New Delhi, July 26 (TNS): One Indian village which closely watches every development on both sides of the India and Pakistan border — and which has always favoured cordial relations between the two countries — is Jati Umra in Taran Tarn, Punjab.
Jati Umra is the ancestral village of Pakistan’s mighty political dynasty headed by Nawaz Sharif. The Sharifs migrated to Pakistan before the 1947 Partition. Though the ancestral home of the Sharifs was converted into a gurudwara in the village after they left, the tomb of Nawaz Sharif’s grandfather, Mian Muhammad Bakhsh, still bears testimony to the many rich years lived by the family in the village they once called home.
But there is more to the relationship locals in Jati Umra have with the family of Nawaz Sharif than just warm memories or the shared respect of a common neighbourhood. Interestingly, development concerns became a connection between the Sharifs and Jati Umra residents.
It may sound unusual but in fact, the Sharif family has played a big role in the development of this village after Partition. A senior citizen not wanting to be named told us that when Nawaz’s younger brother and chief minister of Pakistan’s Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, came to Jati Umra on a visit in 2013, he had requested then-Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal to give a face-lift to the village.
Prakash Singh Badal assured him all help and asked the department concerned to lay paving on all village paths, including the one leading to the tomb of the Sharifs’ grandfather. This village now has its own sewarage system, a night shelter, even a stadium.
“The Sharif family connection has indeed resulted in the overall development of this village. It was due to the Sharif family’s visit that the state government provided funds for various development schemes,” says village headman Dilbag Singh Sandu.
But this is not to say that the Sharifs only came, visited, spoke of development and left Jati Umra. They also apparently employed nearly two dozen men from Jati Umra in their Gulf companies.
Such is the good impression the Sharifs have established in their ancestral village, the residents of Jati Umra want the Sharifs to stay in power, so that they can continue to influence the Punjab government. The Badals were reportedly so deeply influenced by Shahbaz Sharif that they had apparently decided to sell power to Pakistan’s Punjab — but the same kicked off a controversy.
The facelift given by the Badals to Jati Umra reportedly on Sharifs request has now lost its lustre with the passage of time – the village still cries for help. The paths that were repaired after Shahbaz’s visit, including the one leading to Muhammad Bakhsh’s tomb, are difficult to find as the same are broken, if not overrun by bushes.
Locals hope that the political fortunes of the Sharif family pick up on the other side of the border. And that any of the Sharif brothers plan a visit to their ancestral village in the future again. A visit from people who once belonged, a visit that could remind the state government about giving a place of significance a facelift once again.