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Ambassador Yusuf Buch: As I See Him


Yusuf Buch, as I see him

In search of a genuine intellectual voice

PUNCHLINE by ZG Muhammad

Some time back, I had written there was no Edward Said on our side.   My lament was more out of concern rather than critique.    I believe that an intellectually stimulating discourse on Kashmir was missing and so far it had been   pathetically routine and blatantly ‘de- intellectualized’ projection of the Kashmir case that had vexed it thus far.  I had written it as I believed that Said was the best Palestine voice in the West, who had very forcefully through his books, articles and lectures articulated the Palestine cause in the West and in fact changed the Western discourse on Palestine. It was his book The question of Palestine written in 1977-78 and published in 1979 that had put the Palestine issue to serious debate in the intellectual circles of the West. The fact is in the sea of literature on Kashmir dispute there is not a single internationally acclaimed book by a Kashmiri that could play a role as that by Edward Said’s works.

I was reminded of another great Palestinian who  has been articulating the Palestine cause very forcefully in the world  when a researcher working on Kashmir asked me if there was anyone like Ghada Karmi of Kashmiri origin in the west.  ‘Ghada Karmi is a leading Palestinian author, academic, and writer. This Jerusalem born author was brought up and educated in England. She is author of many well-received books on Palestine. I am yet to read any of her works.  I have read some reviews about her memoir, In Search of Fatima; a Palestinian story that was published by Verso Press in 2002.   I had no stock answer for the researcher, but two names that are recognized as Kashmir face in the West more particularly in the United States instantly came to my mind- one in his mid-eighties and another in his mid-fifties. The man in mid-eighties is Kalashpora Srinagar born Muhammad Yusuf Buch popularly known as Ambassador Yusuf Buch and another Dr. Ghulam Naibi Fai a Budgam born former Temple University, Pennsylvania, USA communication scholar and teacher.  Fai Sahib as he is popularly called by Kashmir Diasporas is published on Kashmir in the American mainstream press. Both Buch and Fai were exiled for their political beliefs one in 1947 and another in 1980.

The story of Yusuf Buch is perhaps known to a few in his homeland. On its tenth International Peace Conference, Ambassador Buch was honored by   Kashmiri-American Council at an impressive ceremony on Washington DC for his life of courage, conviction and unwavering commitment to the rights of the oppressed people of Jammu and Kashmir. A plaque was awarded to him at the ceremony which paid high tributes to him. He would have been better known in Kashmir had people like  Shameem Ahmed Shameem who have had longer interactions with him in seventies written their memoirs.   In the words of a Pakistani writer  Mr. A.R. Sidiqi “During the period between 1949-1950, there were at least three bright young Kashmiri activists who held out a lot of promise to emerge as exponents of their case at the intellectual level like Ghada Karmi. They were Yusuf Buch, Mehmood Hashmi, and Agha Shaukat Ali. They had all the makings of committed revolutionaries endowed with the gift of persuasive speech and simple, well-reasoned writing and, above all, the advantage of youth.”

These three young Kashmiris undoubtedly could have emerged as Kashmir voice in the world in the vein of Edward Said but in the words of Sidiqi, “However, none of them quite came up to the level expected of them as Kashmiri freedom fighters and thinkers. Mehmood Hashmi did a book or two on the early stages of the Kashmir tragedy; Yusuf Buch settled to become a speech-writer and back-stage support for Pakistani delegates to the UN, rising to ministerial rank under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto; and Agha Shaukat Ali was lost to the soulless routine of professional public relations.”  Another Kashmir that held promises of having emerged as an international voice of Kashmir has been Khurshid Hassan Khurshid, Srinagar born Secretary of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Sidqi writes about his this friend, that he lost his true place as a writer and intellectual after he became president of AJK.’

 Ambassador Yusuf Buch who worked for twenty-two years as advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General  is yet to write his memoirs or a book on Kashmir, but some of his published articles internationally acclaimed   journals  newspapers or presentation made by him  at various international conferences  do provide an insight into his understanding of Kashmir problem.

Buch who as young boy had along with his father and two brothers Muhammad Amin Buch and Ghulam Naqashband seen and heard  Abdul Qadeer in 1931 asking people to pull down the mansions of arrogance and palaces of suppression writes about Kashmir problem in  an article Published in the Dawn, “The long history of  the Kashmir dispute is tragic demonstration of the fact that recrimination can be endless and absent in judicial authority, no matter how powerful in logic and compelling in equity, hardly decides anything. The great suffering and pain born by the people of Kashmir as well as the heavy cost inflicted on both India and Pakistan by persistence of this dispute should beckon us away from the sterilities assiduously pursued so far. They should drive us to identify helpful courses of action which can potentially elicit agreement from the parties concerned.”

Yusuf Buch does not believe that there exists a power rivalry between India and Pakistan to which Kashmir could be kept hostage. Calling power rivalry between India and Pakistan as a cliché a thoughtless journalistic invention in another article he writes, “Why should Pakistan take up rivalry with a country almost seven times larger than itself in population and even more so in area?” The invention of rivalry he writes  played its own, hardly negligible, role in blocking a clear understanding.  It belittles India without magnifying Pakistan.” His asking to drift away from the futilities pursued in past speaks about his pragmatic approach grounded in the history for the resolution of the problem.

While majority of Kashmir writers and leaders looked as General Parvez Musharraf  four-point formula as a great way forward, Buch looked at it if not ‘frivolous’ but irresponsible. About his out of box four-point formula for the resolution of Kashmir, he wrote in an article.    “ They seem to have been conceived in a mood  which dispenses with clarity and advanced in a style which  cares little for  coherence.  In fact, they do not bear even a faint imprint of serious, focused discussions with his own quite competent Foreign Office, not to speak of leaders of public thought.  General Musharraf likes to talk of an “outside the box” solution; surely “outside the box” does not mean contrary to principle. —-To compromise that principle, to waver on that stand seems singularly ill-advised; it amounts to throwing away what, in a world of ordered

international life, is a priceless asset.   It would be so even if it

got some return from India.” Seeing negative implications of the General Musharraf’s what he calls as half-baked and misdirected efforts blurred further by what he pronounces as weird statements of Pakistan’s accidental president  ’ he sounds optimistic about change in the thinking of Indian intelligentsia about Kashmir. In yet another, in article, he writes,  “As against these developments, a far healthier one is the evolution and greater visibility of thoughtful Indian opinion on the Kashmir issue.  Since the fall of 2008, a number of articles have appeared in the mainstream Indian press written by respected publicists who do not support India’s official intransigence.”

 Whether one agrees or disagrees with his political outlook the writings and noting of Ambassador Yusuf Buch are a part of Kashmir’s political literature that have could be seen as good as Edward Said’s works on Palestine. His works on Kashmir need to be compiled, researched and preserved.

Publish Date: Aug 10, 2009, 12:00PM

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