June 12, 2002, Chandigarh, India
A VIEW FROM
PAKISTAN: A TRIBUNE EXCLUSIVE
Lahore, June 11
A few weeks ago, when Gen. Pervez Musharraf called politicians and leading journalists for consultation, the majority of them counselled him to avoid war. They asked him to act strongly to stop the infiltration of Kashmiri militants from this side of the Line of Control to the Indian side. Only the Editor of a widely circulated Urdu newspaper had asked him to act tough. He wanted nuclear weapons mounted and fired on India in the case of war. Others looked at him with disapproval and his advice fell on deaf ears.
Notwithstanding an unflinching support to the “self-determination” of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the majority opinion in Pakistan was against a war with India. Unlike Delhi, no procession was taken out in any city of Pakistan in support of war. In Lahore, I do not see any war hysteria. People are watching Indian movies on videos, as Indian channels on the cable network have been prohibited. In several cities, in fact, many cable operators were proceeded against for showing Indian programme.
It is painful to find in the writings of Indian columnists that an atmosphere of hate against India exists in Pakistan. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most Pakistanis have no ill feeling towards India. They see Indian movies, listen Indian music and appreciate the performance of the Indian cricket team. India’s progress in educational and economic fields is cited as an example worth following for Pakistan. When Indians visit Pakistan, people treat them kindly and extend all kinds of hospitality. Many people here want to visit India. They wish to see their ancestral towns and villages, which their families left behind at the time of Partition. They want to go shopping in Delhi and Bombay.
In Pakistan, there is a big reservoir of goodwill for India. Being a journalist, I get an opportunity to meet a cross-section of the population, including government officials. It was a pleasant surprise when a senior army officer told me during the height of tension that war was not good for us and that only foreign powers would benefit from this, if it happened at all.
It is not hate against India. It is a feeling of injustice and unfairness on the part of the Indian state on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir that offends many Pakistanis. India itself took the issue of Kashmir to the United Nations. Jawaharlal Nehru promised the Kashmiris that he would respect their decision in the determination of their future. Now Indians have complaints that General Musharraf has not kept his words. Had the Indian leadership kept its words on Kashmir? Who rigged elections after elections in Kashmir?
Many Indians may not like to hear this, but the reality is that India will have to resolve the Kashmir dispute if it wants a lasting peace with Pakistan. Americans will not be here forever to underwrite deals between the two countries. Only when the Indian establishment moves forward on this crucial issue, Indians will see the floodgates of goodwill opening for them in Pakistan. Pakistanis are not afraid of Indians; they are not afraid of a small fanatic minority in India which indulged in violence in Gujarat. They do not believe that these people represent the peace loving majority of India. Our ancestors lived together for centuries. We know how to live in peace and harmony while respecting the faith and values of each other.
We do not need Mr Richard Armitage and Mr Donal Rumsfeld to come to defuse tension. Many Indian leaders, diplomats and intellectuals have their friends in influential positions in Pakistan who could arrange their meetings with the people who matter here. Had the road, rail and air links between the two countries not been snapped, voluntary organisations on both sides would have played the mediator’s role but this was not allowed to happen. May I ask: who had insisted for years on a bilateral framework for Indo-Pak negotiations? And who has now brought external actors into our bilateral arena? Pakistan’s establishment is a much-maligned word in India. I request Indians to think of their establishment as well.
America’s interest in the region is obvious. They want to use the Indian buildup of troops on the borders to maintain pressure on General Musharraf to take action against jehadis. They are worried about jehadis who fled Afghanistan and are now hiding in tribal areas or towns of Pakistan. This is in line with President Bush’s pre-emptive policy in war against terror. One may argue that there is commonality of interests between India and the USA on the issue of eliminating militants. But do the Indians trust that the Americans will not leave them in lurch once their objective is achieved? Has American assistance to Israel been able to crush Intifada in Palestine?
It is wrong to assume that militancy in Jammu and Kashmir was totally Pakistan-sponsored, and that the struggle in Kashmir is totally a proxy war. The struggle of Kashmiris has a political dimension. If militancy abates, the political battle will intensify. True, it is not possible for Pakistan to wrest Kashmir from India through a proxy war. Similarly, there is also no way for India to win the political battle in Jammu and Kashmir through proxy elections.
Meanwhile, we salute Uncle Sam for preventing our drift to insanity.
The writer is Chief Reporter, Weekly Independent, Lahore
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