Chinese authorities are optimistic they will complete the renovation of a decades-old Chinese cemetery by October.
The renovation is being carried out to pay homage to Chinese labourers and engineers who lost their lives nearly 40 years ago during the construction of the Karakoram Highway (also referred to as the ‘Friendship Highway’) during 1966-76. The cemetery – locally known as ‘China Yadgar’ – is located in Danyor, nearly 10 kilometres from Gilgit River.
The foundation stone for a renovated graveyard was laid by Chinese and Pakistani officials in a ceremony on April 4. Chinese Embassy Consular Zhang Lianyou and Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly Speaker Wazir Baig participated in the event.
“We will hopefully finish work by October this year,” said MA Guiming, an official of the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) which has undertaken the task of renovating the cemetery.
The Chinese cemetery over the years has been a place worth visiting. Close to the city, it has been somewhat a tourist attraction. Those who visit Gilgit to partake in its natural beauty will place ‘China Yadgar’ on their itinerary; most Chinese visitors who come to Gilgit-Baltistan go to the graves to pay homage. Some of the deceased workers’ relatives have also visited the graveyard.
Those who visit Gilgit to partake in its natural beauty will place ‘China Yadgar’ on their itinerary. PHOTO: EXPRESS
“The new design will have something to offer to the visitors, including a room for the display of information and photos – possibly about those who sacrificed their lives,” Guiming told The Express Tribune.
But China hasn’t forgotten the people who have been caring for their deceased in their final resting place. For years, the cemetery has been looked after by four Pakistanis recruited for this very purpose. They diligently maintain the memorial park – cleaning, and watering plants.
“We acknowledge this act from the core of our hearts,” Guiming said. “They have done this while the relatives of the victims sit hundreds of miles ways away, unaware of the four Pakistanis’ gesture.”
Acknowledging their services, the Chinese government arranged an official trip to China for two of the maintenance men some years ago. According to Guiming, they were taken to Hong Kong and Beijing as a token of appreciation for their services. “The Chinese nation is grateful to them,” he added.
Like every Pakistani, Guiming is also hopeful rebuilding the cemetery will further strengthen Pak-China ties which flow through the Karakoram.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2013.