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Why my heart said Pakistan Zindabad!


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It is not easy these days for an Indian to say good things about Pakistan and, most likely, vice versa. Whenever I write something good about Pakistan on social media, I get a barrage of brickbats from ultra-nationalist Indians telling me, “Go and settle in Pakistan. We don’t need you here.”

Anyone engaged in peace activism should genuinely have goodwill for the other side, and a mind open to seeing and acknowledging all things admirable about the other side. When India and Pakistan adopt this approach, it will surely create mutual trust and better understanding — both of which are essential for durable peace.

My participation in the recent Islamabad Literature Festival (April 15 to 17) gave me an opportunity to get a glimpse of the best of Pakistan — its rich cultural and spiritual heritage, so lovingly showcased by Lok Virsa, the sprawling arts and cultural complex which was the venue of ILF.

Its many achievements on the development front (the motorway between Wagah Border and Islamabad via Lahore is far superior to any that India has built so far).

Me with young Pakistanis at the Islamabad Literature Festival.
Me with young Pakistanis at the Islamabad Literature Festival.

The friendly voices of its knowledge-hungry youth. The amazing erudition of Pakistani writers and the creativity of its artistes; and, above all, the healthy air of candour, self-criticism and positivity that pervaded the festival.

Frank voices on issues that matter

Indo-Pak dialogue cannot be genuine or fruitful unless three issues are squarely addressed:

  1. The unresolved dispute over Kashmir

  2. India’s ire over terrorist acts committed in India by groups operating from Pakistani soil

  3. Pakistan’s anger over subversive activities in Balochistan supported by India.

On the last point, I categorically stated:

“India should not play any role, overt or covert, in Balochistan. India should respect Pakistan’s unity and territorial integrity, just as Pakistan should respect India’s unity and territorial integrity.”

On terrorism and religious extremism, many Pakistani voices at the festival frankly acknowledged that this is mostly a “self-created” menace, and poses an “existential threat” to the country.

Take a look: Pakistanis seem to love Indians. Do Indians feel the same way?

Sadly, most Indians do not know that Pakistan has lost nearly 50,000 people in terrorist attacks in the past 15 years — more than the number of terror victims in India. The Indian media does not focus much on the Pakistan Army’s massive anti-terror operations, which it is determined to win.

“We are engaged in an active war,” said Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan’s articulate former foreign minister, in her keynote address at ILF. “But we’re on the right track now. Though belatedly, we’re correcting a wrong.”

Highlighting the gravity of the problem, she mentioned that there was only one case of suicide bombing in Pakistan before 9/11. Since then, the number has crossed three digits.

I was surprised at the hand-clapping that greeted Khar when she said Pakistan should develop friendly relations with all its neighbours, including India. But, later I heard many such introspective voices at ILF.

Kashmir is indeed the core issue

India’s political establishment, by and large, does not recognise the centrality of the Kashmir dispute in Indo-Pak relations. This dismays me.

Therefore, speaking as a panelist in the session devoted to the launch of Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri’s widely praised book, "Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove", I stated:

“Kashmir is indeed the core issue between India and Pakistan. Our two countries have accepted in the Shimla Pact of 1972 that ‘a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir’ is yet to be reached. Experience has shown that war — be it a conventional war or war by other means (terrorism) — cannot yield a solution to the Kashmir problem.”

Read: Why go to war with India?

To emphasise this point, I quoted Indian poet Sahir Ludhianvi’s rousing words:

Jang to khud hi masla hai, jang kya maslon ka hal degi

War is in itself a problem. How can it produce a solution to any problem?

(In my speech at ILF, I had wrongly attributed these lines to Faiz Ahmed Faiz. My apologies.)

I added that India and Pakistan should show a sense of urgency in arriving at a just and mutually acceptable solution to the Kashmir problem, which would also be acceptable to a majority of Kashmiris.

Partition cannot be undone, but its follies must be

ILF gave me another occasion to make a strong case for peace and reconciliation between India and Pakistan.

This was during a session titled ‘1947: The Parting of Ways’, in which two books were discussed. The first was Professor Ishtiaq Ahmed’s award-winning book, "The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed: Unravelling the 1947".

The second was my own new book, "August Voices: What they said on 14-15 August 1947", and its relevance for India-Pakistan rapprochement.

At my book launch at Islamabad LitFest. To my left are Ishtiaq Ahmed and FS Aijazuddin.
At my book launch at Islamabad LitFest. To my left are Ishtiaq Ahmed and FS Aijazuddin.

I disagreed with the formulation of the topic for the session:

"1947 does not mark the parting of ways between India and Pakistan. Rather, as my book unequivocally shows, the real message of 1947 is for India and Pakistan to come together in a new relationship of peace, cooperation and good-neighbourliness."

My book features Partition-time reflections of eight great historical personalities — Mahatma Gandhi, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maharshi, Aurobindo, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Swami Ranganathananda and Ananda Coomaraswamy.

I have shown that none of the main protagonists of the freedom movement wanted the post-1947 India-Pakistan relations to become what they have become — full of hostility and mistrust.

My book also shows how the seeds of Indo-Pak reconciliation can be found in our common anti-colonial movement itself.

Surprisingly, the Pakistani audience broadly endorsed my arguments.

There was applause when I quoted Gandhiji’s audacious statement:

Both India and Pakistan are my countries. I am not going to take out a passport to go to Pakistan."

I was even more astonished when people put their hands together to greet my references showing that Jinnah wanted India-Pakistan relations to be akin to USA-Canada relations, and, unbelievably, that he wanted to go back to Bombay and live in the house he had built for himself on Malabar hill.

I asked:

If the fathers of our nations did not envisage India and Pakistan to be separated by an impregnable wall, why have we erected such a wall?

Why do our two governments deny visas even to relatives in divided families wishing to have family reunions?

Why are we so nasty, instead of being nice, to each other?

I clarified that my argument was not for undoing Partition itself. Rather, it was for undoing the follies and tragedies of Partition. One major folly was that the Muslim League based its demand for Pakistan on the spurious ‘Two-Nation’ theory, which claimed that Hindus and Muslims constitute two separate nations that cannot coexist.

History has proved its falsity. Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan in 1971. Also, nearly 200 million Muslims (equal to the population of Pakistan) continue to live in post-1947 India. They surely do not constitute a “Muslim nation” within India.

The other folly: both the Congress and the Muslim League left the task of India’s division to the very colonial masters from whom they were seeking freedom.

As Professor Ishtiaq Ahmed’s book proves with elaborate documentation, the British performed this task with criminal insensitivity. India’s partition led to the wholly avoidable holocaust — over 500,000 people (Hindu, Muslim, Sikh) killed and 14 million people rendered refugees — the largest episode of transborder migration in human history. Punjab was the worst victim of this tragedy.

For me, the pain of Punjab became all the more acute since I had been reading this book as I travelled on road from Amritsar to Lahore via Wagah border.

The Indo-Pak checkpost at Wagah provides a visible proof of the folly as well as well as the tragedy of the kind of unnatural Partition our two peoples have inherited.

‘This is the Pakistan that will survive — and triumph!’

The last session at ILF — that was devoted to Sufi spiritual music — proved how Pakistan's culture and civilisation is inseparably linked to India's. I have listened to a lot of Sufi music in India, but never have I been as enraptured as I was when Shyama Saiyid presented a kathak dance in praise of Kanhaiya (Krishna, a revered Hindu deity).

Shyama Saiyid performing a kathak dance at the ILF.
Shyama Saiyid performing a kathak dance at the ILF.

If Shyama’s dance was a tribute to religious harmony, so were the songs of Bulleh Shah rendered by Qurban Ali Niazi, son of the legendary Sufi singer, Tufail Niazi.

In the immortal poetry of this 17th century patron saint of the undivided Punjab’s plural (Muslim-Hindu-Sikh), culture we find the strongest refutation of the kind of bloody religious divide that took place in 1947.

Qurban Niazi singing Bulleh Shah's songs at ILF.
Qurban Niazi singing Bulleh Shah's songs at ILF.

Qurban Ali did not sing alone. He had come with his three highly-gifted grandsons, all less than ten years in age. It is said about these boys that they started singing even before they started speaking. When they sang and danced, the hall reverberated with the demand: “Once more, once more”.

After three eventful days, the mesmerising effect of ILF’s sounds and sights on me was now reaching its climax.

Qurban Niazi's grandsons performing at ILF.
Qurban Niazi's grandsons performing at ILF.

The climax ultimately came when both the grandfather and the grandsons sang the iconic Sufi song ‘Damadam Mast Qalandar’ — originally written by Hazrat Nizamuddin and modified by Bulleh Shah.

How can there be ‘Damadam Mast Qalandar’ without the audience joining the singers for a bout of Punjabi bhangra?

When Qurban Niazi signed off with a full-throated ‘Pakistan Zindabad!’, a voice arose within me, a voice from my heart that said, ‘Long Live Pakistan!’

It was a reiteration of what I had said at the Litfest:

Neither Pakistan is India’s enemy, nor India is Pakistan’s enemy. People like me in India would like to see that Pakistan remains united, and becomes more stable, more democratic, more prosperous, more harmonious and more at peace with itself."

I was sitting next to erudite author-columnist F.S. Aijazuddin and his scholar-wife Shehnaz. He was the moderator of the session on my book.

When I shared my heart’s affirmation with him, he said, with enormous pride and conviction, “This is the Pakistan that will survive.”

Examine: Pakistan-India peace: A good idea that nobody wants

I later went up to co-founder of the Karachi and Islamabad Literature Festivals, Ameena Saiyid and confessed that ILF made me say to myself: ‘Pakistan Zindabad!’

She gave me a spontaneous hug.

This is the Pakistan that will one day triumph — soul-searching, self-correcting and trying to find its true self in a friendly relationship with a similarly self-reforming India.

— Photos provided by author

A shorter version of this article was earlier published on The Indian Express.

Author Image

Sudheendra Kulkarni was an aide to India's former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

He is currently chairman of the Observer Research Foundation in Mumbai. He is the author of "Music of the Spinning Wheel: Mahatma Gandhi’s Manifesto for the Internet Age" and, more recently, of "August Voices".

He tweets @SudheenKulkarni and welcomes readers’ comments at

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (73) Closed

Mohd. Apr 27, 2016 02:09pm

A lovely article...

Salih Apr 27, 2016 02:16pm

So beautiful...Thanks Kulkarni Sab.

Jawed Sheikh Apr 27, 2016 02:23pm

Thank you Sir, for your thoughtful comments on Pakistan

Mohammed Apr 27, 2016 02:27pm

In spite of all these feel-good stories of individual experiences, the Pakistan-India 'relationship' is probably the most dysfunctional geo-political relationship anywhere in the world.

Adnan Apr 27, 2016 02:28pm

A lovely write-up! Thank you Mr.Kulkarni for seeing Pakistan beyond the blinkers of nationalistic hype on both sides of the border.

Fahad Amir Apr 27, 2016 02:33pm

Great views . wish all of us would hold this view. our countries need this ideology.

Zafar Apr 27, 2016 02:34pm

Amazing! Please tell this to India also. We mean peace and we mean business.

MindShare Apr 27, 2016 02:38pm

Many thanks for sharing your views.

Sarcastic Scoundrel Apr 27, 2016 02:53pm

If you say what people want to hear, you will get applause ...

k k tiwari Apr 27, 2016 02:57pm

well Said Sir !

unbiased Apr 27, 2016 03:14pm

well a Salute to you. It is only a man with big heart who can write such things.

Umesh Apr 27, 2016 03:22pm

If my understanding is correct, the right meaning of "Zindabad" is "May always remain alive". I would say, "May always remain lively" thus nothing wrong......In spite of being an Indian I would say Pakistan Zindabad. Lively Pakistan, rather lively neighbor augurs well. Jiyo mere Bhai yo.

leon Apr 27, 2016 03:35pm

I wouldnt say anything true meaning which beats me.. I would say let Pakistanis be happy and live free and let others happy and free

irshad Apr 27, 2016 03:36pm

Thank you for your sentiments about Pakistan.

Asif Jamil Apr 27, 2016 04:06pm

I read this article with great interest, he is a true ambassador of peace between the two countries. I can tell you from my own experiences and visits to India, I met with a lot of love, goodwill, and hospitality. People to people contacts will promote peace between India & Pakistan. Don't forget we have the same DNA.

ak Apr 27, 2016 04:19pm

Your views on the matter are just astonishing. Your words are filled with love, purity, affection and above all, a true sense of what has been done and what should be done. Thankyou for sharing your views. I and all Pakistanis have and will always be warmly welcoming towards our India neighbors.

ak Apr 27, 2016 04:24pm

@Sarcastic Scoundrel VERY mature. Friendly advice, if you dont have anything nice to say, dont say anything. Such articles are for bringing people close, not for getting applauded.

Abbas Apr 27, 2016 04:38pm

Kulkarni sb Zindabad :)

Masood Apr 27, 2016 04:41pm

@Sarcastic Scoundrel , absolutely. If somebody is making sense prevailing to the current situation, that sense should be applauded by-heart not to be swallowed like a bitter pill.

Chaudhry Apr 27, 2016 04:45pm

A very good article

Roy Apr 27, 2016 04:55pm

Why not, Pakistan Zindabad.

Imran Apr 27, 2016 05:35pm

Thank you Sir. May your sentiments find a place more broadly in both India and Pakistan.

Haris Riaz Apr 27, 2016 05:54pm

Delighted to read this article .I wish every Indian intillectual should visit Pakistan n see by himself how beautiful people live in this culturallary rich country .

Awais Hameed Apr 27, 2016 07:33pm

I recently visited India during T20 WC and came back with memories not different from the feelings of Kukarni sahab. People of Chandigarh and Mohali were so warm and welcoming whenever they knew that I was from Pakistan. We need more people-to-people connections for warding off the prevailing atmosphere of distrust between Pakistan and India.

turbo Apr 27, 2016 07:46pm


Rustom E Hind Apr 27, 2016 09:11pm

i have no issue Pakistan prosper , grows stronger ect

my issue is Mumbai attack as my friend died he was working at taj hotel

I can maybe agree they were non state actors, but why not give voice sample of the people india is asking for, what is the problem, if they are involved punish them

Khwarezmi Apr 27, 2016 09:20pm

The day Kashmiris get their will will be the day India will find a friend and ally in Pakistan.

Interested Apr 27, 2016 09:41pm

The term Hindu refers to a collection of beliefs and practices of a number of castes and communities. Muslims were the strongest single community in united India which they had dominated for a thousand years. By Partition they lost most of India to gain two obscure regions at the two ends of the subcontinent.

sss Apr 27, 2016 09:42pm

I rarely get touched by anything written by an Indian, but then there are always exceptions...Pakistan Zindabad.

Pal Sharma Apr 27, 2016 09:47pm

I'll always say Pakistan Zindabad. This was the land of parents who appreciated every day. I'll also day India Zindabaad. What is wrong in saying good things about each other.

qwekids Apr 27, 2016 09:54pm

Kulkarni who killed dream of Advani. Thanks god he and people like him lost power in delhi.

Jalaluddin S. Hussain Apr 27, 2016 10:22pm

As a Pakistani-Canadian I agree with the following view:

" ... India and Pakistan should show a sense of urgency in arriving at a just and mutually acceptable solution to the Kashmir problem, which would also be acceptable to a majority of Kashmiris."

I write a regular column in a Toronto magazine, Canadian Asian News. To read this Internet magazine you can go to

Ali Apr 27, 2016 10:34pm

Hugs and kisses Kulkarni Saheb

global citizen Apr 28, 2016 12:01am

what a beautiful piece. may both the countries prosper and live in peace like brothers, aameen!

Ali Apr 28, 2016 12:04am

Mr. Kulkurni's sentiments reflect those of millions of people in Pakistan and India who want to live in "peace and friendship". He experienced this wonderful reality on his visit to Pakistan. Its the leaders on both sides who are petty, self serving and corrupt, as they continue spending billions on weapons, even though both are nuclear-weapon states.

Any war between India and Pakistan would lead to nuclear conflagration which would annihilate both the countries. We demand an end to such madness by our politicians. Kashmir and all other problems can be resolved peacefully through negotiations, with commitment and sincerity. The people of India and Pakistan deserve better.

Sri1 Apr 28, 2016 12:57am

Voices like Tarek Fatah's are making the rounds in India and influencing Indians a lot more than those dovish "Aman ki Asha" noises like Kulkarni's. Indians completely empathize with civilians here, but not the leaderships who decide policy.

vrpatil Apr 28, 2016 01:05am

Its better to leave the unresolved issues to hawkish , foreign policy experts and military men on both sides.And the rest,all liberals and responsible should live and share life and experiences with each other before they pass away.

Truth Apr 28, 2016 01:06am

good many of us know by now. The solution to some of the difficult and some of the easier issues will never be found until the political and defence classes are given this authority. Like Vajpayee started the movement of people to people contact, somebody needs to be pick up the mantle and every time a challange such as terror attack comes, these contacts should be increased by 3 folds. That would stop the attacks on either side and solution would be found.

HOPE. Apr 28, 2016 01:46am

Pakistan Zindabad.

A peace loving country attacked from all sides but keeps going. Live log and prosperous Pakistan.

Rana Nasir Apr 28, 2016 02:30am

We need people like you sir from both side. Warm wishes from Pakistan.

Shujaat Khan Apr 28, 2016 02:58am

Thank You Sodeendhra for writing your thoughts in such a beautiful manner and a big applause for DAWN to print such a heartfelt article . I belive most Pakistanis and Indians share deep in their hearts what you have penned Sodeendhra. Pakistan Zindabad.

Zak Apr 28, 2016 03:00am

India needs to do 2 things. 1- resolve kashmir and 2- teach facts in their schools. The people of Pakistan wanted to be seperate federation after independence from Brtish empire. If they teach respect instead of hate, indians mindset will change for the better.

Sachin Apr 28, 2016 03:12am

I have always had positive experiences with Pakistanis. Pakistanis are emotional people full of love and hospitality. The hatred between India and Pakistan has been created by politics and politics have embedded that hatred in school books so its right from childhood. Pakistan is a good nation of good people. I firmly and deeply believe that.

Saulat Haider Apr 28, 2016 03:38am

I found, some forces are more powerful until now than the peace-loving desires of Mr. Kukarni. We should not lose heart and continue to speak up against those elements who create division and hatred among two great neighbors. I hope peace-loving voices will win at the end. Both India & Pakistan Zindaabad.

Malik Apr 28, 2016 04:49am

Wonderful article.

rehan Apr 28, 2016 09:07am

The three points mentioned are indeed the core. Not a single point among them can removed.

ameena saiyid Apr 28, 2016 09:24am

a truly inspirational piece by an Indian public intellectual who has the courage of his conviction. I say Pakistan Zindabad and Hindustan Zindabad.

let's live in peace, love, and harmony and share and celebrate our composite culture. Only then will our countries be able to solve our real problems related to poverty, education, and health.

taffazull Apr 28, 2016 10:05am

The problem is neither territory nor terrorism, the problem is social injustice.As Benjamin Disraeli has eloquently pointed out in his book "Sybil or The Two Nations" if there are two Nations ( The Rich and The Poor) in one country the ruin of the common country is at hand.

Sumit Apr 28, 2016 10:38am

@Khwarezmi honestly you are not going to get much from kashmir... Some area can be exchanged... Like we settledwith bangladash... But even for that we need decades of peace and trust... Whichis very difficult at this point of time... So lets hope some xay things will get better and work toward it

Peace&Love4EO Apr 28, 2016 10:40am

Bravo....Kulkurni appear to be a nice person! In general people from south India are so friendly towards Pakistan in contrast to the north!

But who will tell Modi et al to watch their words about Pakistan.....

The words they utter are so hostile and unfriendly....

as they say...words are shadow of action....

and Pakistanis are watching the uttered words very carefully....

abdul Apr 28, 2016 10:42am

i like indians

Guru Apr 28, 2016 10:42am

@Rustom E Hind appears to be an official account!

Fried Chillies Apr 28, 2016 11:08am

Barring the young hacks in India no thinking Indian wishes ill for Pakistani people. The ire is directed towards the army.

Kashmir is mostly used the same way as a stone at a stray dog. No matter what people say at literature fest, delegation, security meets or UN it does not change the facts.

I can really dissect Sudheendra's thought process but that might require another article. Suffice to say where the writer cannot research the right poet whether it was Sahir Ludhiyanvi or Faiz Ahmed Faiz before quoting them the rest of the speech was of the same quality. Playing to the gallery without giving people on the other side an Indian narrative

R.Kannan Apr 28, 2016 11:26am

Kulkarni writes as if the common man, in either country, is against normal relations. The common man is more interested in his dal roti issues than in political matters. In Pakistan, the generals have the authority to veto any peace moves. what is his solution to that ? Without addressing this specific issue, he can keep meandering & pandering to those who write his pay cheque but no solution can emerge

syed wasim haider Apr 28, 2016 12:04pm

A very beautiful piece of work fully loaded with affection, sincerity and love. To add to his observations practically overseas Pakistanis and Indians are so much close to each other that other nationalities do not believe that these two countries have so bad relations at governmental level.

Niaz H. Jafri Apr 28, 2016 12:10pm

@Umesh Hats off to you !

Ali Azhar Apr 28, 2016 04:29pm

Well presented Sir! We really need Co-operation if we believe in co-existence.

Anil Mathew Apr 28, 2016 04:39pm

The day Pakistan's leaders understand that there are more important issues in India than Pakistan, the country will begin to prosper as its leaders start focusing on real issues facing the country.

Chicago Apr 28, 2016 07:29pm

@Asif Jamil Most American and Canadian have European DNA's but they live in peace and respect with each others.

Sudhir Neyalasinger Apr 28, 2016 07:47pm

Lovely piece. My own take. We're going to have Pakistan right next to us. We'll fight, we'll talk and we'll have pieces like these. We guys share a common culture and we are extremely curious about each others' lifestyles, food, culture etc. We can say a lot of things against each other, but we can't ignore one another. I don't know how long this peace process will take and how soon our leaders will settle our problems. I hope within my lifetime I'll sit with Harmony, Zak and many other people I have known on this forum on a Goan beach and enjoy some great food and drink. I hope they will invite me and other Indians on this forum to Karachi and other places and we have an equally good time. I hope that happens within my lifetime. Like Lennon said, `You may say I'm a dreamer. But I am not the only one'

Noni69 Apr 28, 2016 08:31pm


Nilesh Apr 28, 2016 09:25pm

Vajpayee was closest in solving things.... I donno why Kargil happened else everything would have been sorted.... Now things are not good as they were....

Tehmina Apr 28, 2016 11:28pm

a very good article thank you for your comments for Pakistan but the writer views about the two nation theory is absolutely wrong, our forefather were absolutely right on this account that Muslims and Hindus are two separate nations and they can not live together but it does not mean that they can not create friendly relation with each other. their should be peace efforts from both side and there should be peace and love between these two historical rival of the Asia.

M Apr 29, 2016 01:38am

Luv You Man for your though provoking thinking...

Sharmaji Apr 29, 2016 08:19am

Superb article Kulkarni Sir, Pakistan Zindabad ,long live prosper and progress . From Indian Brother

Pakistan First Apr 29, 2016 08:44am

An eye opener for people of Pakistan and India

Akil Akhtar Apr 29, 2016 10:00am

@Anil Mathew The day indians gave up their hatred for Pakistan and their efforts to wipe it out there will be peace....

Raaz Apr 29, 2016 10:44am

You may say Pakistan Zindabad, but no Pakistani would say Hindustan Zindabad

Changez_Khan Apr 29, 2016 12:20pm

Majority on both sides want a friendly relation but there are some handful on both sides that do not.

Great article from a peace loving person.

Sajjad Khan Apr 29, 2016 12:29pm

How sad when the people with the same cultural ancestry hate each other so much. If there were no religion in this world ?

SHRIKANT PURANIK Apr 29, 2016 04:04pm

A thought-provoking write-up

Pakistani Apr 29, 2016 05:25pm

Sadly we would still be fighting each other in the end.

Irfan Jafri Apr 30, 2016 06:45am

The ultimate thesis on India - Pakistan relations. Nothing beyond this. Says it all.