Sardar Attique denied cross-LoC travel permit
Another former PoK ‘Prime Minister’ Sultan Mehmood travels via
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR, Sep 17: Even as Government of India has not permitted former PoK ‘Prime Minister’ Sardar Attique Khan and his 24-member entourage to travel from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar in their own fleet of vehicles, another PoK ‘Prime Minister’ of the past, Barrister Sultan Mehmood Choudhary, today arrived in New Delhi from Lahore by air. Both the politicians, as also a number of other legislators and Ministers, were scheduled to attend marriage ceremony of the son of a Srinagar-based businessman Zahoor Wattali on September 19th.
Barrister Sultan, who functioned as “Prime Minister of Azad
Jammu & Kashmir” from 1996 to 2001 reached New Delhi by air from today. He was received at Lahore by Pakistani High Commissioner Shahid Malik and other staff of the High Commission. After staying at Malik’s residence for a night, Barrister Sultan would leave for Indira Gandhi International Airport on Sunday. Even as a many politicians, including former Ministers from Srinagar and Muzaffarabad have visited each other's sides in the past, it is for the first time since 1947 that a former head of the government would be visiting the other side of the Line of Control in the Jammu and Kashmir territories divided between India and Pakistan. Former Chief Justice of 'Azad J&K Supreme Court' Syed Manzoor Gilani, who is a resident of Karnah area of Kashmir and has previously visited the Valley, is also one of Wattali's high profile guests who has already arrived in Srinagar alongwith some members of his family. Srinagar
Speaking to Early Times from the Pakistani High Commissioner’s residence, Barrister Sultan revealed that he was traveling “all alone”. He said that he had conveyed his desire to travel to
to Pakistani and Indian officials few days back. “It was late last evening that the Indian High Commission in Srinagar called me and advised me to file an online application for visa. It was granted within two hours. I will be reaching Srinagar at 1230 hours tomorrow and staying there for three days before leaving back for Lahore by air in the evening on September 21st”, Barrister Sultan said. Islamabad
Barrister Sultan has represented Mirpur constituency in AJK Assembly for several years since 1983 and also functioned as ‘Prime Minister’ parallel to Dr Farooq Abdullah’s 1996-2002 term as Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir. He has been AJK chapter President of Pakistan Peoples Party. In August 2011 Assembly elections, he was yet again returned from the politically hypersensitive Mirpur constituency. He said that it was his first ever visit to
India and . He revealed that he had been granted a city-specific visa for only Srinagar Delhi and Srinagar and, thus, he would not be traveling to any other destination like Agra and ---most sought after by the Pakistanis. Ajmer
Asked if he was planning to interact with any of the separatist or mainstream politicians or government functionaries in
, Barrister Sultan told Early Times that his meetings with some political leaders were “well possible”. He said that he was on a purely private tour but would not hesitate to meet any of the separatist or mainstream politicians. “I am told, most of them would be the guests at the wedding I am attending”, he said. Srinagar
This newspaper learned from well-placed sources that Barrister Sultan was offered official hospitality and the state protocol, including boarding and lodging at a VVIP guest house by Omar Abdullah government. He, however, preferred to stay either at his host Zahoor Wattali’s house at Baghat Barzullah or a private hotel on
Maulana Azad Road.
Wattali is a prominent businessman, who was close to Yasin Malik’s JKLF and late Abdul Gani Lone’s Peoples Conference for several beginning years of
Kashmir militancy. Then “Chief Commander” of JKLF, Yasin Malik was for the first time arrested by security forces from his home in the middle of 1990.
Later, Wattali maintained an equilibrium of relations with the Indian and Pakistani authorities. Large number of separatist as well as mainstream politicians, including several Ministers, had attended marriage ceremony of his elder son in 2007. While as his elder brother, Ali Mohammad Wattali, retired as DIG of Kashmir, followed by Member of J&K State Public Service Commission, his nephew Shafqat Wattali is currently DIG of
Informed sources revealed that on the advice from Ministry of External Affairs in
New Delhi, Regional Passport Officer of has denied cross-LoC travel permit to another former PoK Prime Minister Sardar Attique Khan and his entire entourage of 24 family members and party colleagues. Sources said that Sardar Attique and his colleagues were advised to travel on visa via Lahore-Delhi-Srinagar but he declined to travel on Passport and Visa and insisted on traveling Muzzafarabad-Srinagar-Muzaffarabad in his own cavalcade. “There was a technical hitch in that as there is no such protocol regime between Srinagar India and Pakistan”, MEA sources in said. New Delhi
They confirmed that J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had taken up the matter with the Centre and recommended strongly that Sardar Attique and his entourage be permitted to travel in their own motorcade but he could not be obliged “for a host of reasons, including a close deadline”. With this, Omar Abdullah’s efforts to arrange Sardar Attique’s visit in Pakistan-registered vehicles have failed.
Leader of Muslim Conference, Sardar Attique has functioned as Prime Minister and MLA in PoK while his nonagenarian father, Sardar Abdul Qayoom Khan, has served several times as Prime Minister and President of PoK. Kashmiri separatist circles call him “Mujahid-e-Awwal” (the first freedom fighter) on account of his being the first person who had picked up arms to dethrone Maharaja Hari Singh in the middle of 1940s in Mirpur-Muzaffarabad territories. However, Sardar Qayoom has attained the profile of a moderate politician in the last over 15 years and even publicly criticized gun culture.