Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Saturday, June 7—-June 13, 2008
By Farman Ali Baltistani
SKARDU: A touching scene was witnessed the other day at Skardu Airport when a brother arrived here from across the Indian side to meet his sister after a long period of separation spanning 37 years. Brother and sister fainted in each other’s arms as many wept watching the reunion. Thanks to peace talks and confidence-building measures between Pakistan and India, Ghulam Abbas, his son Ibrahim and cousin Mohammad Ibrahim were able to get visas and travel from Chulunkha across the border to Skardu. Quite crowd had gathered at the airport to receive them comprising not only his sister, cousins and other relatives but hundreds of others who had been made refugees from Chulunkha in the 1971 war. The fainting of the old siblings created a kind of panic at the airport. There was hardly anyone who could control his or her tears as the two came two still unable to contain their joy. Later, the reception procession proceeded to his sister’s house in a long queue of vehicles. There was another emotional scene when Ghulam Abbas reaching Manthal village fainted at the grave of elder sister who had died a few years ago. Talking to this reporter, Ghulam Abas said, “I am very much pleased to see my sister, cousins and other relatives after a long time, but of course I am sad because of the death of my second elder sister without getting a chance to see her. Another sorrow is that my father and uncle also passed away from this world without seeing their daughters and other close relatives. This sorrow will hurt me all my life,” he said. The family from the Indian side travelled nearly 4,000 kilometres from Chulunkha to reach Skardu via Wagah border whereas it is simply a four or five hour drive between Chulunkha and Skardu on the Skardu-Ladakh road across the Frano border checkpost. The villages of Chulunkha, Toortuk and Tiaqshi were the last part of Pakistan in the Nobra sector, but during the 1971 war, Indian army captured this beautiful valley. The occupation resulted in the migration of the entire population of Chulunkha to Khaplu and Skardu except Ghulam Abbas and his aged parents along with several other families of Toortuk, Tiaqshi, Dowe Thang and Byoqdang villages that lie divided on both sides of the LoC. It was in the wake of peace talks between India and Pakistan that travel in Kashmir was allowed through several routes to enable separated families to meet each other. But the families separated families living in Baltistan and Ladakh on the two sides of the LoC are still waiting for the opening of the Skardu-Ladakh and Skardu-Kargil roads. The separated families wonder why if in the disputed territory of Azad and occupied Kashmir separated families could have direct travel facilities across the LoC, the people of Baltistan and Ladakh were being denied that facility. It was high time the two governments opened the Skardu-Ladakh and Skardu-Kargil roads on humanitarian basis and ended the bias against the people of this region.