At Sufi shrine, Mehbooba seeks India-Pakistan dialogue

Samba (Jammu and Kashmir): Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday urged India and Pakistan to revive their peace process for the sake of peace in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader made the appeal after joining thousands at the annual Urs at the shrine of revered Sufi saint Baba Chamliyal in Ramgarh sector near the Pakistan border.

Resuming the stalled India-Pakistan reconciliation was imperative to bring about peace in Jammu and Kashmir and beyond, she said.

The Chief Minister also pitched for opening new cross-border meeting points to expand people-to-people contacts between the divided Jammu and Kashmir.

“We are working with the government of India for opening the Suchetgarh-Sialkot, Kargil-Skardu, Nowshera-Mirpur and some other roads to expand people-to-people contacts.”

She added: “Suchetgarh has the potential of becoming Jammu and Kashmir’s Wagah, as was envisioned by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed,” her father and predecessor who died in January.

Mehbooba Mufti said in the long run Suchetgarh could become another trading point with Pakistan like Salamabad and Chakan-da-Bagh.

She said Suchetgarh had been taken up for development as a border tourism destination.

This would involve restoring the old Octroi Post, constructing a multi-purpose hall, developing a water body and landscaping the lawns to enhance the ambience of the place.

Every year devotees from India and Pakistan converge at the border near the sanctum sanctorum to pay their obeisance to Baba Chamliyal, revered by people in both countries.

While Pakistan Rangers offered ‘Chaddar’ for the shrine, the civil administration of Samba and the Border Security Force handed over ‘Shakkar and Sharbat’ (holy soil and water) to the Rangers.

Felicitating people on both sides of the border for exhibiting affectionate cultural bonding, the Chief Minister said Chamliyal village would be developed to promote border tourism.

Interacting with the media, she called for highlighting the cultural camaraderie between the people of India and Pakistan.

“If hostilities can become news, why can’t such cultural bonhomie?” she asked, adding Chamliyal village could become a hub for India-Pakistan reconciliation.

“I hope our good intentions are reciprocated by our neighbour,” she said, adding that people-to-people contacts must be encouraged to end mistrust and create a congenial atmosphere for dialogue.

The Chief Minister said that like siblings locked in endless rivalry, India and Pakistan had bickered for well over six decades.

“Transforming that rivalry into a mature, productive relationship will be difficult but the consequences of continued animosity will be much worse,” she said.

And normalising relations would be a boon for business in both countries, she added.

“It may sound simplistic, but building relationships is the key to peace and economic prosperity in the subcontinent.”

The Chief Minister offered Chaddar at the shrine of Baba Chamliyal.

Baba Chamliyal, after whom the village is named, lived about 320 years ago. Until 1971, Pakistanis were allowed to come to visit the shrine. That stopped after the 1971 India-Pakistan war.

Since then only a delegation of Pakistan Rangers come and offer a ‘Chaddar’ and carry back ‘Shakkar and Sharbat’ from the shrine to devotees in Pakistan.

The festival is also celebrated by devotees for three days at Saidanwali village on the Pakistani side of the zero line.