MUZAFFARABAD: In a rare show of compassion, civilian and military officials from both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Himalayan region facilitated the transfer of a woman’s body from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) to India-held Kashmir within 12 hours of her death here on Thursday.
Salima Begum, who was in her early 60s, had travelled to Muzaffarabad along with her spouse Ghulam Hassan Pandit on Oct 2 through the Chakothi-Uri crossing point to offer condolences on the death of her brother-in-law, Khawaja Muhammad Yousuf Zargar, who was once a key leader of a pro-independence political group.
The couple planned to return to their home in Sopore, which is famous for the cultivation of and trade in apples, on Monday (Oct 16) but had to stay back because of suspension of trade and travel activities this week owing to Diwali holidays across the LoC.
On Wednesday, Ms Begum developed pain in her arm and was admitted to the Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan Hospital, Muzaffarabad, where she died in the early hours of Thursday morning due to sudden cardiac arrest.
In such cases it normally takes between 24 and 48 hours to send a body back to the other side of the divide due to involvement of procedural complications.
However, the transfer of Ms Begum’s body took place within 12 hours of her passing away, under a special permission granted by officials from both sides, said Khawaja Amir Zargar, a nephew of the deceased.
“We contacted the officials here for transfer of the body and expected it to take place by Friday. But thanks to their compassion, sympathy and special interest, we were able to send the body by 3pm,” he told Dawn.
He expressed gratitude in particular to retired Brig Farooq Mir, Muzaffarabad’s deputy commissioner Masood-ur-Rehman, and Trade and Travel Authority officials retired Colonel Muhammad Shahid and retired Major Tahir Kazmi.
“They contacted the officials concerned across the divide through hotline and after a positive response from there asked us to bring the body to Kaman Bridge at the Chakothi-Uri crossing point,” he said.
Mr Zargar and three other members of the family accompanied the coffin to the bridge, where moving scenes were witnessed when it was transferred to an ambulance from the other side. When contacted, retired Major Kazmi said that Indian officials had reciprocated courtesy that the “Pakistani side has always extended under the true spirit of the confidence-building measures”.
Salima Begum was buried in her native Chinkipora village in India-held Kashmir by 8.30pm (PST).
Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2017