A Pakistani miracle in India

Published: April 9, 2012

The writer has written for the Indian Express, Times of India, Khaleej Times and Wall Street Journal. She currently writes for the Business Standard in Delhi jyoti.malhotra@tribune.com.pk

Even by Asif Ali Zardari’s immensely imaginative calendar, Easter Sunday the 8th of April must have been a record of sorts: Eating breakfast in Lahore, lunch in Delhi and tea at the hallowed shrine of Moinuddin Chisti at Ajmer doesn’t come easily to most South Asians.

Of course, Mr Zardari is no ordinary citizen of South Asia. His life history, warts and all, is well-known in the region — a famous woman’s husband, a prisoner, perhaps a playboy, and for the last several years certainly one of the most interesting leaders that Pakistan has had the fortune of bringing to power.

Certainly, too, the panache and derring-do that Mr Zardari has displayed with such admirable candour all these years came in handy this Easter Sunday, as he flew into Delhi, drove straight to Manmohan Singh’s residence and proceeded to — without as much as a by-your-leave — yank him out of the stupor that coalition politics sometimes tend to bring on in India.

What an amazing day Sunday was! For much of the last year, India’s prime minister has been buffeted by the slings and arrows of political misfortune, as scam after scam was unearthed from right under his nose. Manmohan Singh was supposed to be the economic messiah who could do no wrong. Only, he has looked weaker and unhappier as the seasons went by, perhaps wondering how he could salvage a legacy only he believed in.

That’s when Mr Zardari walks onto the stage, much too miraculous to cue, and invites him to Pakistan before the end of 2012. Manmohan Singh accepts. Just like that.

For just one second, think of all the consequences such a simple gesture has pulled into play. First, there is the real resumption of dialogue that was broken off by the November 2008 terror attack in Mumbai. Second, if the PM has to go to Pakistan, the Pakistani government has to make some real progress on the terror accused — which means that Zardari and General Kayani could soon have a really interesting conversation.

If Manmohan Singh has to go to Pakistan, India will have to sooner than later open all the gates to paradise. That is, liberalise the visa regime for civilians and businessmen, lift the ban on investments and remove or reduce tariffs on goods Pakistan wants to export to India, sign Sir Creek and get the Indian troops off Siachen.

In other words, stitch together the idea of a “normal” relationship between neighbours with elements that allows each side to rediscover the other.

Just listen to this: The day after Zardari’s visit to India, the Supreme Court granted bail to Pakistani microbiologist Khaleel Chishty, a man serving a life-sentence for a murder he most likely did not commit. The Ajmer trial court had prolonged the trial for 18 years. Chishty had come to Ajmer in 1992 to meet his ailing mother.

The fact is that Zardari is giving us the opportunity to become normal nations. He’s forcing Manmohan Singh, otherwise much too preoccupied with dealing with the perception that he heads a government that is increasingly weak, to act in the direction of normalisation. He’s persuading all of us to sit up, look at all the problems we insist on not resolving — from Kashmir to Siachen and Sir Creek — and telling us to get a life.

The next six months belong to the people of India and Pakistan. It’s up to us to decide what we make of this opportunity. If we squander it by interminable bickering, we only have ourselves to blame. But, aha, what if we don’t?

Watch this space in my next column!

Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2012.

Reader Comments (32)

  • Ali Tanoli
    Apr 9, 2012 - 10:54PM

    nice read thank u maam.

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  • BlackJack
    Apr 9, 2012 - 11:01PM

    I am flabbergasted by the level of naivete demonstrated in this feel-good article. First of all, it is fatuous to imagine that India did not expect an invitation (the Pak PM had also invited Dr. Singh just a couple of weeks back) – and that this positive response was on the whim of Dr. Manmohan Singh rather than a calibrated one by the Indian establishment. Second, the idea that a trip to Pakistan will fix all issues is also not anchored in reality; while we can hope for all these results, the chances are that they will be slower and more measured. Third, I am happy for Dr. Chishti, but he was convicted of a crime to which there are witnesses (hence the conviction); how she can state that he was innocent! The petition before the Supreme Court is not even related to his innocence, but to allow him to serve his sentence in Pakistan. Extremely surprised.Recommend

  • Indian Kashmiri
    Apr 9, 2012 - 11:14PM

    @ black jack..you seem to have mastered the black art of spoiling all good
    the writer hereis correct,zardari wants Pakistan move forwords. he has presented a dignified face ofpakistan with dignity politeness and firmness

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  • BlackJack
    Apr 9, 2012 - 11:23PM

    @Indian Kashmiri:
    Dude – I totally agree, kudos to Zardari. Pls read my post carefully.

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  • Pollack
    Apr 9, 2012 - 11:25PM

    “serving a life-sentence for a murder he most likely did not commit”

    What!!!!!! Based on what? Is there no limit to what people will say to appease one side or the other? I am ok with this person being released because of his advanced age. But to claim innnocence after he had gone through a process which found him guilty is not rational. There is not even room to claim religious bias in this case since both the perp and the victim are Muslims and the murder was committed in public view in a very public place like the dargah.

    Manmohan coming to Pakistan or zardari going to India does not imply that issues will evaporate. Zardari is not even the final decision maker regarding foreign policy towards India. Don’t get me wrong. I think he genuinely believes in peace but he is not the decider in chief article with not much substance.Recommend

  • Pollack
    Apr 9, 2012 - 11:51PM

    @Indian Kashmiri: He did not say what you think he said. You have obviously not mastered the art of comprehension.

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  • Abbas from the US
    Apr 10, 2012 - 12:04AM

    If Zardari can with his Dargah diplomacy force the Pakistani establishment to look at the possiblities of what can unfold, Manmohan Singh can only further the cause of his own legacy and the cause of the long awaited peace that is the ultimate birthright of both Indians and Pakistanis.
    The establishment hawks on both sides can resist with all their might, and militants will soon sense of their approaching irrelevence and demise, the common bonds of food, language and culture will be impetus enough to overcome these artificial barriers created by the older generations.

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  • Sinclair
    Apr 10, 2012 - 12:12AM

    @Author

    Your article on TOI about Chisti was sensationalist. Claiming he was in jail for 20 years!!! He was out on bail for 20 years. Your article here reads like appeasement. Why cant it just be fair? Is that too much to ask?
    .
    About Zardari… Boy, if you are going to crown him the king of peace in the India Pakistan equation – sheesh!!! Bhutto the elder was a much better candidate. Even Benazir. But Zardari?

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Apr 10, 2012 - 1:49AM

    @Abbas from the US: ” … The establishment hawks on both sides can resist with all their might, and militants will soon sense of their approaching irrelevence and demise, the common bonds of food, language and culture will be impetus enough to overcome these artificial barriers created by the older generation … ”

    Before all this can happen, your people must realize that Islam is not the only path to divinity. Recommend

  • saleem
    Apr 10, 2012 - 2:21AM

    Congrats to Ms Jyoti i have been your reader since long ago. Congrats to people of india and Pakistan for the restart of peace process

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  • jahandad
    Apr 10, 2012 - 2:39AM

    @Pollack: i can judge a typical hate filled mental obsession in your illogical views ,,as we can understand in Pakistan very much the lack of mental and logical ways of thinking in India when it comes to Pakistan,,,bcz of extreme negatively feeded mindset in India, Here an Indian intellectual even accept an innocent Pakistani scientist kept in harsh captivity under mental and possibly physical torture,for 2 decades for no reasons , but just hate basis,,,,and you Mr, pollock cannot agree,,[the murder and court verdict ,easy way of entrapment ,a scientist goes abroad to see his sick mother and there he commits murder,,,,please be in real world,,,,, don't follow raw and right wing extremest anti Pakistan media],, PRESIDENT ZARDARI is brave in the sense that he is able to talk peace , go after peace and can listen and sacrifice for peace ,,,,,,,,,but look what is your foreign office response ,,, a threatening words of warring and summoned demands from a peace seeker and peace loving man,,,i can only hope that peace loving Indians will wake up and be able to behave in peaceful ways by promoting mutual respect, and solution to the long standing issues on the basis of humanitarian grounds, with justice and peaceful ways,
    You are right zardari and manmohan are not the ultimate race deciders ,but remember they can at least walk the way ,many even dare to

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  • Thoughtful
    Apr 10, 2012 - 2:54AM

    Aa truly asinine article

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  • gp65
    Apr 10, 2012 - 3:33AM

    You are implying that Dr. Chishti was innocent. No one, including Chisti’s own supporters has claimed that. Where are you getting your facts from? The only request is to allow him to return to his own country in view of his advanced age. BTW, his conviction did not have a religious angle since the person he killed was also a Muslim.

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  • gp65
    Apr 10, 2012 - 3:35AM

    Vajpayee did go to Pakistan in 1999 and sign a peace treaty – a couple of months later the army did Kargill bypassing Nawaz Sharif. No matter how much Zardari desires peace, no forward movement can occur unless and until the Pak establishment rethinks its ‘India is teh mortal enemy ‘ philosophy.

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  • Hindi hain hum...
    Apr 10, 2012 - 5:43AM

    Let’s all hug and be best friends forever. We have so much love to give each other. When we all close our eyes we can see a paradise where rivers of love flow across the two countries.

    In fact, if we squeeze our eyes shut harder the 195 people who died on 26/11 in Mumbai will become alive. All the children who lost their parents will no longer be orphans. Mothers and fathers who had to attend the funerals of their children will start to rejoice at this brilliant reality that Jyoti has given us.

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  • Hindi hain hum...
    Apr 10, 2012 - 6:02AM

    The writer has gone overboard in her enthusiasm for an India-Pakistan lovefest. Addiction to Bollywood films has had an adverse impact on rationality.

    Manmohan Singh’s government is too weak and reeling from corruption scandals. While Zardari may have received a polite acceptance of his invitation, it came with a clause “at a mutually convenient time”. Such time will not occur until the perpetrators of 26/11 are convicted. If Manmohan visits Pakistan before then, Congress can kiss any hopes of returning to power in the 2014 election good-bye.

    Pakistan has not even agreed to formally recognize the AGPL on Siachen. Without this, not one Indian soldier will return.

    Ground control to writer, ground control to writer: please return from your flight of fancy.

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  • Ashvinn
    Apr 10, 2012 - 6:20AM

    Creative writing at best

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  • raw is war
    Apr 10, 2012 - 7:54AM

    good article

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  • Pollack
    Apr 10, 2012 - 8:17AM

    @jahandad: please believe me when I say that I tried my very best to understand what you were trying to say but I finally gave up.

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  • derpton
    Apr 10, 2012 - 9:49AM

    I can’t believe I just read something positive from an Indian author – nice!

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  • Shah
    Apr 10, 2012 - 9:55AM

    @Pollack:
    Seems like it’s you who needs to master the art of comprehension after all. :)

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  • Shyam
    Apr 10, 2012 - 11:14AM

    @Pollack

    Learn to comprehend the incomprehensible. May the force be with you

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  • Riaz Khan
    Apr 10, 2012 - 11:35AM

    Beautiful article based on hard realities! Time for Pakistan & India to vote for Peace instead of Fighting each other.

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  • Ozymandias
    Apr 10, 2012 - 12:46PM

    Everyone now needs to be on red alert. There are tons of militants who will be out to disrupt this

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  • Mirza
    Apr 10, 2012 - 6:41PM

    Many Pakistanis do not realize and appreciate the imp of holy pilgrimage and following the path of negotiations. Even if the president was 1% sincere in his pilgrimage then the great Gharib Nawaz can help him and Pakistan out. I know it irks many Pakistanis but the religion was spread by the saints, faqirs and durwaish not the militant . When all seems to fail you go to a saint for love and support! The results of the visit have already been visible. Kudos to the elected leaders and peace. Recommend

  • kaalchakra
    Apr 10, 2012 - 6:56PM

    haha, I love zardari, at least for today. :)

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  • Dilshad Chandio
    Apr 10, 2012 - 7:44PM

    Well stated Jyoti! Disregard Pakistani hypoctises here. Their prejudice knows no bounds so far as Zardari is concerned. No matter he has consolidated democracy in Pakistan and is one of the only truly liberal national leaders in Pakistan, they will continue to hate him. That will also mean that regardless of substance, they will be critical of your writing.

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  • usman
    Apr 10, 2012 - 8:31PM

    i dont think much of zardari,
    but this was a masterful move.

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  • Danyal
    Apr 10, 2012 - 8:38PM

    There is a dire need to bolster economic relations with India as its implications for peace in the reagion are manifold. We have lived a great deal in an air of mutual distrust and enmity and history is quite clear that it had never been a good bargain. I am sure that if today both countries realise the significance of their economic ties, follow MFN, and then SAFTA, it is not far away that this region will see a new dawn that would herald a new era of peace and prosperity for South Asian people. I pray that both countries relegate the issues of divergence to back burner and move ahead on issues of convergence;it will bolster the doves and discouarge the hawks which is need of the hour.Recommend

  • Concerned
    Apr 10, 2012 - 10:34PM

    Zardari played the right chords in New Delhi which all Pakistanis must appreciate and should not condemn him all the time. Presently both countries are on the right track which is the only way to achieve lasting peace in this region.

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  • razia
    Apr 11, 2012 - 8:53AM

    wow! no cursing or name calling??

    these are the politest comments i have ever read between indians and pakistanis,

    good job ya’ll.

    Recommend

  • Abbas from the US
    Apr 11, 2012 - 5:01PM

    @Arijit Sharma:

    Arjit Sharma, you seem to be with the mindset of the old guard, off course you are entittled to your views that only Pakistanis need to change their views on the supremecy of Islam as a religion for change to come. And as an athiest I would be inclined to be in agreement to some extent. But much as happened over the last six decades and the openness that one would expect from a society that is educated to have regards for secular values, also defines its indian core values with religiosity of the Hindu Dharam.
    But this is the tragedy of the two sides where hawks of the opposite camps tend to define the other It is like the former Indian Deputy High Commisioner to Islamabad Mr Bhadrakumar who I can only find the highest respect for, said *It is like the train pulled out of the station and you are left on the platform staring at its rear end *
    Watch these two U tube videos of the debate from within India on what we could easily conclude is happening.
    .
    http://www.timesnow.tv/Debate-Any-gains-for-India-from-Zardari-visit-1/videoshow/4399846.cms

    http://www.timesnow.tv/Debate-Any-gains-for-India-from-Zardari-visit-2/videoshow/4399856.cms

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