A few days ago one of Pakistan’s most famous politicians visited India to propagate the message of peace and solidarity. However, some of his statements regarding Mumbai attacks and India’s alleged involvement causing instability in the province of Balochistan did not sit well with many political leaders of India. His statements instigated a series of verbal attacks from both sides jeopardising the much awaited cricket series and the overall peace process.
The statements he made are quite debatable; however, what motivated him to make such claims on a peace drive is absolutely unfathomable. I personally do not agree with the words of the aforementioned state figure and believe that he should have refrained from making statements on such a sensitive issue because of their negative effects.
On a completely different front, a week and a half ago, Zeeshan Abbasi, Captain of Pakistan’s blind cricket squad accidentally drank ‘phenyl’ whilst staying at a hotel in Bangalore giving skeptics another very important cue to hatch conspiracy theories. Although Abbasi drank phenyl, which is a common cleaning agent used in the subcontinent, various Pakistani news channels reported that he was ‘made to drink acid’ adding more fuel to the already lit and growing fire.
The comments made by citizens of both the countries perplexed and saddened me immensely and prompted me to hit the roads and ask people about their true opinion and feelings over both the aforementioned solitary incidents — incidents that instigated people to launch a series of verbal attacks blaming each other for malicious acts.
The frantic feedback I got from people ranged from “I am sure he was poisoned out of sheer jealousy because we were winning” to “we want Pakistani authorities to handover all the alleged attackers to India as without that I don’t see any peace process happening”. Whereas other people went on to say that “I do not care who said what and what exactly took place in Bangalore but I am sure that India and Pakistan can never be friends” and “we will forget the past and be friends with Pakistan and then militant factions in Pakistan will launch another attack on Indian soil killing innocent Indian without any reason.”
The other half of Indians and Pakistanis that I called and met were so enraged that they refused to give me any statement at all. However, a non-resident Indian from Detroit, Michigan agreed to sit down with me for a small interview on condition of anonymity and provided me with at least some rationale behind the anger.
“For us the most important issue is to see the perpetrators and militants behind Mumbai attacks behind the bars. We want them to be tried and punished according to the law of the state. Whether that happens in Pakistan or India we do not care. We only want to see that the justice is served. Honestly speaking when I read about how militants who took Mumbai under siege for days roaming freely around in Pakistan, I feel angry and disgusted. On the top of that when Pakistani politicians visit India and make ludicrous statements about lack of evidence for not trying the man and releasing him, I want to question them that if Ajmal Kasab is not a sufficient enough evidence then what qualifies as evidence according to the Pakistani authorities?”
He went on to say that the “sheer act of negligence which resulted in the consumption of phenyl by Abbasi has been turned into several conspiracy theories. Many Pakistanis think that it was a deliberate act of hatred and are demanding justice through thorough investigation of the matter. However, these same people fail to realise that scores of Indians and citizens of many other countries lost their lives during Mumbai attacks of 2008 and there is significant evidence against the perpetrators who are still at large. Our demands are also the same. We want justice and thorough investigation of the case which will bring some consolation to the survivors and people who were affected by the tragic incident.”
The fierce reaction I received made me think that perhaps this is not the best time to ask people of their opinion as once again the emotions are at an all-time high which is why the responses are pretty much extremely naïve and unreasonable. However, it is most important to understand that words spoken by a dignitary or words written by a handful of Indians and Pakistanis on a comment box of a news website do not represent the true emotions of the majority. Many of us fail to realise that it takes years and years of effort to convince people residing on both sides of the border to even initiate a peace dialogue process and all it takes is an absurd statement or unfortunate incident to take us back to square one.
The fierce reaction also makes me wonder if we have ever given peace and friendship a real chance or is it just that most of us are hypocrites. I know that it is absolutely unfair to compare an act of negligence with and act involving terror attacks, however, it is most important to understand that majority of Pakistanis have nothing to do with terrorism. Many of them have the same sentiments about Mumbai attacks and the masterminds behind them as Indians because loss of innocent lives can never be justified. Many sane Pakistanis also firmly believe that Abbasi was certainly not poisoned and the act was nothing but sheer negligence on the part of hotel personnel.
The optimist inside me makes me want to believe that most of us as humans are in favour of peace and long-lasting friendship — which is not easily affected by incidents which are beyond the controls of an average Pakistani or an Indian. Many of us will continue to strive hard and will go several extra miles to bring about a positive change in the cross-border relations because it is high time for us to give peace and love a real chance.