Punjab village showers affection on 'son' from Pakistan
It was a homecoming that a village had been eagerly waiting for. When Pakistani Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif landed in Jati Umra village in Indian Punjab and felt the soil of the land of his ancestors, villagers turned out in huge numbers to shower their affection on Sharif and his family.
Sharif, the younger brother of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, concluded his Punjab visit Sunday evening after spending time in this village in the border district of Tarn Taran where his grandfather and father had lived.
The Sharif family, which lived here till 1932, migrated to Amritsar and later to Lahore.
Addressing the over 1,000-strong gathering of villagers in Punjabi, the language spoken on either side of the Radcliffe Line, the international border that separates east Punjab from the west side (in India and Pakistan respectively), an emotional Sharif said the trip to the village was a pilgrimage for him.
Sharif, accompanied by his wife and other family members, met several villagers, including Gian Singh and Massa Singh, both aged over 92 years, who were friends of his father Muhammad Sharif.
Both nonagenarians kissed his forehead to welcome him to his native village.
Sharif and his family brought 100 kg of ladoos and fruits for the villagers.
The Sharif family, which arrived in Punjab Friday evening, flew to the village on helicopters Sunday evening.
The Pakistan Punjab chief minister was accompanied to the village by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia.
Sharif could be seen feeling the walls of the building, now housing a gurdwara, which was donated by his father when the family migrated from here.
He said his grandfather and father would tell him tales of how they did farming in the village, which was dominated by Sikh families at that time also.
Sharif asked residents of the village to visit him in Pakistan.
"I will make sure that you get visas comfortably and you will be looked after very well there," said Sharif, who described himself as a son of the village.
"It was destiny that my father migrated before partition and I was born in Pakistan. If my family had not migrated to Pakistan, I would have taken birth in Jati Umra and by that equation I am a son of this village," he said.
As a gesture, Sharif laid the foundation stone of development projects worth Rs.3.5 crore for the village.
The family of Major Singh, a friend of Muhammad Sharif, honoured Shahbaz Sharif with a gold pendant.
The villagers also presented shawls and gold rings to all the members of the visiting Sharif family.
The Sharif family offered prayers at the village gurdwara and listened to hymns. They also offered prayers at the grave of his great grandfather, Mian Mohammad Baksh, in the village.
Sharif and his delegation later went to the Sikh holy city of Amritsar where they offered prayers at Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as Golden Temple, before flying back to Pakistan.
(Posted on 16-12-2013)