On the ground: For border village, peace is a beautiful dream

Published: June 24, 2011

Villagers complain that the border force has made their lives miserable. PHOTO: AFP

LAHORE: 

“We left behind everything when we came to this side, but not for such living conditions. Some of our family that stayed behind in India now mock us about our migration,” says Haji Shahzad.

Shahzad, in his early 70s, is a resident of Bhanoo Chak, a village located on the Indo-Pak border.

“The border force here has made our lives miserable. We live not under the threat of India but this force. Day and night, we have to live by their rules,” Shahzad says.

Bhanoo Chak, a village occupied by Sikhs who fled at the time of partition, is an hour’s drive from central Lahore and is closest in distance to the border.

“We just want peace so that there is relaxation on the border and we can have normal lives again,” adds Shahzad.

Mostly farmers, these men are not allowed to roam around freely after 6pm and need to acquire no-objection certificates before constructing anything on their property.

Many of these villagers have families that were divided in the partition in 1947 and wish to go meet them.

“We have family in Rajasthan. They want to come visit us and we want to go and visit them too. But we have to go through bureaucratic hurdles that we have stopped making the effort,” says Shahzad.

Pakistan Rangers Colonel Osman Siddiqui, who is in charge of the Wagah Border area, says that without checks and balances, he cannot trust anyone in the area. “The border is a sensitive spot, and to stop smuggling and unwanted people from crossing over, we have devised a system where we allow men to roam in these areas only between 6am and 6pm,” he says.

When asked if he will ease the policy in case the Pakistan-India dialogue is successful, he replied that national policy and local policy are different subjects. “When a change happens in the national policy, we can see. But for now, the policy will stay the same since the force needs to be vigilant,” he said.

Many villagers believe that if Pakistani and Indian leaders sincerely wanted peace, an accord could be reached today. They also do not fear another war with India.

“In 1965, Indian forces destroyed our homes. There were planes overhead and even the Pakistan Army had little idea what was going on,” says Mohammad Tayyab, who was barely seven years old at the time. “But today, we cannot expect the same as we are now a nuclear state.”

Still, the villagers are always on their toes. “Every time Pakistan Army increases its presence on the border area, I fear I may have to leave home again,” says Tayyab, who moved his family out of the village during a standoff in 2002.

For some, however, peace is just a far-fetched but beautiful dream. “Peace is not possible, even though it will be good for both our countries. We will [finally] be living with no fear,” says Azeem impatiently, during a short break from a cricket match.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2011.

Reader Comments (5)

  • Mighty
    Jun 24, 2011 - 12:49PM

    Brilliant piece!Recommend

  • TightDhoti
    Jun 24, 2011 - 5:31PM

    Its okay, there sacrifices will not be compensated with plots in DHARecommend

  • Maria
    Jun 24, 2011 - 6:29PM

    The border force has not made peoples’ ;ives miserable as incorrectly portrayed here. They have a responsibility to maintain border security and educated people understand that. Such is the case with people who live along sensitive borders all over the world. My own family members who live close to the border have nothing but praise for the border security people and for the armed forces. There is relatively little intrusion from agents into Pakistan from the Azad Kashmir / Punjab border but rather more through Afghanistan or Sind. By the way, we have no relatives or folks we want to see in India. I am sure this is the case for most families on the border so I am very surprised you make up this stuff about a particular family who has relatives in Rajasthan. If anything we want an even more secure border like the US has made with Mexico.Recommend

  • MK
    Jun 25, 2011 - 1:29AM

    @Maria:
    ” I am sure this is the case for most families on the border so I am very surprised you make up this stuff about a particular family who has relatives in Rajasthan.” Can you provide us source of this intelligence. or it is another Assumption that no one living close to the border has relatives across. US/Mexico border security is also wrong information. People cross in thousands every day across US/ Mexico border with proper documentation. I have driven myself from Canada to Mexico, crossing 2 borders. I wish that India/Pakistan could have Canada/US type of border (friendly but keeping their national pride and identity separate)Recommend

  • Saim
    Jun 25, 2011 - 11:09PM

    well i know colonel usman siddiqui personally. he is a gem of a soldier. for the information of all that the border crossings do take place very regularly for smuggling of cigarettes and liquor from this very area. cigarettes go across and indian liquor is brought in return.these border crossers exchange military related information with indian intelligence agencies just to get few extra bottles of liquor. indian side encourages these border crossers and open their gates for them as border is secured by indians through fence. if such measures are not taken than border crossings cant b stopped. Recommend

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