Attending a Pugwash conference in Islamabad

It is surprising that the war on terror, is still dividing Pakistan’s intelligentsia down the middle.

Jyoti Malhotra October 06, 2013
The writer is a consultant based in New Delhi, where she writes for Business Standard and blogs for The Times of India

Travelling to Pakistan is always a momentous experience. It begins with the offer to participate in an event – this time it was the international NGO Pugwash that was holding a conference on Kashmir – as it is still not possible, after 67 years, to apply for a tourist visa. Then comes the excruciating wait for a visa, which finally arrives. (There are those in the conference who have been refused a visa as well as those who thought it better not to come even when they got a visa.) The ultimate joke is the huge infrastructure that has been built at Wagah border, at least on the Indian side, in anticipation of the opening of tourism and trade. Last Saturday morning, there were only two of us, foreigners, while bored immigration officials drank endless cups of tea and smoked the hookah.

Inside Pakistan, the talk is about Nawaz Sharif government’s offer to talk to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and other militant outfits who are challenging the writ of the state on Pakistan’s north-western borders. The dialogue offer is so violently contested that cries of selling out to militants dominate the sound waves. The government defends its dialogue offer to talk to “our people” – the militants are citizens of Pakistan too, it argues – before using force to bring them around. The opposition cries foul, asking why the conditions for dialogue are so weak and infirm and indeed, wishy-washy?

The state of affairs is called ‘déjà vu’, a French term to describe a state of mind that, literally, means “already seen.” For a visiting Indian journalist, like me, attending a conference on Kashmir, it is surprising that the war on terror, now in its 12th year, is still dividing Pakistan’s intelligentsia down the middle. As for Kashmir, what’s that?

The reason for the ‘deja vu’ is to do with the way the Indian government has dealt with both militants and insurgents, whether in Kashmir or north-eastern India or across the central Indian heartland where Naxals have challenged the writ of the Indian state. In Kashmir for example, since the insurgency began 24 years ago, thousands have been killed and tortured, while thousands are still missing. And how has the Indian state dealt with this insurgency? With such a heavy hand that Kashmir, said to be this most beautiful paradise south of Heaven, continues to reel with the prolonged dose of injustice.

Watching Pakistanis criticise their own government for not immediately launching a military operation in Waziristan reminds me of the time Pakistanis criticised the Indians when they cracked down on the militancy in Kashmir.

The Indian state’s terrible record of human rights abuse in Kashmir will never stand up in a court of law, no matter in whose defence these were perpetrated. But as one participant in the Pugwash conference pointed out, why did Pakistan motivate and stoke the insurgency in Kashmir only to abandon it as it got mired in its own militancy nexus within? And as a second participant asked, why did Pakistan intervene in what was a spontaneous Kashmiri uprising against the Indian state?

According to the second participant, Kashmiris were already moving against their own government, especially after the fraudulent elections of 1985, but why did the Pakistani state interfere and intervene? By going beyond its brief in Kashmir, the Pakistanis gave the Indian army and paramilitary an excuse to hit back so much harder and consolidate its control over Kashmir, he argued.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2013.

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pandiyan | 9 years ago | Reply

just becoz some individual got visa and try to impress across the border that they are intellectual should remind one thing "truth will emerge in any case". that is our country's motto satyameva jeyete" truth alone triump..the so called non state actors,jehadis,lashkar,TTP will swallow the whole Pakistan infront of our eyes.Thank god ordinary citizen of india understood very well about the nexes between the pak agencies and terror outfits,our politician cannot deny or fake the real pak threat.

wajid | 9 years ago | Reply


ICC also means " International Criminal Court".

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