Khwaja Ghulam Ali Naqui – III

Still in jail when India and Pakistan signed an armistice, Ghulam Ali Naqui and another prisoner escaped in April 1951, and headed for Azad Kashmir.

Writes he in his biography:

“Negotiations were in progress between Pakistan and India on exchanging prisoners of war, 1600 held by Pakistan and 600 by India. Since the Government of Pakistan insisted on a man-for-man swap, we in jail thought that the unfavourable ratio would compel India to offer prisoners like us in exchange for its soldiers.

“But nothing of this sort happened, and Pakistan released all Indian POWs for its 600 troopers.

“We were disappointed, and left high and dry in jail.

“It was early 1951, and we had a long prison term ahead of us. With no hope of early release, I and my fellow-inmate thought of escape.”

Executing a daring plan, the duo broke out of jail on April 19 the same year, and managed to reach Azad Kashmir.

They started life afresh as lawyers, but Naqui was later offered a job by the Habib Bank, and a salary of Rs 250 per month.

Deeply attached to his homeland, he had tried to return several times, without success.

In the early 1990s, when JKLF chief Amanullah Khan announced plans to cross the LoC, Naqui registered himself as a volunteer.

“If I die while crossing the Line, make sure my blood flows to Kashmir,” he asked of the others.

But their dream of crossing en masse to this side remained unrealized as the Pakistan army showered the procession with bullets.

A number of people were killed, and the march abandoned.

Naqui’s letters to his family and Samad Khan (a jail employee who was dismissed from service after the 1951 escape) too reflect his deep love for Kashmir.

According to his elder brother, Ghulam Rasool Aalamgir, when Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah visited Pakistan, Naqui garlanded Zulfikar Ali Bhutto instead of the Kashmiri leader.

“He is not worth it,” he replied when asked for the reason.

Naqui also appeared as a defence witness when the Government of Pakistan implicated Muhammad Maqbool Bhat in a false case.

This was a great risk to take in Pakistan those days, but Naqui came forward to vouch for Bhat without caring for the consequences.

He fell seriously ill in 1999, was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and had to undergo surgery in London.

His family in Kashmir arrived in Pakistan on January 25, 2000 for a last meeting with a member they had not seen for the past fifty years.

All night they talked of Kashmir, their Zadibal, and those who lived on its lanes.

And in the morning, January 26, Ghulam Ali Naqui breathed his last.

He was laid to rest in an Islamabad cemetery.

In a remarkable coincidence, his grave bears the same number, 156, as the one under which, several decades ago, he had appeared in his FA examination in Srinagar.

The day he passed away, the Jammu and Kashmir government issued him a pardon for escaping from jail.