Those who study the fine art of decision-making usually understand that the space for decisions shrinks in times of crisis. Leaders who face such high-pressure scenarios are confronted by a dilemma. More often than not, they may be compelled to make calls that, while rash, are popular among their charges over wiser alternatives. While individuals who wield some influence can only do so much to alter the course of crisis, there certainly are steps that are best avoided. Take the contrasting stances Pakistan and Indian artists and media professionals have taken amid the recent tensions over Occupied Kashmir.
Whether it be the likes of Priyanka Chopra doing disservice to her status as a Unicef goodwill ambassador under the pretext of ‘patriotism’, or Kangana Ranaut and Ajay Devgn, who make no attempts to veil views inciting war, many prominent media voices in India have opted for jingoistic rhetoric that is highly irresponsible given the nuclear overhang that rests over any conflict between the two neighbours. In contrast, one must give credit to their Pakistani counterparts, who have by and large shown utmost responsibility when commenting on matters that lie beyond their field of expertise and have the potential to unleash chaos. Mehwish Hayat, in particular, best exemplified this sane and considered approach. “Some issues are too important to play politics with… it is human suffering that those with a platform must focus on,” she wrote in an open letter addressed to Priyanka. Others like Mahira Khan, Atif Aslam, Fawad Khan and Hamza Ali Abbasi have also avoided jingoism and advocated non-divisiveness, at least as far as the role of artists is concerned.
It is also telling that for all our faults, celebrities and intellectuals in Pakistan still feel safe to break away from popular sentiment in Pakistan-India matters while their Indian counterparts seem rather compelled to toe the Modi government’s line. Still, Indian media voices would do well to take a page out of Pakistani artists’ book. While they may not be able to do much to sway public opinion, they can surely avoid cheerleading for war.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2019.