In the last few weeks, one of the most important manifestations of the re-hyphenation of Pakistan and India was the underscoring of the stark reality: even in 2019 a catastrophic thing called war is bandied about as if it is a mere trifle.
The surrealness of it all, as events unfolded in a sequence so quick it was hard to decipher the enormity of what could have happened between two nuclear-armed countries that because of the creation of one from the other are so close in geographical terms their boundaries blur in some areas, quite literally.
Another thing that has happened is the emergence of Pakistan’s narrative regarding cessation of hostilities.
Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan addressed the nation through his televised speech on February 28. Khan emphasising Pakistan’s readiness for any form of combat as a retaliatory measure reiterated Pakistan’s commitment for non-engagement in exacerbation of hostility, stressing the importance of an immediate de-escalation.
From politicians to the saner voices in media regionally and internationally, the role of media in heightening of tensions between Pakistan and India has lately been a major subject of concern.
Media’s manufacturing of a narrative with hyping of tensions through distortion of truth and made-up stories, trivialisation of the horror of repercussions of even a small-scale war between Pakistan and India is neither insignificant nor an ignore-able phenomenon. It is about creation of an attitude, a mindset, which, repeated and reinforced, has a ripple effect, affecting the lives of 1.50 billion inhabitants of this region. This is no longer about the validity or untruth of the claims of Pakistan and India. It is simply a war of TRPs versus humanity.
And in the words of Prime Minister Imran Khan, let good sense prevail. War is NEVER the first and the last option. That too in 2019, when globally, there is initiation of a process to find an end to all ongoing conflicts.
Amidst airstrikes and planes being downed, Pakistan’s capture and release of Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, is the story of how one prime minister has the full realisation that war is never an option between two countries that even in 2019 have millions of people living under the poverty line, two countries whose peaceful co-existence could reap bilateral dividends that are beneficial not just to their own people but the entire region.
Prime Minister Khan two days after the capture of the Indian pilot announced during a joint session of parliament his release as a “peace gesture.” Releasing of Wing Commander Varthaman after his treatment as per the protocol of a captured soldier in a similar situation, and the whole of Pakistan demanding his immediate release, is simply a reiteration of the readiness and the acceptance of Pakistan government, army and people of the idea to have long-lasting peace with India. The hashtag #SayNoToWar is not a feel-good buzzword for Pakistan. It is the commitment of Prime Minister Khan for short and long-term stability of Pakistan in the context of its internal and regional reality.
And while certain media beat the drums of war, and two-way cross-border firing continues at the LoC...
On March 4, responding to Pakistanis’ desire for a Nobel Prize for peace, Prime Minister Khan tweeted: “I am not worthy of the Nobel Peace prize. The person worthy of this would be the one who solves the Kashmir dispute according to the wishes of the Kashmiri people and paves the way for peace & human development in the subcontinent.”
These are words of a leader whose vision is beyond self, beyond short-lived and narcissistic proclamations and jingoism for appeasement of misplaced public sentiments. These are words of a leader who sees Kashmir beyond the Pakistan-India lens. These are words of a leader who is determined to go beyond tokenism and bring to end all destructive activities of various militant groups in Pakistan. These are words of a leader whose decades-long endorsement of dialogue not bullets for cessation of war is the keystone of his recalibration of Pakistan’s regional and international foreign policy.
Chohan's hate speech
Prime Minister Khan wishes to make Pakistan a peaceful, stable and strong country that is for all Pakistanis, focused on the individual and collective good of Pakistan. The March 5 resignation of Punjab Minister for Information and Culture Fayyaz-ul-Hassan Chohan in the wake of his hate speech against Hindus is a reconfirmation of the commitment of Khan’s government and leadership: there will be no tolerance for bigotry and hate against any faith or community.
Chohan in his defence said: “I was addressing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Indian armed forces and their media, not the Hindu community in Pakistan. I apologise if my remarks hurt the Hindu community in Pakistan. My remarks were in no way directed at Pakistan’s Hindu community.”
Ludicrous that Chohan thinks it is acceptable to denigrate a religion while criticising an Indian prime minister and media. Criticising Modi for his politics vis-à-vis Pakistan is one thing, attacking his religion is a completely other thing. Our humanity forbids it, our religion forbids it.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar’s acceptance of Chohan’s resignation is another reiteration of Prime Minister Khan’s non-tolerance of any form of religious bigotry.
Summing it up in the words of his Minister of State for Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari: “Appalling and embarrassing stance that may reflect a personal opinion but certainly has nothing to do with what PM Imran Khan stands for or the spirit behind PTI. ALL faiths in Pakistan ARE and WILL ALWAYS BE equal, that must be the essence of our belief.”
Fully supporting his leadership in his mission to make Pakistan the best version of itself, thank you, Prime Minister Imran Khan, for leading by example.