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In 2015, Pakistan must change

  By Vijay Darda | 05-01-2015

We have all stepped into a New Year. We have all exchanged good wishes with each other. The common theme is a fervent hope that the coming year would be substantially better than the one that has gone by. This quest for better times is not just in the domain of our personal lives. Indeed, it extends to conditions all over the globe, and especially in our country and the immediate neighbourhood. We all know that at a people to people level, the Pakistanis are just like us, but the problems are at an entirely different level. So, while wishing them a much better 2015 at a collective and individual level we have a fervent wish that Pakistan should change as a country as well. It has long delayed this transformation, and now it is hurting its own people. No one would ever wish that the Peshawar school type tragedy should visit any one, and the very idea of that inhuman episode fills one with extreme sadness and revulsion.

The element of remorse and frustration goes up when one reflects that the ordinary people of Pakistan do not have to suffer this loss of lives and bloodshed of their near and dear ones. In this context, this is not the time for diplomatic niceties or the usual expressions that are deployed in the context of international dialogue. It is time for plain-speaking. The Peshawar tragedy and many others of its kind are a direct impact of Pakistan’s use of terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy vis-a-vis India and Afghanistan. It sheltered the most-wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden within the compound of a military academy. Its denials of government involvement and the distinctions it makes between state and non-state actors are okay for just a limited purpose. The reality that is emerging now is that the same groups that had been supported by Pakistan against its perceived enemies are now turning against it.

One does not discount the turmoil that has been created in Pakistan after the Peshawar tragedy and the need for strong action against terrorists that has been expressed in one voice. But this is not really enough. The Pakistani leaders have to undergo a major change in mindset, and this has to traverse through their military, the bureaucracy, their media and the thinking public. They have to accept that 67 years is a long long time. They have to come to terms with a concept that no one much less India is interested in taking over their country. Frankly speaking, India now has better things to do, than to annex Pakistan. They also have to realise that the creation of Bangladesh was not the result of India’s expansionist ideas, but primarily a failure of the two wings –West and East Pakistan — to come to an understanding about their respective power-sharing arrangements. India was dragged into the dispute because after the democratic elections in 1970, the then military leader General Yahya Khan and the politician Zulfikar Ali Bhutto could not imagine that a Bengali Sheikh Mujibur Rehman could be the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

We all know that blaming others for your problems is the easiest thing in life. Pakistan has been indulging in this excess for too long. It finds fault with India and America for its problems. So, instead of solving its domestic issues and getting to stand up on its legs, it has developed the habit of blaming others. This trait was reflected even after the Peshawar tragedy when some voices blamed India for the attack on school children. In fact, this symbolises the pathetic condition to which they have reduced themselves as a country. They are refusing to take note of the fact that the world wants Pakistan to take the development route — schools, healthcare and human rights instead of using guns and nukes.

The fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited his counterpart Nawaz Sharif for the swearing in ceremony should have been the building block for a better relationship with India. Here was a traditional right wing leader known for his hardline stand extending his hand of friendship. But then for the same Prime Minister to turn frosty to the extent that he does not even exchange formal courtesies and a handshake becomes the point of surmise for a SAARC summit, tells a very eloquent tale.

It is customary for people to go in for a change of taste –just for the sake of it. In Urdu, they say –Zaika badalna. Pakistan has followed this foreign policy route and engaged with India on inimical terms for 67 years. It has waged overt and covert wars without achieving the objective of redrawing the boundaries. Nobody is arguing that the recent elections in Jammu and Kashmir represent any solution of the dispute. But then nobody can ignore the huge turnouts. People are fed up with this life of violence and bloodshed. In such times for a Pakistani minister to argue that India does not understand the language of peace is really miserable. It only shows the extent to which they have gone wrong, and how strong is the need for course correction for them. Pakistan is a state with nuclear arms, it must accept the responsibility of being one and realise its role in ensuring global peace. Can it ever hope to achieve this if its premier agency –ISI — keeps differentiating between good Taliban as those who obeys its diktats, and the bad ones as those who go against it? When the reality is that both of them are wanton killers?

The year 2015 would be more of the same for Pakistan, and to that extent for us, unless there is a shift in the mindset of our neighbour. If they continue to follow on the same beaten track and keep hoping that the Kashmir issue would be resolved only by firing across the borders and sending terrorists into India, then sadly they would not able to avoid any repeat of the Peshawar type incidents. That would be too tragic, and one is reminded of the words of a young Pakistani lad, “Tumhari goliyan khatam ho jayengi, hamari chhatiyan nahin hongi.” (You will run out of your bullets, but we will not run out of our chests). One hopes that Pakistan listens to the voice of this young boy.

Before I conclude…

These days people are wondering about the difference between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh. I am also reminded of a young Indian boy Adi Bhav Minal Gupta, a student of Class VII in Delhi who had met me in Bhilai, in this context. An observant lad, he said, “For me the difference is very simple. When Dr Manmohan Singh bowed before Mahatma Gandhi’s statue, he did not take off his shoes and simply bent a little in reverence. In contrast, Modiji took off his shoes and touched Gandhiji’s feet.” This is all that is there to public perception.


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