Yusuf Buch- End Of An Era 


“My soul derives comfort from the belief that the participants in my funeral – whether few or many – will be performing an act of the kind that is known to have earned the pleasure of the beloved Founder of our Faith. Its reward lies only with God.” Ambassador Yusuf Buch wrote to the Imam of Makki Masjid, New York on May 22, 2009.

On Friday, May 24, 2019, the nation of Kashmir lost an iconic personality, an intellectual par excellence and a thinker in the person of Ambassador Yusuf Buch. He was not keeping good health lately and had returned to his residence from a hospital three days before his death.

Ambassador Buch was a captivating personality, a person with farsightedness, judgment and judiciousness. A legendary and eminent diplomat  and truly a living encyclopaedia on Kashmir who rendered his services for upholding the human and political rights of the people of Kashmir. He was certainly one of the most recognisable experts on the subject of Kashmir. 

Ambassador Buch was born in Srinagar in1922 when Kashmir was still ruled by a feudal prince under the suzerainty of British colonial power. At the end of his scholastic career, passed a competitive examination to win a place in what was called the government’s superior service. Soon he became a political prisoner as he was vocally among the opponents of the feudal ruler’s decision to accede to India. This led to his being exiled to Pakistan through an exchange of political prisoners in 1949.
Buch Sahib came to the United States in 1953 as a winner of an International Essay Contest sponsored by the United Nations. Later ran a Free Kashmir Centre in New York from 1957 to 1972. He was the member of the Cabinet of Z. A. Bhutto,  the Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1972 to 1977. He was also appointed as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Switzerland in 1977.
Because of the long years of close acquaintance with the United Nations became the background to Buch Sahib’s appointment to the cabinet of the Secretary General of the United Nations from 1978 to 1991.
Elaborating his experiences in world affairs, Ambassador Buch said, “The alternative to chaos in international relations – and in the global mind itself – is a world order governed by rules and principles and the test of the strength, indeed the reality, of these rules and principles is that they should play a commanding role in the settlement of international disputes. All the major principles essential for international sanity are attracted by the Kashmir dispute: the two major ones are the sanctity of international agreements and the self-determination of peoples.

He was absolutely firm in saying that the world powers do not have the right, nor the slightest moral authority, to pronounce what should be the solution of the Kashmir dispute in the sense of the final disposition of the territories involved. They have a compelling duty to deliberate upon and recommend how a just solution can be achieved.

It was Sunday, January 21, 1990 when I had my first meeting with Ambassador Yusuf Buch at his residence in New York City. I just knocked on the door at 10 Waterside Plaza. The security guard sought the permission from Buch Sahib and he let me in. After greeting me, Buch Sahib offered me a cup of coffee. 

We spent a few hours together. I was very impressed to see a self-less, highly educated diplomat of Kashmiri origin in the Cabinet of the United Nations Secretary General. He was informed, statesmanlike, poised, and engaging.  He told me that will of the people of Kashmir must prevail whenever the parties – India and Pakistan – reach a final settlement of the Kashmir dispute.

It is here during this meeting that Buch Sahib insisted that I must remember the following:

1.     Never ever be late to a meeting. Be on time. 
2.     Dress up with neat and clean clothes. People you meet with will think more highly of you.
3.     Never ever exaggerate the events in Kashmir. Why to exaggerate when the facts are on our side!
4.     Highlight that Kashmir dispute is the only international dispute where the solution to the problem was suggested by the parties concerned – India & Pakistan.

While meeting a senior official of the United States State Department who suggested to consider LoC as an international border, Ambassador Buch told her that the suggestion that partitioning the State of Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) be the basis of a settlement of the dispute. This suggestion may have some attraction for the ignorant and the unwary as well as for those who wish to settle the dispute on India’s terms in a disputed form. First, as the LoC does not run through Kashmir -– the Valley falls entirely on one side of it – the suggestion seeks to gift the territory in dispute, lock, stock and barrel to India – and to dismiss the respective claims of either Pakistan or Kashmir with an air of third party impartiality. Second, it purports to partition a mythical entity, the State of Jammu and Kashmir, while it seals the fate of an actual living people, the people of Kashmir. Third, it is obviously mistaken about the LoC. This Line does not represent any kind of provisional border negotiated at any point between India and Pakistan; on the contrary, it is but a glorified term conferred on the Line demarcated in 1949. That Line, truthfully described as what it was – Ceasefire Line – was drawn under the aegis of the United Nations Commission preparatory to the withdrawal of forces by the parties and the holding of the plebiscite jointly agreed by them. It was meant to keep the fighting stopped while the parties proceeded to further steps towards conclusive peace. Most people in the Valley look upon the LoC as the Line of conflict; few can imagine that any peace loving person or group or state would wish to perpetuate it.

When a United States Senator asked Buch Sahib how to find a solution of the Kashmir dispute. Buch Sahib had the clarity of vision about the future of Kashmir. There were no ifs and buts in his approach. He was bold enough to say it loud and clear that  “A principal source of confusion in approaches to the problem is the heterogeneity of Jammu and Kashmir; the so-called state consists of as many as five regions, each with its own ethnicity and orientation. No solution will have any democratic validity or justice which does not allow each region to decide its future without being under the pressure of another. Considering this, the modality of a single plebiscite lumping all the regions together needs to be replaced by another method of consulting the popular will in each region. Actually, this involves no radical departure from the course of action envisaged in the proceedings of the United Nations; in fact, a representative appointed at an early stage by the Security Council itself, Sir Owen Dixon, had proposed a regional plebiscite.

He also underscored the importance of  United Nations’ Charter for the settlement of Kashmir and other international problems. The Charter is not a scripture or a book of morals, but a multilateral  treaty as binding on the largest or most powerful member states of the world organization as on the smallest or weakest. The sanctity of international agreements must remain one of the bases of a sane and stable international order. The Kashmir issue involves that principle most pointedly.

Buch Sahib never compromised on the basic principles of the Kashmir dispute. He was laid to rest at the compound of the mausoleums of Mirwaiz Yusaf Shah and K.H. Khurshid, former presidents of Azad Kashmir, in the capitol city of Muzaffarabad.

The people of Kashmir will never forget the selfless contribution and the tireless efforts of Ambassador Yusuf Buch. With the passing of such a noble soul, who was a symbol of humanity and a champion of human rights, it is the end of an era.  We will miss him a lot!


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