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Between the line

Perception or pressure
June 10, 2009


WHEN Lahore High Court asked the Pakistan’s Attorney General why the UN resolution on the detention of Hafeez Sayeed, a terrorist involved in the Mumbai attack, should be honoured when New Delhi had not implemented the UN resolutions on Kashmir, it was apparent how the mind of judges was ticking. I do not know what the Attorney General’s reply was. But I think the comparison by the court was not in order. One related to an international issue and the other to an individual who was running away from justice.

Yet this was not the only reason why the case against Sayeed was thrown out. The court said that there was not ‘enough evidence’ against him. For this, Pakistan which was pursuing the case was most to blame. Even if it found the proof provided by New Delhi was inadequate Islamabad should have done some homework to plug the loopholes.

The court was quite candid in telling the Attorney General that it had seen the details of investigation by India but wanted to know what Pakistan had done. Apparently, it had done very little. What was shown to the judges even in camera was not convincing enough. True, the government is reportedly going in appeal to the Supreme Court. But if the same material is going to be produced before it, the verdict is not likely to be different.

Pakistan may have a point that India has not given it any clinching evidence. And sending some material in Hindi, Marathi or Tamil does not say much about New Delhi’s seriousness. Yet Pakistan was expected to do more. After all, those who attacked Mumbai were Pakistanis and their whole scheming was done from their soil. What was Pakistan’s own investigation to add to the New Delhi’s dossier is not known. In the absence of any proof that Pakistan was equally serious and concerned, any dialogue would evoke a strong anti-government opinion in India. At the risk of repeating myself, I feel that the Pakistan government and the armed forces have not yet realized how angry the people in India are. Even if New Delhi were to come round, it would not be able to carry the public along until Islamabad is seen doing something concrete.

After Pakistan’s embroilment in a war against the terrorists, there was a perceptible change in India that it should sympathise with the people across the border in their hour of crisis. Pressure had begun mounting for resuming talks with Islamabad. Sayeed’s release by the court has pushed India back to square one. Relations between India and Pakistan, already frozen, have become harder. The Asif Zardari government is not seen any different from the earlier governments. The impression that is strengthening is that Pakistan changes its tactics under pressure but not the strategy.

It may be a coincidence that the Council on Kashmir Affairs met at Islamabad on the day when the court set Sayeed free. But Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gillani did not stray from the speech prepared by mind-set bureaucrats. Delivered after the judgment he could have said something to lessen the impact in India. Was it necessary for him to reiterate that the Pakistan government would continue to give its moral, social and diplomatic support to the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their fight for self-determination?

India’s Foreign Minister S.M.Krishna was far more balanced in his reaction as if he did not want to use any harsh word which might irritate Pakistan. Krishna said that Kashmir was part of a composite dialogue. He could have repeated that Kashmir was an integral part of India, but he did not lest he should spoil even the odd chance for conciliation.

The manner in which Pakistan has gone about pursuing the Mumbai attack and the strong words that Gillani has used on Kashmir only shows lack of governance. Those who are at the helm of affairs appear inept in handling the situation. Understandably, they are under pressure over the activities of Taliban and the mechanizations of religious parties within the country. Still it looks as if the Zardari government has no clear-cut policy or programme to take Pakistan out of the difficulties it faces.

India has reportedly appealed to America after Sayeed has been exonerated. Washington may be at a loss to think what to do next because it has already banned the Laskar-e-Toibba and its front organization, Jamiat-ud-Dawa. The visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Delhi assumes more importance than before. The first thing she has to do is to disabuse India’s mind that the Obama government is not taking sides. However successful Islamabad may have been in securing America’s largesse, the test is the confidence the Zardari government can build among the people to feel self-reliant and secure. It also has to plan to feed, educate and ameliorate the living conditions of millions in Pakistan.

The advantage of a democratic government is that it can depend on the support of people. But if they remain unhappy they are bound to look elsewhere and even think of Islamic extremists as their saviour. In fact, this is the strength of the Taliban, not their weapons or the stamina to fight. Pakistan People’s Party is known for its liberalism. The army, willy-nilly, is engaged in a do-or-die battle against the Taliban. But the party has also to work on the ground to brainwash the people who have been fed on prejudice and wrong teachings.

Sayeed is going to be a problem because he combines in him the best of terrorism and the worst of bigotry. His support to the Taliban would be lethal. This can tell upon Pakistan’s integrity and its democratic structure. The unity of non-Taliban and non-extremists is necessary.

Nawaz Sharif should not be kept at distance. He may be a rightist in thinking but he has proved again and again that when it comes to fighting for Pakistan’s entity, he will not and cannot remain neutral. Zardari should seek his cooperation without putting prior conditions. Nawaz Sharif’s hesitation is not because he wants an equal share in power but because he does not know Zardari’s manzil (destination).

Maybe, the Charter of Democracy which Nawaz Sharif and the late Benazir Bhutto signed in London can provide the basis for cooperation and also give Pakistan its ethos. The Charter calls upon the people of Pakistan “to join hands to save our motherland from the clutches of military dictatorship and to defend their fundamental, social, political and economic rights and for a democratic, federal, modern and progressive Pakistan as dreamt by the founder of the nation…”

If Pakistan were to realize all this, it would find India as its best friend.

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