Monday, December 1, 2008

How might a Pakistani feel?

It may be too delicate and complex a point to make to my stressed and overheated country, but it's been made by others and I'd like to make it in my own way.

When Indians chant "Pakistan murdabad" ("death to Pakistan") in the context of the recent terror attacks in Bombay, as has happened in more than one rally in recent days, what exactly do they mean?

If it means death to Pakistani people then I don't support it, and I sincerely hope no one means that. It is as scientific a fact of life as the earth orbiting the sun, that there are innocent people sharing the same values in every culture and country. In the case of Pakistan it's particularly clear, as many wonderful Pakistanis are known to us either personally or through their writings. Just go to the Editorial pages of The Dawn, Pakistan's leading English daily, and see for yourself that the writings share the same values as any leading Indian daily (though one may not agree with everything written there, which can also be said of Indian dailies).

So perhaps the chant means death to the Pakistani government. Well if that's the wish then it's already happened, for their would-be Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated while campaigning last year. But that's not an event that should please any Indian.

Back to Bombay, it's perfectly plausible that the terrorists who carried out the recent attacks were Kashmiris. If so, we can hardly chant "death to Kashmir", given that we believe Kashmir is "an integral part of India".

Now all this brings me to my last point. Extending the above logic somewhat, people may claim (and have claimed, in the British, American and Pakistani press) that Pakistan is simply not involved in these attacks and India is indulging in needless finger-pointing. On this point, I part company with these "progressives". Whether the terrorists are from Kashmir or Pakistan, it is a certainty that they were extremely well-trained and well-armed, quite on par with the Indian commandos who eventually wiped them out. Such training and arming does not happen in a vacuum. The needle of suspicion (a well-worn phrase) happens to point to Pakistan, where by Pakistan I now mean (i) the geographical territory called Pakistan, and (ii) several people and organisations based in Pakistan or having bases in Pakistan. IF the Pakistani government has power over these areas and bases (that's not clear as of today, look at how little power the Indian government has over some parts of India) then the government would of course share the responsibility.

So if the chants are aimed at the people and organisations, almost certainly in Pakistan, who trained and armed our recent invaders then much as I dislike death threats, I will put my pacifism on hold and say yes, anger against them is quite justified. But let's not forget that innocent Pakistanis are victims of those same people as much as any of us are.


jatkesha said...

Dear Prof. Mukhi,

This is the level of reaction and response you find on the Pakistani media. I completely agree with you on your point on "Pakistan murdabad". There is no point in attacking them right now. The best way to tackle it is by pressurizing America to impose sanctions on Pakistan and trouble them in other ways by breaching the Indus Water treaty. Some way is needed to bring them to their knees unless they agree to extradite Dawood and his aides. Don't you think so?

In times of recession like this, strengthening troops along the border and going to a war is certainly not the right thing to do.

Raju Bathija said...

Sunil: Thanks for well written post. It is absolutely wrong to assume that every Pakistani is bad as it is to assume that all Indians are good. In this context, the blog post, `I am a Mumbaikar: In Prayer and in Solidarity', in a blog called All Things Pakistan, is worth reading. The link is:

Sunil Mukhi said...

Well for once I don't totally disagree with you on most of your points.

However, taking this particular crackpot response as an example of the Pakistani media is hardly fair or representative. Such bizarre nut cases are present in India too. But did you read "The Dawn" newspaper as I suggested?