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Published in the 1-15 Apr 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Musharraf on India Today

Kindly allow me the courtesy of your columns to thank India Today and the elite of the Indian intelligentsia to have provided a unique opportunity to President Musharraf for translating the true sentiments of the entire Pakistani nation by pouring out his heart to them during his recent satellite TV address. Whether we are fully aware of the fact or not, today most of the decision-makers on either side of the great divide are from the post-Partition generation, who had not witnessed the pre-Partition Hindu-Muslim amity. Their patriotism and nationalism have been, unfortunately, stoked by denouncing the other. This was not done only by the radicals and extremists on each side but some intellectuals too fell into the trap unwittingly. This biased the mind and tainted the vision whereby each side takes only itself to be on the right and to have been wronged by the other. 

It is time we took stock of the realities, conceded that we could also be wrong somewhere and adopt a pragmatic attitude of give and take in a rational manner. We have been at dagger’s draw for more than half a century now. For how long we can afford it more? And at what costs? At the cost of almost half a billion people living below poverty line. At the cost of not even being able to provide clean drinking water to our huge masses, eradicate diseases, fight illiteracy, provide employment to millions and hordes of other such basic necessities to our people! 

President Musharraf despite being forthright and soldierly, probably due to the sensitivities involved, could not speak out all that he could. It is good to talk of democracy and have a true one around. But what is in the first place the very aim, objective and the purpose of democracy in a country? That, people could govern themselves the way they like. In other words, to ensure good governance where all are treated equally and justly. Now, please place your right hand on your chests and swear by whatever you believe in. Does democracy suit the genius of our two peoples, where votes are cast/obtained for considerations other than merit and manifestos? And once the so-called elected representatives of ours are in power, do they serve the masses the way they should? Can we call it a democracy where Laloo Parsad Yadav is convicted and overnight his illiterate wife becomes the chief minister instead? Where the dynasties of your Nehrus and our Bhuttos take it to be their birthright to rule, whether their present scions are of Italian or Syrian origin. I think, at least, we are better off without such ‘democrats’ than to have them plunder around. And, as Musharraf said, everyone on both sides – the masses and the intelligentsia, the academics and the media, the traders and the industrialists et al are all for reconciliation and the only hurdle in their way is the leadership of both countries who for their political stakes cannot afford to concede an inch from their long standing hardline stance on certain issues of conflict. Let us strengthen their hands in resolving such matters without endangering their seats. Help them demolish the damaging barriers to bring the two estranged brothers closer for the well-being of the millions. 

Riaz Jafri, Rawalpindi

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