Dilbar Hotel, in old Rawalpindi precinct, has been catering to all and sundry; even Pakistan’s premiers as well.
Dilbar Hotel which was once considered the home of the Kashmiri politics and a place for the politicians of national and international stature to have get-together to enjoy special Kashmiri cuisines besides discussing politics is no longer being visited by the political elite nowadays due to change of environment.
This change of environment has multi-dimensional factors including present law and order situation which surpassing all others and change of venues of Kashmiri politics amongst others as the later has other places as well know to make it’s presence felt. As the hotel which is basically a restaurants is situated in a congested area of the Old Qila Area, near Lal Haveli the political figures don’t visit it nowadays due to the security reasons while the leadership of Kashmir has switched over to Kashmir House in Islamabad and to other venues to discuss the issues.
The importance of this hotel in Kashmir’s politics could be gauged through the fact that the letters of Shaheed-e-Kashmir, Maqbool Bhat used to come on the postal address of the hotel for years. This hotel was believed to be marked by the Indian agency RAW due to high-profile gathering of Kashmiri political figures over here. Maqbool Bhat was a pro-independence leader of AJK and co-founder of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front. He was hanged on February 11, 1984 in Tihar Jail in New Delhi due to his struggle for the Kashmir Cause.
It is the restaurant which used to be visited by KH Khurshid, the former president of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) who had also the honour to serve as the secretary to Quaid-e-Azam, another former president AJK, Sardar Ibrahim Khan, the former Prime Minister AJK, Khan Hameed Khan and many other dignitaries of Kashmir’s politics.
The hotel was established by Malik Jamal and Malik Ghulam Muhammad in 1948 which soon got political attention has well besides getting famous for its rich Kashmiri cuisines in the Kashmiri community. Both the owners were Kashmiri settlers who had migrated from a famous place of occupied Kashmir, Kapwara after the partition of the subcontinent.
Picture Courtesy: Dawn
Now the owner of the restaurant, Malik Aslam who is the son of Malik Jamal, the co-founder of the restaurant, recalls that he himself had seen Khan Hameed Khan over this place in good old days.
According to him the first prime minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan had also paid visit to this restaurant while the founder of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had also visited it once when he was the prime minister of Pakistan.
“On the invitation of Shaikh Manzar Masood who was the speaker of the assembly ZA Bhutto had graced our restaurant with his presence during somewhere in mid 70’s and he was accompanied by Mumtaz Bhutto, Hafeez Pirzada and some other high prolife personalities. In Kashmir Dastarkhawan is known as Wazwan and these leaders had ordered Kashmiri Wazwan for their dinner,” he recalled another golden occasion in the history of the restaurant.
According to him his late father Malik Jamal used to tell him that ZA Bhutto was clad in Shaal (apparel) and Mao Tse-tung cap and his father couldn’t recognize him unless he (Bhutto) removed his shaal.
He said the present Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and his family also used to visit this place for lunch and dinner on occasions till 1984 for enjoying Kashmiri recipes over here.
Ristey (a dish of mutton), Yamber Zal (dish of boiled eggs and mutton) Mathee Maaz, Kashmiri Harisa Aab Gosht, Shab Daig, Karam Machhli and a few more dishes have been the specialty of this hotel for the past sixty years which have also been attracting the big figures of the country including that of AJK to visit it and enjoy the Kashmiri dishes.