After the head-banger’s ball of Sufis and starchy-clothed activists, they are now moving on to “confronting hurdles”. The media has no business to meddle in detente. If we do not want mullahs and sadhus to intervene, then these saints of sound bytes ought to stick to their studios and their ground zeroes and tell us what is happening, not what should be happening.
The ‘aman ki asha’ hype is really corporate angst being channelised for a tried-and-tested ‘common culture and heritage’ market. The whole world and its Uncle Omar know it, which is the reason they target it; if Pakistanis did the kumbaya at the jirgas then they’d have no common ground to crush old seeds.
Sunday’s paper announced that 98 per cent of Indians would like a joint anti-terrorism initiative. Did they get this figure on internet, SMS, Twitter polls? This is not representative of rural India or an India that does not have an open credit limit to indulge in the fake nonsense of inviting those with selective amnesia to share some chai-paani (not Chenab waters) to make money. Most of these events have been free but the media house also has a music company. You get singers from both sides, have a jugalbandi. Bring out CDs. Feed the hungry peaceniks and Wagah shoppers.
Since economic co-operation is on the agenda too, business groups will increase ad displays and acquire a halo in the bargain. Think about sponsors for Basant as the same paper makes vile cross-purpose insinuations about how a “Hindu festival flourishes in Lahore”. People fly kites and don’t think of god while doing so. It must be one of the most devious game-plans passing off as a “renewed concerted push”. This month, they are talking about tough topics that “would build a sturdy safety threshold that could absorb the occasional shocks of terror and barbs of extremism”.
To aid in this effort, they got writer Mohammed Hanif. Expressing empathy with the 26/11 terror attacks, he said he was scared watching it on TV, “because we knew that if this was happening in Mumbai, it could just as easily take place in Pakistan.’’ What sound-proof cocoon in Karachi does he live in? For years there have been bomb blasts every week in his city. And has he not heard about Balochistan, Waziristan, the Marriott hotel, the deaths during Benazir Bhutto’s rally and in Lal Masjid?
Terms in the media blitz like “the warmth of our words can melt the ice in the valley” would qualify as artificial sweeteners. However, what does "India maintains that Kashmir is an integral part of it. Pakistan maintains it is incomplete without it” mean? Are we then talking to an incomplete nation and how legitimate is it to do so? When they state in gossipy tones that "the guns will stop pointing when the fingers will”, all they managed was to get the Hurriyat Conference’s Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to reiterate his position. There has never been “sulking silence” as alleged by the pouting aman and asha pirates.
You cannot hole yourself up in seminar rooms and expect to create a road map. There is also the ‘we’ factor that is disconcerting: “We brought to you, our readers, a ray of hope that peace between India and Pakistan was possible and necessary for changing politics.” Obviously, they imagine they are catering to an audience of nitwits. It is no big deal to get “intellectuals, artists, journalists, strategic analysts and even politicians to discuss the generational hostilities threadbare”. These people have always had access across the divide. The point is: Have they done anything for those who have lost jobs and the families of those who have lost lives? Have they discussed issues at the political level? Have the finance ministries been involved?
You cannot have a consumerist counter-establishment that pretends to be a civil society movement. All this talk about how both pastures are green is like pulling wool over sheep’s eyes.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 11th, 2010