Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Of Muniward resident, Mufti Sayeed and Mehboob Beg

Naseer A Ganai 

A resident of Muniward village in Islamabad constituency often pulls his hair in frustration. And he blames pro-India politicians for it. Whenever this man sees Mehboob Beg and Mufti Muhammad Sayeed or come across their statements or mug shots in newspapers, he looses his cool. Their speeches and statements are unbearable to him. The other day, he asked his psychiatrist whether there is place where he can avoid these two real life characters. “Yes in the graveyard,” the doctor replied.

Hopeless, he went back to his village.

The case history of this 35-year-old man goes like this.

A decade ago, the Department of Roads and Buildings (R&B) sanctioned road for Muniward village. The villagers were promised that the road to Muniward would be macadamized. The villagers’ joy knew no bounds.

For years together, every spring the villagers would start visiting nearest R&B office at Khanabal and continue their visits until autumn. The man was part of those village delegations. After over hundred visits, the work on the road was started. The columns of the dust from the crushed stones and smoke from the road roller were seen as an indication of changing times by the villagers.

However, the smiles on their faces waned soon after the R&B men left without macadamizing the road.

The surprised villagers were told sanction from the Chief Engineer is necessary pre-condition for macdmisation of road to Muniward. But the approval never came and the road awaits macadamization.

The villagers decided to visit their MLA, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed. They hired a mini-bus and came to Gupkar to reminded Mufti Sahab that Muniward forms part of Islamabad constituency and he is MLA of the constituency. Mufti was so engrossed in self-rule that it took some time for him to realise that he was MLA also. So what is the issue? Mufti asked nonchalantly as if philosopher Plato was disturbed by some unruly children in his academia.

The villagers informed him about the riddle of the Muniward road and all troubles and tribulations they had to undergo over the years to get the road. They informed him in humble way that the road needs to be macadamized.

Mufti remained silent for some time. The villagers had heard lot about Mufti Sahab’s statesman like silence. They were overawed by it and thought that the famed silence will solve their problem forever. Mufti broke his silence and started talking about nuances of self-rule and single currency. That self-rule will solve all problems of Kashmir. That once there will be self-rule, there will be joint council, the road to other Kashmir will be hassle free. And peace will prevail. But that peace will be with dignity. So on and so forth.

Somehow the Muniward resident felt he should draw attention of Mufti towards Muniward road and see whether it figures somewhere in Mufti’s self-rule. “So what about Muniward road,” the villager asked sheepishly. Mufti frowned and thus conveyed in dignified way that he didn't like his intervention. He paused and then said that the opening of Muzaffarabad road was the biggest achievement in past 60 years. Now the road is being also used for trade and commerce. The road would determine the future of Kashmir. The road will show the way. He continued to read from his Muzaffarabad road treatise. But all this dampened the spirits of the villagers, who returned to Muniward unhappy. Instead of Muniward, Mufti took them on the imaginary trip to Muzaffarabad road. That day, for the first time, the young man pulled his hair in frustration.

Fearing the 35-year-old should not take some extreme step, the villagers decided to visit Mehboob Beg. That day Beg was not at his residence in Sarnal Bala. They were suggested to come next month. And next month the delegation was lucky enough to found Beg in his house.

Unlike Mufti, Beg was not engrossed in thoughts. He was strolling in his lawn. They informed Beg that he is MP from South Kashmir. After that they informed him about the difficulties they are facing for getting approval to macadamize Muniward road.

Beg waved his hand as if was addressing a mammoth gathering at Sher-i-Kashmir Park. Beg said autonomy was the only solution of Kashmir dispute. He informed them about difficult times he had when his father Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg whom he referred Fakhr-i-Kashmir was in jail with Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. Beg told the villagers that he has not written the exercises on the wooden plank during his childhood for 12 years because of the imprisonment of Fakhr-i-Kashmir.

“There was none to write the introductory line on my wooden slate, which I could have copied,” Beg said. The difficult times were not over, Beg told villagers. The autonomy was our goal and we have to achieve it. Even in the parliament, Beg said, he talked about autonomy and referred to his speeches of the parliament.

Again this incorrigible Muniward resident had other thoughts. He interrupted Beg and informed him whether Muniward road figures in his autonomy.

Beg didn't like the intervention. It had halted his Churchillian speech. “Road, road, yes, yes,” roared Beg. Muzafferbad road was Fakhir-i- Kashmir’s brain child and now Mufti is taking credit of it. PDP is all lying. Muzaffarabad road was opened by India and Pakistan and Mufti thinks it was opened by him. All lies. He allowed villagers to leave his premise only after he completed his address.

That day Muniward resident cried again in frustration and pulled his hair again and again.


Friday, November 2, 2012

From Shafi Uri to Muhammad Shafi

Naseer A Ganai 

This great tragedy took place somewhere in 2010, at the height of uprising. Those were the times when TV channels would invite anyone from Kashmir to know, why Kashmiri youth were on streets.
Though they knew why they were on streets, they deemed it proper to listen from Kashmiris to give Kashmiris feeling that they don’t know. And Kashmiris enjoy feeling of being heard. They rejoice feeling of being listened. Kashmiris feel on cloud nine when their opinions are sought.
Those days, television anchors would ask questions and seeks answers. They would repeat similar questions to seek different answers. If the answers would not suit them they would rehash questions and try to answer them themselves.
The show must go on.
One evening a TV channel had galaxy of politicians from Kashmir. Perhaps Dr. Mehboob Beg, Muhammad Shafi, Muzaffer Baig and others. They all were all elated and were eager to speak.
So Mr. Muhammad Shafi Uri, asked the anchor, what is your take on the situation, why there is stone pelting, why people are on streets, isn’t it indictment of Omar Abdullah Government? What people are demanding? Why they are demanding Azadi? Isn’t casting vote after every six years an Azadi, freedom of choice? Will they get such an Azadi in Pakistan? Tell me Mr. Muhammad Shafi Uri why is National Conference not assertive? Why NC political leaders are not on streets? Where is Mehbooba Mufti? Why are not they in hospitals to inquire about injured? Mr. Muhammad Shafi Uri what is going in Kashmir, finally the anchor concluded his question-cum-essay and allowed Mr. Muhammad Shafi to speak.
Muhammad Shafi didn’t answer the essay. He instead went on and clarified to the anchor that he should pronounce his name correctly. “I am not Muhammad Shafi Uri. My name is Muhammad Shafi. I belong to Uri. But my name is Muhammad Shafi,” Shafi Sahab said calmly.
What followed next is immaterial. But in those times when people had even forgotten their names, Shafi Sahab should be given credit for reminding TV anchors how to pronounce his.
Shafi Sahab whether he acknowledges it or not is known as Shafi Uri. Even if he goes on reminding everyone that he is Muhammad Shafi, it would not change anything on ground. On ground and among people Muhammad Shafi is known as Shafi Uri whether he resides in New York or in New Delhi, whether he goes to Uri or not.
This is not an attempt deride or ridicule a politician of high repute. In National Conference he is perhaps among a few thinking politicians. Otherwise, majority of leaders in the NC don’t bother to think at all. Their level of thinking is such that they think they should not think too much as it strains kidneys.
But why politician of Muhammad Shafi’s stature refuses to own the suffix of Uri. Can’t it be construed as contempt for the place and the constituency where from he has been elected in the Legislative Assembly over the years?
This is not particular to Shafi Sahab only. It is said when NC comes to power its’ political class loses balance. The balance sheet of past four years of NC is indication how the party has behaved. When Congress asked it to bend, it crawled. The party announces elections then retreats. Chidambaram created history by chairing Kishtwar development Board’s meeting. This doesn’t happen all of a sudden. It happens when you allow it to happen. When you prefer Muhammad Shafi over Shafi Uri, you have to be ready for any eventuality.