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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Peace In Tiny Pieces

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: May 17, 2012

An Indian channel tried to stir a ‘conspiracy’ that some Pakistani businessman from Lahore had made it to India to stage another Mumbai-style terrorist attack. Undoubtedly wrong, yet it created a frenzy almost instantaneously. The television age of instant news and the dangerous trend of ‘breaking news’ stir up many pots for no reason. The fundamental problem is lack of verification and vetting of sources that supposedly supply such news items to channels — be it in India or Pakistan. The gravity of this gaffe and its potential impact can be extremely serious, without a doubt.

Needless to say, there are hawks on both ends, who absolutely despise the idea of any overtures towards peace. I can say with relative certainty that if Mr Jinnah were around, he would have been utterly dismayed at the existing relations between the two states. He had envisioned that we would be living amicably like the United States and Canada. It is ironic that we are more like North and South Korea, bloodthirsty and ready to engage violently to settle unfinished scores of the past.

One of our gifted anchors decided to get even with the Indian channel by televising a live show from a business centre. His point was that those ‘alleged’ terrorists were in fact peaceful merchants conducting their business in the heart of Lahore. Those gentlemen, of course, vented their frustration as well. The intention of the anchor was to expose the absurdity of the Indian channel in labelling the innocent merchants as alleged terrorists. However, when a crowd gathered at that site and the anchor denounced the ‘Aman ki Asha’ initiative between the two countries, it was rather irresponsible on his part. As tiny or insignificant as the measure may be, both countries are in dire need of such a process. One can sympathise with the Indian scepticism in light of the previous incidents. The leaders of both sides along with an overwhelming majority of people, on either side, have concluded that peace is the order of the day.

The respected anchor’s statement denouncing the initiative is sad and definitely a reactionary response. Perhaps there are many like him on the other side hogging screen time, peddling the same narrative. But it is rather disheartening that we are still going round and round, inciting the same time-tested and completely failed ‘enemy syndrome’ on both ends. The crowd at the venue of course chanted slogans of Takbeer and renewed their vows to defend the fortress of Islam. One gentleman made a rather amusing remark; he felt that Ajmal Kasab was an innocent villager and somehow framed. The usual Pakistani gripe of Indian insincerity towards peace and the Kashmir issue was repeated over and over. The Indian media’s role in maligning Pakistan was discussed at great length as well.

Now this is rather ridiculous as Kasab was captured on closed circuit TV in India as one of the main culprits of the Mumbai mayhem back in 2008. Yes, he was framed for sure, not by some conspiring and conniving person, but by the eye of the camera. We can sit and argue endlessly that it is a ‘grand conspiracy’, but the facts will not alter. Indeed, there are many characters like him within us and perhaps there are many on the other side. Some of those were perhaps behind the Samjhota Express massacre.

The loss of innocent lives to feed the lust of a silent and, regrettably, violent minority is reprehensible. The rust of ages is not going to disappear in days. Yes, it will take some time. However, the governments on both sides have to make a concerted and sincere effort to expedite things within their reach. The secretary and junior level talks have been progressing at the pace of a rather sleepy snail. It is high time that the premiers sit face to face and make some bold and historic moves.

Similarly, media on both ends has to play a responsible role in healing wounds and not reopening the old and inflicting some new ones. Children on both sides ought to live in a fair and peaceful region, where poverty is eliminated and prosperity can be embraced. Policy makers on both sides ought to revisit the opening scene of a Bollywood movie of the early 1990s called Henna. Incidentally, our foreign minister shares the name of the leading lady of the movie. The opening scene showed a flowing river, which runs through both countries, without distinction. Peace and prosperity is much like that river that needs to run through our lands to wash away all unnecessary blood that was shed. Peace in all its tiny bits and pieces is far better than decades of meaningless war and hostilities. I sincerely hope someone in the corridors of power can see and utilise the flow of peace.

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