The remaining part of the lecture tour was spent in Faisalabad and Islamabad. Faisalabad was new to me as I had not been there before. This city was earlier called Lyallpur after the name of its founder sir James Lyall, who was the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab in 1892. Its name was changed in view of the collaboration of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and to acknowledge the contribution of King Faisal. I found it to be a bustling city with Punjabi as the main spoken language. Many textile mills were seen while driving through to the venue of the lecture in Pearl continental Hotel. The city is also called “Manchester of Pakistan” for this reason. I had a good lecture and interaction with doctors of the city. They were all very courteous and friendly.
From Faisalabad we again drove to Islamabad. I found the inter city roads very good with lot of Korean buses plying between the cities. Islamabad was quite familiar to me by now. This time we spent an evening in the Margalla hills surrounding the city and had dinner in a nice sophisticated eatery “The Monal Restaurant”. The beautifully lit up city of Islamabad could be seen from there. My last part of the lecture trip thus was over and we took a flight back to Lahore on way to Wagah border which we crossed before noon as per the protocol. Retraced the steps of getting out from immigration after thanking my hosts Dr Rizwan and …………. bidding a good bye. Their Indian counterparts of SERDIA were waiting to receive me and thus I came back to Delhi from Amritsar.
I had been handed over a few baby suits and payal’s by Yasin in Srinagar to be handed over to Mushaal his wife who lived in Baharia Township a newly built colony near Islamabad. I took a local cab and went there. The taxi driver was a Punjabi and very talkative. When he came to know that I am from India and that too from Kashmir he became quite inquisitive. Assuming that I was a Muslim, he sympathized with me and asked me about the killings of people in the valley and their abject poverty. On my retorting that things are very nice there with lot of prosperity and beauty he did not seem to be convinced. He told me that Pak TV shows them everything and people in Pakistan donate money to trusts so that Kashmiri’s can finally be liberated from the clutches of Kafir’s.
Pointing out the new colony he showed me proudly the development of Pakistan. He however conceded that distribution of wealth is lopsided and should be improved. In general, he thought that military regimens did much more development work than the 18 civilian governments which had been there since the creation of the country. He specially named 2 generals who ruled Pakistan, General Zia from 1977 to 1988 and General Parvez Musharraf from 2001 to 2008. Once we reached our destination I was welcomed by Yasin’s wife Mushaal and her mother Rehana along with the cute little Razia Sultana their daughter. During our pleasant conversations I asked her how did she come in touch with Yasin while living in Pakistan. She narrated her watching him giving fiery speeches and fell from him and went to Rawalpindi to meet him in a rally. It was a love at first sight and they entered wedlock.
Mushaal Malik a post graduate from London school of Economics was from a well-known Pakistani family with both parents being very well educated, father being a renowned Pakistani economists and mother being chief of Muslim league. They married in 2009 in Islamabad, Pakistan .This was be the third high-profile cross-border wedding in the Kashmiri separatist camp after Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who married a US citizen of Kashmiri origin, and Sajjad Lone, who wed Asma, the daughter of JKLF supremo, Amanullah Khan, from Pakistan-administered Kashmir. I had a nice serving of Kebabs and tea, spent couple of hours and left. I could see sadness in the eyes of Mushaal as she was not getting visa to come back to Kashmir and be with Yasin.
I got a few more chances to visit Pakistan between 2011 and 2013 . Once to Karachi and 3 more times to Lahore. Karachi visit was organized through Prof Mansoor for a Cardiology summit. Karachi the port city was very different from Lahore. It had navy bases and clubs. Much more cosmopolitan than Lahore and one could see lot of wealth around, the fashions and old colonial buildings of the British Raj times. The harbour was nice well-lit but I thought Bombay was a different class and more glamorous. Prof Mansoor kept me very comfortable during the stay and I was happily flying back home. The immigration was simple and not as interesting as the no man’s land crossing at the Wagah border.
During my last visit to Pakistan in 2013 for another major Pakistan cardiac Society meeting in Lahore besides the scientific component there was a nice gala dinner preceded by a social event in an auditorium.
It was a function of the Pakistan society and we as international guests were also invited. The Indian cardiologists were sitting together and enjoying the deliberations which had lot of similarity to our meetings. The families of the local cardiologists were also sitting in the audience. Towards the end of their official addresses, the compere invited a representative from India to come to the dais. There was a palpable uneasiness amongst our group, with everybody asking his neighbour to go up. There being no official head of the delegation and seeing my friendliness with Pakistani cardiologists, I was pushed to go. I did not hesitate and went up and spoke from the dais. After the customary pleasantries and speaking about the great hospitality, I told them I come from a beautiful place of the subcontinent, which is the Shahrag (Wind pipe) of two neighbouring countries and made an appeal to leave our people alone so that we can look after ourselves better, there was an applause from the people sitting around. I also invited the delegates to Kashmir and promised to hold a cardiology meeting there in due course of time. I remember when I came back to my Indian colleagues, they seemed a bit upset and told me, I should not have spoken like that in a country like Pakistan.
During the dinner same evening I met a senior Pakistan army brigadier and we chatted for a while. When he came to know I am in Lahore for one more day, he invited me and a few more international non-Indian delegates for evening tea to his residence. I promptly accepted and next day I was picked by his staff. It was a grand bungalow with very aristocratic drawing room and balconies. After introducing me to other guests he asked me to accompany him to the basement. It was a grand liquor bar with choicest brands of beverages and I saw only a few chosen guests there, mostly Caucasian Europeans. While talking on Kashmir he told me that it is an unnecessary raked up issue after more than 5 decades. He also narrated that he in a casual talk with Mr Rajiv Gandhi the then PM of India, told him that there is no need of being shy of a referendum. There might be more people on Indian side voting for Pakistan but it will be nullified by people on their side.
We also talked about the chequered relationship the two neighbours have had in the past several decades. To sum up in the words of Raj Changappa, editor in chief of Tribune group of papers in 2013. “India and Pakistan have moved from fighting, to fighting and talking, then fighting about fighting, then talking about talking, then talking and fighting and now back to talking about talking”. The general agreement however was that the two countries need to reconcile and move towards development and educating their masses. Wars are not going to lead us anywhere.
The last invitation of visiting Pakistan for me came in 2014 and everything was organized but a day before leaving for Amritsar, I got an advisory that Imran Khan’s march from Lahore could disrupt my visit and the visit had to be cancelled. Since then, it has not been possible to go there because of the deteriorating relations between the two neighbours. The recent years after 2014 have seen deterioration only and a total lack of trust between the two regimens. It is a pity that two neighbours who have everything in common cannot see eye to eye with each other. I do hope better sense prevails on the politicians of both these great civilizations.
(DR. Upendra Kaul is Eminent Cardiologist, Recipient of Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy Award)