Pakistani society is not ignorant of the situation the country is in but fully aware and actively seeking answers to the question of how it got here, said Indian journalist Neelabh Mishra in a discussion with local journalists here on Monday.
“Pakistani society is in a state of self-interrogation,” said Mishra at the South Asian Free Media Association office. Mishra, the editor of Outlook Hindi, was invited to speak at SAFMA along with Indian human rights activist Kavita Srivastava, who works for the release of Pakistani prisoners from Indian jails.
Both came to Pakistan to attend an event arranged by the family of Dr Khalil Chishti, who recently returned from India after spending 20 years in prison there.
Srivastava and Mishra arrived in Karachi on June 5 and first spent time with Dr Chishti and his family, meeting as many as 80 of his relatives.
Mishra said that from his interactions here, he believed that Pakistanis knew more about India than vice versa.
“You would be surprised to note that the Indian youth knows very little about Pakistan,” he said.
He said newspapers in Pakistan were expensive, but they carried more news than adverts, unlike in India. Asked about some generic differences between India and Pakistan, Mishra said there appeared to be fewer women in public places in Pakistani cities.
He said he found the public display of arms in Karachi “disconcerting”.
But the middle class in Karachi was “intellectually alive”, that is, willing to engage with others and talk about issues.
Mishra, who is from Bihar and is on his first visit to Pakistan, said that he had spent little time interacting with ordinary people in Lahore, as opposed to Karachi, but the city had beautiful roads, “perhaps even more so than we have back in India”.
He said that the infrastructure in the country was far better than he was expecting, considering the constant stories in the news media about law and order problems in Pakistan.
Srivastava, who is making her second trip to Pakistan, said her time in Karachi was spent within ‘family setups’, while in Lahore she spent her time at various public forums.
She said that with both Indian and Pakistani media talking up peace initiatives, now was a good time to deweaponise and resolve the Siachen issue.
She said as long as Indian and Pakistani media were pro-peace, there was hope of better ties between the two countries.
She said it was essential that ordinary people on both sides of the border also be allowed to interact with one another and not just government officials and journalists.
Mishra and Srivastava are scheduled to return to India today (June 12).
Published In The Express Tribune, June 12th, 2012.