A POET and political figure of international fame, Faiz Ahmed Faiz is known for his belief in building bridges — be it between people, countries, or cultures. How disheartening it is then that his daughter Moneeza Hashmi was not permitted to attend a conference in India a few days ago. Making matters even more shameful is the fact that she was not there as a casual attendee: in her capacity as the head of the creative and media wing of Kashf Foundation, Pakistan, Ms Hashmi had been invited as a guest speaker at the 15th Asia Media Summit, held in New Delhi on May 10. Arriving in the city a day before, however, she found that no room had been booked in her name at the hotel where the event was being held, since, she was told, no Pakistani had been invited. It turned out that, in fact, no Pakistani had been granted a visa to attend the event; she had been able to fly in because she had a prior visa that was still valid. When Ms Hashmi raised the matter with the organisers of the event, they expressed their helplessness in the face of pressure from the Indian government.
Perhaps the saddest part of the story is that this is only the latest example of India making immature moves against ordinary Pakistanis. On at least two earlier occasions, Pakistani theatre groups have been barred from performing in New Delhi. Certainly, this country does not have a shining record either when it comes to cultural events featuring Indian artists, but it is better than that of its neighbour under the Modi government. Ironically, the world’s largest democracy is fast losing the legitimacy that is expected to flow from the status. If even cultural events and ordinary people, who matter little on the diplomatic stage, are being targeted, it is difficult to see what hope there can be for a future softening of ties in the political realm between the two countries.
Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2018