitor every inch of our country. So, please get out of the ‘slavery era’ practices. These do nothing but harm the life and livelihood of the locals, and the sanctity of their homeland. Please don’t punish Gilgit-Baltistan for their ancestors’ decision to unify with Pakistan. Respect those who willingly come to see the natural treasures of our country and spend their hard-earned money to fly to Pakistan, helping us earn good foreign exchange. Learn from the neighbouring South Asian countries as how to be more tourists’ friendly and observe the hospitality norms.

We all know our governments and the establishment is always reluctant to bring about positive changes. But, we need to demand the facilitation of foreign tourists coming to our country. Believe it or not, the tourists won’t harm us or our land. Be confident to assume that everyone visiting our country is not a threat. After successfully organising the final match of the 2nd PSL in Lahore, the government should have faith in its capabilities.

Pakistan Association of Tour Operators (PATO) has already termed the imposition of the ban as the ‘economic murder’ of Gilgit-Baltistan where the 70 percent of the locals’ livelihood depends on tourism.

Thanks to the GB government’s international partners who have spent a lot of money to showcase the region as a peaceful territory of culture and landscape. Let’s not damage the investments made on the propagation of soft image of the region and the country during the last several years. The tour operators put a lot of efforts and invest resources to attract foreign tourists to Pakistan while the federal and provincial governments sleep over their responsibilities to promote tourism. Imposing another NOC would further discourage foreigners from visiting GB. Let us all be a part of the promotional efforts, and discourage the government from igniting the problems for the GB economy.

The writer is an Islamabad-based policy advocacy, strategic communication and outreach expert. He can be reached at devcom.pakistan@gmail.com. Source:www.dailytimes.com.pk

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