For many Pakistanis, Mr Modi, it all began with that infamous pronouncement from one of your illustrious predecessors. “We have drowned the Pakistani ideology in the Indian Ocean” was how Indira Gandhi bragged about the events of 1971. As we tried to reconcile with the reality of the dismemberment of Pakistan, our national outlook on the Pakistani ideology started undergoing a transition. The majority amongst us chose to remain loyal to this notion just like faithful sailors on board a storm-hit ship who refuse to get away on lifeboats. But there were others amongst us who sought to question this ideology by reaching out to the safety of the lifeboats of pragmatic notions, such as softening of borders and harping on about shared cultures between India and Pakistan.
And it is about these exchanges over the last four decades, between us on the storm-hit ship, and the wise lifeboat people that I will tell you, my dear Mr Modi. The first thing that the lifeboat people kept harping about was that the predicament of our ship was not a phenomenon resulting from 1971. We were informed that the ship should, in fact, not have taken sail in 1947 in the first place. We were told that our ship – the Pakistani ideology – was actually an artificial after-thought by a band of zealots, who were completely divorced from the vision of our founding fathers.
And to the collective dismay of those glued to the storm-hit ship, the lifeboat people also started, what they termed, was the deconstruction of myths about our national history. They took pains to convince us that our founding fathers had no intention of according central significance to religion in our national life. We were told to forget the butchering of hundreds of thousands during Partition and rather focus on one speech amongst hundreds made by the Father of the Nation, to prove that there was a disconnect between our ideology and Pakistan. And, I must admit, my faith in the Pakistani ideology was shaken a bit. The lifeboat people also started enlightening us on the nexus between this faulty ideology and security paradigms and that there was an unwarranted build-up of security apparatus at the cost of the wellbeing of billions in this region. Ceremonies, such as the Wagah border flag-lowering every evening, were termed uncalled for events, scaring peace-loving doves on both sides.
Every now and then, these doves would cross the border, dancing and chanting songs of peace. Our faith in the Pakistani ideology would be further diluted as we were told stories of the love which they received on the other side of border. The blood spilt during Partition, the three India-Pakistan wars, Kashmir, the Bangladesh debacle — all of these were fast becoming hazy in contrast to the colours of peace that these doves painted.
But then came you, Mr Modi and that picture. We saw you smiling as you received souvenirs from the Bangladeshi prime minster for services rendered during the unfortunate 1971 saga. We could not miss the scorn, the venom, which came shrieking out of that picture. The lancet cut you jointly administered to us with your Bangladeshi counterpart through that picture has been a blessing in disguise. Our faith in the Two-Nation Theory and the Pakistani ideology is reborn. Our commitment to uphold democratic values as the best guarantee against shenanigans of incompetent rulers will never again be lost on us. We are reminded how important it is to stand behind our soldiers who would always be our ultimate line of defence against the wiles of unrelenting foes.
So, Mr Modi, we will always remember this picture of yours and liken it to the picture of Dorian Gray, reminding us of the collective sins of our adversaries, perpetrated to soil the intrinsic beauty of our cherished ideology. Let me also assure you that the next time we visit the Wagah border, we will chant Pakistan Zindabad slogans at the top of our voices so that we are heard – and clearly understood – on your side of the border.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2015.