Bashir G Ahmed is a Kashmiri living in the United States for the past 48 years. After doing MS in Engineering, he did his MBA in 1971 from the University of Illinois, Urbana. Later he was a management consultant for the United States Air Force at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. These days he divides his time between America and Kashmir and is pretty active on several fronts even at 72. Aasif Sultan caught up with Bashir on one of his recent trips to Kashmir. Here is the conversation:
Tells us about your initiatives?
I established the first Islamic School in Dayton, Ohio in 1985. I am also the co-founder of the Islamic Council of Ohio formed in 1987. The best thing regarding the establishment of Islamic Council was that the state legislature proclaimed the second Saturday in October as the Islamic Day in Ohio. This is not to be found in any part of the US.
How did the idea of Samad Peace Academy come about?
In 2005 my mother passed away and I decided to come regularly to the Valley and start a peace academy by the name of Samad Peace Academy. It is a non-profit, non-political, non-party advocacy group, advocating peace, prosperity and dignity for Kashmir and Kashmiris. Our objective is to develop an environment of peace. Through it I want to give a message that it is the moral responsibility of every Kashmiri citizen to preserve and protect the culture, heritage, language and natural resources of our Valley.
You recently published a booklet, Kashmir: Self-reliance and Resurgence-Through Faith, Hope and Peace. What is this book about?
This book highlights the economic richness of the Valley. We have natural resources, food resources, tourism and world famous handicrafts. Fortunately, of late, Kashmiri businessmen have come up with indigenous brands. This is very heartening. The book documents all these things.
Do you think Kashmir can have a self-sustaining economy?
There is no reason why can’t we become economically independent. What the Valley produces is sufficient for you to have a self-sustaining economy. We have seen a plethora of indigenous products coming up and this gives us reason to believe that self-sustaining Kashmir is a viable option.
Tell us about your Islamic School in Dayton, Ohio?
This school was started in a basement of what used to be a church. It is now a mosque. There were initially 15 students and gradually the number increased. We also have an Islamic investment company named Samad Group Inc. It is based on Islamic principles and provides excellent wealth management schemes.
How important is Pakistan vis-à-vis peace in Kashmir?
Kashmir is an international dispute and Pakistan is a contender in this conflict along with India. In fact it was India which made Kashmir an international issue by taking it to the UN. So to resolve this conflict, both India and Pakistan need to come to the table and talk with each other.
What is the way forward for Kashmiris?
I believe in conflict resolution through peace, prosperity and economic independence. Those who think that gun is the solution for Kashmir are mistaken. Unless and until we figure out what is good for us, we won’t move ahead. Jammu is an unnecessary liability on Kashmir. What is common between Kashmir and Jammu? It is ludicrous that the government spends 400 crore annually on Darbar move–total wastage of money. Can’t you use this money to make centrally-heated offices? Unless Kashmiris are economically independent and better educated, only then this conflict can end.