Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar stole the show last week as she stood next to India’s Foreign Minister SM Krishna at a press briefing towards the end of Krishna’s visit to Pakistan. Never has the transformation from a glamorous ‘goongi gudiya’ — as she was widely described during her visit to New Delhi last year — to a woman and leader of passion and conviction been more surprising or creditable in the recent history of India-Pakistan relations.
Khar’s main argument during that press briefing was about the need for India and Pakistan to move on from the past and forge a brand new future, and was clearly meant to send the message that India should not link progress on the rest of the relationship to progress on investigating and finding the culprits responsible for the Mumbai attacks.
So here’s the counterargument: if both countries should, indeed, move on, does this mean that Pakistan is willing to forget the Kashmir dispute and accept that the Line of Control is really an international border? That India and Pakistan must keep their respective parts of the states that they control and not yearn for the other? That Pakistan must accept the current status quo on Siachen and Sir Creek? If that is what Khar was trying to say, then it is truly a spectacular turnaround from the Pakistani establishment.
But, of course, we all know that Khar’s “moving on” was really limited to India dropping its insistence on movement on the Mumbai attacks. In what may account for one of the more insensitive moments of the recent Krishna visit, Khar is believed to have told an Indian TV channel the following: if you can’t forget Mumbai, Pakistan can’t forget its 1971 humiliation at the hands of India.
Pakistanis have often argued that Indians don’t understand the enormity of their own war against terrorists and ongoing ethnic conflict — the war against the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan in the northwest, Shia-Sunni killings, as well as those between political parties in Karachi in particular — and that Indians must stop harping about their pain of the one attack in Mumbai.
There is a clear answer to this: the terror inside Pakistan is not sponsored by India. Nobody in Mumbai asked anyone in Karachi or elsewhere to climb into a boat and set sail for Mumbai with sten guns.
My friend and fellow The Express Tribune columnist Ejaz Haider had another interesting thesis that I hadn’t heard before or — more to the point — hadn’t wanted to hear before. According to him, the Indian army was known to conduct false flag marches in (Indian) Kashmir, meaning they had killed scores of Indian — read, Muslim — civilians in Kashmir under the guise of offering protection to them.
What did this have to do with Mumbai, I asked Mr Haider? Was he implying that the Indian security forces — the army, paramilitary or the police — could have turned upon its own people in Mumbai? That could be one possibility in a range of several possibilities, he replied.
Khar’s forceful passion at the press briefing notwithstanding, the penny seems to have finally dropped in my own head: a section of the Pakistani intelligentsia believes the terror attack against Mumbai was just retribution — for 1971, for Balochistan, for Karachi, and anything else it believes India is responsible for.
That is why the opening up of the visa regime is so important: ordinary Indians and ordinary Pakistanis will get a chance to meet each other and discuss what their relationship is really about and whether they really want to forge one. Indians visiting Pakistan are more than often accosted with the unimaginable generosity of ordinary Pakistanis: aap hamaare mehmaan hain, hum dil ki gehraai se kehna chaahte hain hum kitne khush hain aap logon ko yahan dekh kar.
See how this contrasts with the state’s commentary? The question is, which is the real Pakistan?
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2012.
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