He had come to Kashmir to attend a marriage ceremony but his visit became talk of the town. Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry spent three busy days meeting leaders and jumping between what people call the two sides of Kashmir’s contemporary history.
With JKLF leader Yasin Malik initially coordinating, Choudhary began his vist from the martyrs’ graveyard in Eidgah- Kashmir’s biggest landmark of turmoil. Then he visited the Golf courses and the famous scenic resorts of Gulmarg and Pahalgam. Chaudhry interacted with personalities of different political shades across the valley.
Choudhary, a PPP leader, is a well known leader from Mirpur belt and has been representing the segment in PaK assembly since 1983. He is the first high profile leader from the ‘other Kashmir’ to visit J&K after partition. Though he had flown to attend the marriage ceremony of the son of his ‘friend’, businessman Zahoor Ahmad Shah aka Watali, it eventually became a quasi-political event.
Choudhary had protracted meetings with ‘leaders’ but there were elements of drama and desperation as well. At host’s residence, he met chief minister Omar Abdullah who helped him to have a meeting with one of the three interlocutors, Ms Radha Kumar. It was an achievement for the interlocutor but once it started creating news, the ‘guest’ tried to deny. He eventually owned up saying it was ‘a chance meeting’.
Initially, the state government had offered him the state hospitality but Choudhary, a barrister, politely refused. Later, however, he desired to his host that he intended to see Pahalgam. By then, he had driven back from Gulmarg. His host requested the chief minister who ensured he be flown to Pahalgam with MoS for home Nasir Aslam Sogami in tow. Interestingly, it triggered an unnecessary controversy for the chief minister Omar Abdullah.
Another dramatic high point was his interaction with the separatist hardliner, Syed Ali Geelani. There seems to have been a strong difference of opinion between the two. Geelani had tried to dictate his schedule but Choudhary did not take him seriously. In a press conference in Islamabad after his return he put it on record that he differs with Geelani’s vision.
Choudhary and his arch rival Sardar Atiq Khan were invited by the influential and well connected Watali family. Khan termed the opportunity a great CBM and instantly sent a long list of his relatives and friends who would accompany him through the trans-LoC Jhelum Valley Road. Khan suggested he would love to travel in his own motorcade that will become a symbolic CBM. Omar Abdullah seized the opportunity and strongly supported the idea. At the end of it, New Delhi skipped granting a permission. Khan cancelled his trip but Choudhary took the other route to land in Srinagar.