Punjab’s Kashmir connection

Salman Taseer

The colonial era governor house in Lahore boasts of two Kashmiri inmates. Its present incumbent, the 29th Governor of Pakistan’s largest province of Punjab, Salman Taseer and his media advisor Farrukh Shah. Son of famed Kashmiri intellectual and perhaps first Ph.D, Muhammad Din Taseer, Salman is a media magnate and an industrialist. A colourful personality, Salman is said to have married Indian journalist Tavleen Singh.

The British-born writer-journalist Aatish Taseer is their estranged son, who was brought up by Tavleen’s parents and spent his childhood with his Sikh cousins. The discovery of his being different from his cousins makes amusing reading. One afternoon playing with his cousins he went to a quiet corner of the garden to empty his bladder. A cousin who joined him to do the same stared at Aatish’s private parts with awe and wonder. He came back to announce to his assembly of uncles and aunts: “Aatish ka susu nanga hai! (Aatish’s private part is naked).” They broke into hysterics. He was the only boy in the family who had been circumcised. He was Muslim.

Salman Taseer takes pride in his Kashmiri roots. He maintains that promoting open borders, people-to-people contacts and trade could create an ideal atmosphere for settling difficult issues. He called on India to eschew ‘rigid attitude’. Rejecting impression that there was an ambiguity in the Pakistan’s stand on the issue of Kashmir, he tossed the ball in Indian court, saying: “If we are ambiguous. India is more ambiguous. We have to leave behind ambiguity and move forward.”

On Indian claims of militant camps in Pakistan Administered Kashmir, he quoted Defence Minister AK Antony claiming decline in violence in Jammu and Kashmir. That is proof there was no infiltration or ex-filtration from across LoC. “There is no crossing from Indian side of Kashmir over past so many years. Pakistan is not allowing to cross over. If there are some incursions, it is not part of a broad campaign or a policy,” he said, asking India to appreciate Pakistan’s position.

Seeking support for Pakistan’s nascent democracy, Taseer believes that India’s concerns were mostly unfounded. For him Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) had no support base in Punjab as perceived in India. India needs to roll back obdurate approach and behave as a big country with a big heart. In the game of finger pointing, Pakistan too has lot to complaint about on India’s involvement in Balochistan and other places. In Pakistan political parties even the religious parties did not maintain any aggressive postures against India. “Everybody here wants good relations with India,” he added.


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