Wanted: Long-life For Peace, Short-cut To Visa
9 July 2001
The Indian Express
Ahmedabad, July 09: FOR Maqbul Hussain, Suresh Kumar Parmani, Badrunnisa Wahib, Mallika Das and several others like them, the visit of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has generated much hope and expectation. Not that they are dreaming of restraint by the two sides along the Line of Control (LoC) or an end to all hostilities in Kashmir. Hundreds of people like them have married on the other side of the border and are hoping for an end to diplomatic hiccups and bureaucratic red-tapism that come in the way when they want to visit their relatives. Often the visas are delayed and even denied for social functions, and over-staying due to any reason can land them in jails. Badrunnisa, hailing from Lahore and married to Salim Wahib here, sounded optimistic while talking about the visit of Musharraf. I am sure, this time they will talk it out and solve most of the problems, at least ones related with the life of common people like us who have families on both sides of the border, she said. She married Salim only a year ago and the negotiations for their wedding were finalised through relatives from both sides of the border. The two governments had earlier decided to introduce a bus service between Lahore and Delhi and I hope they will take steps on similar lines so that it is easier for my parents and other relatives to visit us here frequently, Badrunnisa said. Suresh Kumar is from a small village, about 20 km from Karachi, and was married 13 years ago to Durga Nagpal here. An advocate practising at the Pakistan Apex Court, Suresh Kumar came here on June 4 with his wife and two children to attend the condolence meeting of his mother-in-law. Facing strict immigration norms while applying for a visa to visit his in-laws across the border for just a month, this advocate believes that the arrival of the Pakistan President and subsequent discussions with Indian premier Atal Behari Vajpayee will ensure that people like him will go through procedures made easy for travelling across the border. Amrin, who was married with Akil Maniar, a businessman from Sarkhej area here, said: After my wedding, I definitely belong to this country. But still, as my parents are settled there I would like if relations between the two countries turn cordial following the visit of Pervez Musharraf. It should be an effort from both the sides, which is the only way for return of normalcy. Assistant Commissioner (Immigration) of Police, K.M. Rathore, the man who is in charge of the Pakistan Section of the Ahmedabad police, said: Our police staff tries to deal with the people coming from Pakistan cordially, which is why there is a record number of visitors from across the border, including people who get married to people in India. According to the existing system, when a person with a passport from Pakistan lands at the airport, he has to report to the Pakistan Section of Ahmedabad police within 24 hours, failing which officials demand a valid reason for the delay and a fee of Rs 1380. Sometimes, such cases come to us and we try to scrutinise why there has been a delay in reporting to the police. If everything is fine, we register them as visitors, Rathore said. Last year alone, 958 citizens from Pakistan, including 89 people who got married this side of the border, visited Ahmedabad on Residential Permits (RP), and 416 more visited the city on ODP (Other District Permits). Till May 31 this year, 340 persons registered with RPs and 167 others with ODPs, Rathore said. But the main problem is with getting a visa. And if you get one, it is for a maximum period of 90 days and not extended whatever problems the visitors may face, said Ahmed Ali, who came to meet his grand father residing in his Jamalpur house. If the talks between the two leaders cover these problems, it will benefit hundreds of people like us who come visiting here throughout the year. The relations will be more cordial, he said. Ali has to frequently visit Ahmedabad to meet his septuagenarian father and other relatives. We do not feel the difference between the people on the two sides of the border. In my room in Pakistan, I have pasted posters of Wasim Akram and Sachin Tendulkar side by side. If the Vajpayee-Musharraf talks succeed, I will paste even their posters, said Mallika, a graduate from Gujarat University. She is married to a bank employee in Karachi and came here on May 12 to meet her parents. Let us hope for better ties, let us pray for good intentions from both the sides, let us break the barriers, she said.