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Friday, 13 July, 2001, 07:26 GMT 08:26 UK
Musharraf's family links to Delhi
Musharraf family former home in Delhi
The Musharraf home has gone downhill since 1947
By Satish Jacob in Delhi

The house where President Musharraf was born is a shadow of what must have been an elegant and imposing residence in 1947.

The very fact that eight families now live in the haveli, or mansion, occupied by only the Musharraf family indicates that they belonged to the Muslim elite of old Delhi.

It's our tradition to do the utmost in hospitality

Local councillor, Shoaib Iqbal
When he visited the house on Saturday afternoon, the first day of his trip to India, he was unlikely to have recognised it.

It has changed enormously since his family left for Pakistan after partition, when he was just four years old.

In fact, the present occupants had no idea that General Musharraf's parents had been the original owners until he assumed power in Pakistan and the BBC broadcast an interview in which he casually mentioned that he recalled the house, known as neharwali haveli (house by the canal).

The two owners of the main portions of the haveli competed host the president for tea. As part of the welcome, they presented him with the original title deeds.

Interestingly, these are written entirely in Urdu with the exception of General Musharraf's father's signature, which is in English - yet another indication of the family's western education and social prominence.

Muslim elite

This part of Delhi used to be the home of India's ruling Mughal elite, the place where Muslim culture flourished and where Muslim noble families resided in great splendour until the advent of the British Raj usurped their glory and their power.

The area is being spruced up for the visit
The area is being spruced up for the visit
The great poets of Urdu - a language which originated in this part of Delhi but now is the national language of Pakistan - Mirza Ghalib, Momin and Zauq were three prominent residents of the area.

Sir Syed Ahmed, the greatest reformer of Muslim education, lived next door to General Musharraf's family.

Now it is a fantastically-congested ghetto, inhabited largely by poor Muslims with only a sprinkling of Hindus, although it still retains some of its old, oriental charm.

The immediate area around the Musharraf family's haveli is an ugly, crowded cluster of narrow alleyways.

Cloaked in security

A massive spring clean has been under way for weeks. The local councillor, Shoaib Iqbal, has been masterminding the facelift.

Police on patrol
Security precautions have been extensive
"It's our tradition to do the utmost in hospitality and that means making sure everything is immaculate for our guests," he said.

The disruption has caused considerable inconvenience to the local residents but they appear not to mind.

Anil Jain, who lives in part of the haveli, said: "As long as it leads to better relations with Pakistan, we do not mind one bit."

Certainly, the security precautions were extensive, particularly because of the narrow lanes.

In fact, the haveli was cordoned off totally by a huge white protective screen.

The area around the haveli was deserted when General Musharraf paid his 40-minute visit. The local residents were told to remain indoors and ordered not even to open their windows as a security precaution.

Their only experience of the visit was the sound of his motorcade arriving, the banging of car doors and security officials talking on their walkie-talkies.

But they were able to enjoy one event.

A special mushaira (poetry recital) was held on Saturday evening at which famous Urdu poets from India and Pakistan recited their latest works.

The theme? Friendship.

The BBC's Satish Jacob is a former resident of old Delhi, with three generations of his family hailing from the area

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See also:

09 Jul 01 | South Asia
India eases Pakistan travel
04 Jul 01 | South Asia
India frees jailed Pakistanis
05 Jul 01 | South Asia
Musharraf seeks Kashmir meeting
19 Jun 01 | South Asia
Date set for India-Pakistan summit
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