PoK President 'desperate' To Visit Jammu, Srinagar

PoK President 'desperate' To Visit Jammu, Srinagar

1 June 2011
The Hindu
Shujaat Bukhari

Muzaffarabad: Confidence-building measures such as bus service have many supporters on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC). But there is a strong voice here that has a “special interest” in strengthening people-to-people contacts. President of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir Raja Zulqarnain Khan turns nostalgic while talking about his early days in Srinagar and Jammu. Now 78, his “only wish” is to visit these two cities. “I am desperate to visit your part of Jammu and Kashmir,” he told The Hindu at his office. “As soon as my term as President comes to an end in August, I will work for getting permission to cross the LoC. I have fond memories with that part of State as child,” he said. “You know this position does hold you back about thinking to take up such a journey. But I will be a free man after August.” Born in Jammu, Mr. Khan's father Raja Afzal Khan was a top bureaucrat during Maharaja Hari Singh's rule and served as Governor (now Divisional Commissioner) of Jammu. Hailing from a village in Mirpur, he belongs to an affluent and educated family. That is why his father arranged an English midwife to look after him in early days. He was shifted to Mirpur when he was one-and-half years old. “But my father found that I was naughty and could not concentrate on my studies. He decided to bring me back to Jammu when I was five. This was against the wishes of my mother,” he said. Mr. Khan initially studied at the Model Academy, now known as Modern Institute of Education and Research. He was later admitted to the Presentation Convent School in Srinagar. “We lived in the Haft Chinar area and I still remember how we would be taken to school in a motor [car]. Sometimes, we would walk to school.” Mr. Khan has graphic details of those times of Srinagar when he recalls his “memorable days.” “There used to be a museum on way and there was a white horse in Pastonjee Building on Residency Road,” he recalled. His father later became Home Minister in the Maharaja government. But after differences cropped up, he got himself repatriated to British India government. “I recalled those Srinagar years later, I met the Mother Superior of our school, Mother Peters in Muree. Our house was located in Haft Chinar and in memory of that I planted 7 Chinar trees in my house in Islamabad. The house is named ‘Haft Chinar',” he said. “I knew Dr. Karan Singh since school days. He was two years senior to me but my cousin Khizr was his very close friend. Khizr and I often used to go to the palace to play with Karan Singh. Some years ago, it was wonderful meeting him after all those years,” Mr. Khan said about his meeting with Dr. Singh in Delhi in 2005. Recalling the strong bondage with Jammu, he said: “It creates the willingness to visit the other side. I was touched when I received a letter from Jourian, Akhnoor on the other side, after I assumed the seat of President, from a complete stranger and a Hindu. It said: “We are happy that somebody from our tribe has ascended such a high position in power.” There are commonalities and the divide is unnatural. Terming the State-subject certificate for residents of Jammu and Kashmir “sacrosanct,” he strongly advocated for turning it into a “smart card,” which could be used for free passage on both sides. “You cannot hold people back for long. Humanity demands that people should move freely though the security concerns should not be overlooked.”


[Home] [Archives 2011]
Web site maintained by Md. Sadiq & Friends