Win or lose, Pak villagers pine for Manmohan Singh Print
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JPNN|Chakwal| India’s marathon general elections were sparsely discussed on Pakistani television channels

but in Gah village of Chakwal district the just concluded race remained the talk of the town throughout and still is - for the love of the man the exit polls said is going to lose Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “I’m praying for the success of my old class fellow and for his Congress party,” 81-year-old Ghulam Muhammad Khan told Dawn Thursday sitting in a circle of friends and discussing the changing political scene in India. His friend Ahmed Khan Hajial added: “They say BJP is winning but I pray to Allah that Manmohan’s party wins.” Both Gah elders were classmates of the Indian prime minister in the village primary school in undivided India. Whom Allah blesses with victory will be known on Friday. Even if disgruntled Indians don’t return Manmohan Singh, 82, to power a third time, the warm feelings for him will live on in Gah, his birthplace - and also for his wife Gurusharan Kaur who was born in the nearby village Dhakku.
It was a sad parting for the schoolmates when ethnic riots that preceded the partition of the South Asian subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947 forced millions to migrate to either state for safety. Ghulam Muhammad Khan said that Muslims enraged by attacks on their co-religionists elsewhere in Punjab attacked Sikhs in Gah. “Up to 16 male Sikhs were slain and their homes were looted but their women were spared,” he said recalling the gory days.When Manmohan Singh became prime minister of India in 2004, Gah and Dhakku villages came into the spotlight and their people felt elated at the achievement of a ‘son of the soil’.
They expected Manmohan and Kaur to visit their birthplaces soon. In Dhakku village the women even started making chhakores (trays made of straw and date palm leaves) as local gifts for Gurusharan Kaur. Officials coming to survey the two villages also strengthened their belief that the special guests would soon be in their midst. But strained relations between India and Pakistan did not let that happen. So one of the old classmates, Raja Muhammad Ali, decided to visit Manmohan Singh in Delhi instead and managed that. But the other six surviving classmates in Gah were not rich like him and four of them have died since waiting for a reunion with their celebrated friend.Now Ghulam Muhammad Khan and Ahmed Khan Hajial pine away for their childhood friend. Excitement gripped Gah and Dhakku villagers when news broke a few years ago that Manmohan Singh would be attending his birthday party in Gah in which Indian playback singer Sunedhi Chohan and Pakistani singer Salman Ahmed would perform. But the news turned out to be false. But the villagers continue hoping against hope to this day, some singing away their pining in the Punjabi folk lore: “Nahi aaya, nahi aaya Kothay tay charh takiya maahiya nahi aaya” Courtesy: Dawn

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