MUZAFFARABAD: Ambassador Yusuf Buch, a former Pakistani cabinet minister and a distinguished diplomat and intellectual of Kashmiri origin, passed away in New York on Friday evening after a long illness, marking the end of an illustrious career. He was 97.
His body would be flown to Muzaffarabad in accordance with his will.
Born in Srinagar in 1922 at a time when Kashmir was ruled by the Dogras under the suzerainty and protection of British colonial power, Mr Buch was an observer and a direct participant of Kashmiris’ struggle for freedom since its inception in its modern form in 1931.
After completing his education from Islamia High School and SP College Srinagar, he reportedly topped the competitive Kashmir Civil Services examination to win a place in the revenue department as Tehsildar.
In 1949, Mr Buch was exiled by the government of Shaikh Muhammad Abdullah in India-held Kashmir through the Working Boundary along with some other promising and brilliant youth to Pakistan for their political beliefs.
In 1953, Mr Buch went to the United States as a winner of an International Essay Contest sponsored by the United Nations. Later, he worked as a correspondent at the United Nations. He also ran the Free Kashmir Centre in New York from 1957 to 1972.
In 1972, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto picked him as his special assistant with the rank and status of a federal minister. He held this position until his appointment as Pakistan’s ambassador to Switzerland in 1977.
His death was widely mourned on both sides of the Line of Control.
In a statement, AJK President Sardar Masood Khan termed the demise of Ambassador Buch as a great loss to Pakistan and especially to the people of Kashmir.
AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider said: “I salute Buch sahib for his unflinching commitment and dedication to the cause of his nation. In his death, we have lost an inspirational spirit.”
Most leaders took to the Twitter to express their grief and sorrow on his death, terming it an irreparable loss for Kashmir and Kashmiris.
“Grieved to hear about the death of Ambassador Yusuf Buch in US, a legend and a living encyclopaedia on Kashmir who dedicated his life to the Kashmir cause. He was a close aide of Mirwaiz Yousuf Shah in Muzaffarabad who later served as advisor to UN Sec Gen for 18 years. Praying for the magfirah of this illustrious son of Kashmir,” tweeted All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.
Among others who paid tribute to Mr Buch included federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari, PML-N leader Mushahid Hussain Syed and Washington-based Kashmiri activist Ghulam Nabi Fai
The AJK premier announced that Mr Buch would be laid to rest, with full state honours, at the compound of the mausoleums of Mirwaiz Yousaf Shah and K.H. Khurshid, former AJK presidents, in the main old city of Muzaffarabad.
Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2019