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VOA Urdu Program Finds Long-Lost Relatives

Naeem’s only surviving uncle (top left), Muhammad Shaban Butt, with his wife Fazzi (sitting third from left) and other members of their family at their house in the village of Khaitangan in Indian Kashmir’s Baramulla district.

VOA Urdu’s call-in radio show My Story is less than two years old, but it has already had quite an impact on people’s lives. The latest example is the role it played in reuniting a family in Kashmir, the region of South Asia claimed by India and Pakistan.

A young man by the name of Naeem Ahmad Bhat, living in a village of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, contacted My Story host Shahnaz Aziz to ask for help in locating his father’s family in the Indian part of Kashmir. Naeem explained that more than 60-years ago when his father was 12 years old, he and a few of his friends ran away from their village in Indian Kashmir and crossed into the area of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan.

The cross-border trip was just supposed to be a brief adventure, but Naeem’s father got separated from his friends and never returned home. He spent the next 65 years of his life in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. Naeem told My Story that although his father never forgot the family he left behind; he did lose contact with them, which was why the son sought the help of My Story in locating his father’s family.

My Story asked Urdu stringer Yusuf Jameel to see if he could help in the search, and after a while he located relatives of Naeem’s father in an Indian Kashmir village of Baramullah.

Muhammad Shaban Butt (left) speaks with VOA reporter Yusuf Jameel.
Muhammad Shaban Butt (left) speaks with VOA reporter Yusuf Jameel.

Though Naeem’s father passed away before the discovery of his family, in a recent episode of My Story, Naeem was surprised live on air when three of his cousins in India were also on the show and heard his voice for the first time.

The emotional meeting deeply touched everyone, including the host of My Story. “We were very proud,” Shahnaz Aziz said, “to be a part of that moment, which also emphasized the plight many of these families endure.”

Naeem has plans to soon visit his relatives in India, including an elderly uncle, his father’s brother, who lives in Baramullah.

This is not the first time that My Story has brought people together. Earlier this year, it was instrumental in connecting a disabled teenager from Pakistan with a filmmaker from India who invited the young Pakistani to work with him in Bollywood.