1971 War Separated Them, Father Dies Months after Meeting Son

SRINAGAR: After  44  years,  Abdul  Ghafoor was reunited with his son after they were separated by the  1971  war between  India and  Pakistan—both stuck on either side of a newly created border.

However,  the reunion was short-lived as the father breathed his last on   Tuesday, three months before his  Indian son’s visa to  Pakistan was set to expire.

Ghafoor, 82, died in Skardu at his son’s home.  He and his son  Ibrahim  Sani met on  December  28,  2015, after  44  long years when the latter  was  granted  a  three  month  Pakistani  visa,  which  could  be   extended   for   an   equal   amount of  time  by  the  Pakistani  Embassy  in  Delhi.

“The separation happened today.  Ghafoor is no more,”   said   Musa Chulunkha, a relative. “The scenes at the reunion were heartrending,” Chulunkha told   The   Express   Tribune over the phone from Skardu, around 300 kilometres from Gilgit.

Chulunkha said Ghafoor was extremely worried about the approaching separation in July when Sani’s visa would expire.

“Ghafoor suddenly fell ill last week after his son received an official letter informing him about the return date back to India. The elderly man knew he was never going to see his son   again.”

The death sent many into a state of grief and they could not hold back their tears. This was most unlike the scenes last December in Islamabad when the waterworks also flew; except   they were tears of joy on that occasion.

Ghafoor and his son were separated by a line drawn threw the very hearts of families in Ghanche district of Gilgit-Baltistan during the 1971 war.

Ibrahim Sani was  hardly  six-years-old  when  India  and  Pakistan   went   to   war   over   what  was  then  East  Pakistan.  As  the  war  rapidly  escalated,  the  Indian  army  crossed  the  line  of  control  (LoC)  that  divides   the   Himalayan   region into  Pakistani  and  Indian  territories,  occupying  Chulunkha,  Tyakshi,  Thang  and  Turtuk  of  Chorbat   village   in   Ghanche   district  on  the  Pakistani  side.

The morning came and people who used to live in Pakistan were suddenly a part of an area controlled by another nation. Ghafoor and his family used to live in Tyakshi in Chorbat, close   to   Ladakh.   But   by   the   luck of the draw, Indian forces took over Chorbat and Ghafoor, then 38, was in Skardu. He had left  his  wife,  a  daughter  and  son  behind  in  search  of  a  job.  His wife and children, however, woke up to find Tyakshi was an Indian-controlled territory.

“This is what we call life.  Everyone has to go, but that’s not going to be realised by those in the  seats  of  power,”  said  Chu-lunkha,  quoting  Sani  who  was  in a state of shock.

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