Quayyum Raja’s Unfolding Life : Chapter 4: “Turning Point in My Life”
Quayyum Raja’s Unfolding Life : Chapter 4: 

“Turning Point in My Life”

Germany is no doubt an historical country. The Germans are a strong willed, highly determined, inventive and a dignified people with visionary leadership. Germany is a top trading member of EU and a fourth international economy after the USA, China and Japan. The reunification of Germany is the result of it’s visionary leadership and a successful democracy and diplomacy.

I had traveled through Germany by train but not lived there until 1979 when I was persuaded by a cousin to accompany him from Amsterdam to Stuttgart, Germany, a few weeks after I returned to Holland. He was living in Herman Strasse Stuttgart. It was a big building where lots of young Pakistanis were living in cramed rooms. All of them were single young people with no discipline and no particular interests other than working during the day and watching the indian films till late nights. I found it difficult to adjust myself there. It was not easy for me to rent a separate flat as a single young man. I devised a plan to find a job in a hotel as a receptionist where I could request a room to live in. The plan did work well. My knowledge of Dutch language helped me to pick some German words. The hotel intercity at the Stuttgart railway station needed a bilingual, while I was multi-lingual and therefore I was approved as a receptionist easily. I had taken admission to Lingua Rama to learn German. I was in my early 20s and the manager got convinced that the young man who knew three major languages already would learn German quickly. Most of my time now was being spent among Germans. It helped me to learn German quickly.

Quayyum Raja with fellow students and teachers in Paris.

Registered as Interpreter

The local police registered me as an interpreter. It was a big challenge and also an opportunity to be connected with powerful officials. Once upon a time, I was invited by a criminal court to act as interpreter for three Pakistanis, who had a fight with a young Turkish born and brought up in Germany. The judge was very friendly and down to earth. He asked me how long I had been in Germany. When I said one year, he asked me where did I learn German. “In Stuttgart”, I said. Most Asians used to pronounce Stuttgart as Stattgart, but I pronounced it the way the Germans pronounced it. The judge was impressed. He praised my German accent and advised me to study law, but my passion for Kashmir independence movement took me somewhere else.

Meeting with Shahnawaz Bhutto, Anwar Raja and senator Sumiya Usman

The PPP invited me to attend a meeting with Shahnawaz Bhutto who was campaigning against general Zia who hanged his father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. I was late for the meeting due to my appearance in the court as mentioned above. I dressed myself well because I went to the court, while Shahnawaz Bhutto was casually dressed Anwar Raja was a famous former student leader, while senator Sumiya Usman also met with me warmly. She asked his camera man to make a picture with me and Shahnawaz Bhutto took a chair into a balcony in order to have one on one discussion with me. He said he wished to talk to me, because I was from Kashmir. I noticed that the some PP leaders felt jealous of Shahnawaz Bhutto’s private conversation with me and senator Sumiya Usman’s photographing with me.

I needed money for my language course and accommodation. I worked in Hotel Intercity as a night receptionist and took language classes in afternoons. Job was easy and well paid, but they would not change my night shift. I met many interesting guests in hotel. An Indian couple from Hindu background came from America. They stayed several days in the hotel and began to treat me like a son. They said they had a young daughter similar to my age. They asked if I would prefer to move with them to the USA. I was now sure they wanted me to marry their daughter but I was mentally not ready for such a big decision. I also lost an opportunity to go to Japan when a Japanese businessman offered me to travel with him as his assistant. I thought it was not sensible to take a risk to traveling with an unknown man. Instead, I sought a job in Firma Shulz. The owner Herr (Mr) Shulz was a blind German man. His manager was a young German Herr Gerish. When I answered his question that I had been in Germany for one year, he was impressed and said, meine libe Got (my dear God). He gave me a job with no further question. He said the Muslim employees spent too much time on prayers. There was no other Muslim in his firm at that time, but he said he knew the Muslims needed at least half an hour for every prayer. I told him the compulsory prayer needed only 5 minutes. He said “oh, this is a good information.” He must have had experiences with some cheat Muslims who used prayer times to avoid work. My job in this all auto spare parts house was to keep record of incoming and outgoing items.

I told Herr Gerish that as a single young man I had difficulty to find a single flat with affordable rent. He said he would try to help me. I noticed that a female assistant to Director occasionally wanted to chat with me. I wondered what the reason was, but the mystery was unearthed when one day she said the Director asked her to find me a flat and she had an adjacent flat. She promised to take me to view the flat after work. The Director became very frank with me after I refused to eat pork. The canteen lady wispered that the vegetable curry I ordered had a small amount of pork in it. When the Director saw that I returned the food, he moved over to my table and said, “I am a Jew. You can take my food. The Muslims and Jews can eat the same food.” Our two on-looking German Christian colleagues smiled, because lots of discussion was going on in those days about Israeli bombings of Sabra and Shatila Palestinian camps in Lebanon. The German colleagues also turned America’s failed attempt to bomb Iran into a joke. America had sent three military planes to bomb Tehran and rescue its embassy hostages held following the Iran revolution. Iran had accused that most of the diplomatic staff in American embassy were CIA agents involved in subversive activities. All three American planes crashed into each other in air and my German colleagues would joke with me that Imam Khomeini raised his spiritual hand to bring down the American military planes.

Two particular things led me to get involved in politics. Firstly, an annual report on political and economic progress in West Germany since the World War Two, when Germany was occupied by four war allies such as USA, USSR, UK and France. Berlin had been divided and the USSR took the east Berlin. I thought if Germans can revive themselves, why not us?

After the second world war, Stalin accused the West for always causing conflicts and therefore, Germany must be divided and vowed that the US led west should never be allowed to cause bloodshed again. The annual report appeared in the national press stating how the Germans rebuilt and rehabilitated their country to such an extent that Britain and France were concerned of West Germany’s fast growing economy affecting their export.

Secondly, I read Lubna Butt’s interview in the Weekly Watan in which she questioned the KASHMIRIS what they were doing to protect her father Maqbool Butt from hanging by the Indian government. I set up a campaign to save Butt. The campaign included some of my German friends. I raised the matter with the German branch of Amnesty International. In the office of the Amnesty, I met with a dentist named Fraulein (Miss) Suzanne Stiefel working as a part time volunteer for the Amnesty. She took me into a Cafe for a cup of coffee. We became friends and she helped me considerably to prepare documents on the case of Maqbool Butt. We appealed to German politicians, Bishop and priests. Hearing the news, Amanullah Khan wrote to me from England that he was a companion of Maqbool Butt, who was already campaigning for his release and that we should work together. Amanullah Khan visited me in Stuttgart. He stayed with me for three days. We arranged a Kashmir Conference attended by KASHMIRIS from several German cities. Amanullah Khan set up a jklf branch with me as its president and a former bank officer Younis Kiani as a General Secretary, former student leader in the Punjab University Afseer Ahmed Shaheen as vice President. The working body consisted of 15 or so members. I was the youngest of the office bearers but was elected as president due to my known activism and dedication.

Quayyum Raja taking oath from JKLF French branch in 1982

Three months later, I received an invitation from Paris to set up the French branch of the JKLF. I wanted to return to my job in Firma Shulz but the French branch organized several functions which they said I must attend to convince the audiences to join the Movement. I had realized that the Independence Movement had now taken precedence over my profession, education, family interests and even personal relationship. Such sacrifices are hardly noticed by the people in general. I took an oath of the French branch of the JKLF which , forty years on, still exist. Another reason why I failed to return to Germany on time was the then Indian premier Indira Gandhi’s official visit to France. The JKLF organized s demonstration against Indira Gandhi. She was so nervous and embarrassed that the French Government directed her air bus to land at an unscheduled airport.

When I returned to Germany in late 1982, the Pakistsni president General Zia and the Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi were arguing with each other over the claim of the Gilgit-Baltistan. I headed a delegation to Bonn to submit a memorandum to both Pakistani and Indian embassies claiming that Gilgit-Baltistan was a part of Jammu Kashmir and India and Pakistan should withdraw their troops as promised both to the people of Jammu Kashmir and the International Community. The Indian embassy tried to use the occasion to befriend with us. They gave protocol to our delegation, while Pakistsni embassy refused to receive us until we threatened them to inform the Pakistsni president of their undiplomatic behavior. These are some of the reasons why the indian diplomacy is more successful and stronger than that of Pakistsni diplomacy.

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