The author of the bestseller ‘Three Cups of Tea’ has found himself in hot water, once again. Greg Mortenson is currently engaged in a property dispute with his former manager, Ghulam Ahmed Parvi, over three of his school buildings in Skardu, worth millions of rupees.
Nazir Muhammad, a programme manager for Mortenson’s co-founded nonprofit Central Asian Institute, said on Friday that Parvi is not willing to transfer the possession of the buildings.
Parvi rejected the allegations, claiming that the schools, which are under his administrative control, were built with donations from the local community. “These are community schools and Mortenson has nothing to do with this property,” he said.
The CAI co-founder flatly refused to share the cause of the conflict between him and with his ex-manager. However, Nazir told The Express Tribune that talks between the two parties have been non-productive so far.
The two met in Skardu on Wednesday to resolve the dispute, but Parvi is adamant on keeping possession of the property, he added. “We will meet him again to negotiate the conflict.”
Mortenson shifted to Gilgit-Baltistan from the United States in 1995 and dedicated his time spent there to promoting education, mainly for girls, in remote parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
According to the CAI website, Mortenson has established more than 140 schools during his 16-year stay in Afghanistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Parvi, a resident of Skardu who worked with Mortenson for 10 years, rejected the charges that he had forcibly grabbed the school buildings which, he said, were built at a cost of about Rs15 million.
Parvi said his own CAI is a registered body, which financially looks after four schools and a college established to offer free education.
He said Mortenson’s claim over the school buildings is baseless and unlawful as the money spent on the construction of the buildings was donated by the local community. The buildings were constructed on a piece of land donated by the local people, he added.
However, local residents claim that Mortensen contributed a considerable amount from the CAI funds for the construction of the disputed school buildings and Parvi had also admitted that Mortensen had been funding the project.
Some believe that Parvi had been a source of information for US journalists who exposed Mortenson over his fabricated claims in ‘Three Cups of Tea’.
Many people in Skardu praise Mortenson for his work in their area but he exaggerated his story of success in his book, said Mehboob Ali, a local tour operator.
Mehboob said Mortenson’s claim, in his book, that he built a bridge over a river in Skardu from CAI funds was incorrect. “The bridge was built by me and my best friend with our own financial resources,” Mehboob told The Express Tribune, adding that some of the money was donated by Mortenson and a few local community members.
Mehboob claimed that some foreign journalists and people working with NGOs were paying locals for information about Mortenson’s false claims.
“I refused to sell my information despite repeated requests. I admire the CAI founder for his remarkable contribution in our area from his charity,” he added.
According to Parvi, ‘Three Cups of Tea’ portrays a negative picture of Shias. He alleged that Mortensen maligned Muttah in his book, which forced the top Shia leader in Skardu to forbid Parvi from working with him.
Local leaders of the Jamiat-Gurba-e-Ahle Hadith are also opposed to Mortenson for being an American. Parvi alleged that Mortenson was looking out for the strategic interests of the US in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2012.