January 2004 News

Kashmir road, take me home, says elderly Pakistani

11 January 2004
The Daily Times

MUZAFFARABAD: A 76-year-old man is hoping peace moves between India and Pakistan will enable him to return to his village in Held Kashmir after a gap of 60 years.Abdul Ghaffar, a thin, grey-haired former military chef for colonial ruler Britain, is waiting patiently for the re-opening of a road crossing the Line of Control between the two countries.The road from Muzaffarabad to Uri, a town in Held Kashmir has been shut since the bloody split of the province in 1947, which separated thousands of families. Mr Ghaffar overcame with emotion as he remembered the family he last saw in 1944, when as a teenager he left his home village in Jammu, now on the Indian side, to join the British army as a chef.'Practically, I have died for my family and they have died for me but the proposal of launching a bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad has rekindled my hopes,' Mr Ghaffar said.He is one of thousands hoping that India and Pakistan's breakthrough agreement last week to resume dialogue will lead to the reopening of the Kashmir border crossing. The idea of reopening the highway has repeatedly come up as India and Pakistan work to mend ties. New Delhi just last week recommended starting a bus service between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar.Pakistan has agreed in principle to reopening the road, but wants checkpoints staffed by the United Nations, which keeps a small force in Kashmir to monitor the LoC.'I will catch the first bus and invite my friends here to see my scenic village on the Indian side when the road reopens after five decades,' said Mr Ghaffar, who was only 16 when he left the village of Telhair in the Kishtawar district. He served briefly in undivided India but travelled to Pakistan when the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947. 'I spent five decades here, but I have never forgotten my birthplace,' he said. -AFP


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