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Peace, but with justice

Published Dec 16, 2012 12:15am


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SINCE an improvement in bilateral relations was clearly not on Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s agenda, why did he come to India? There has to be some rational reason.

Tourism offers a possibility. Taj Mahal, that magnificent metaphor for love, is a powerful magnet for our western neighbours even when India-Pakistan affairs are not in a honeymoon phase, tinged as it is by that wistful feel of so-near-yet-so-far. You cannot really blame a minister for dropping by to take a look in the last months of office, before next summer’s elections inevitably take his job away and his security ring withers.

Then there is religious tourism, which ostensibly brought Asif Zardari to India; particularly the mausoleums of Hazrat Nizamuddin of Delhi and Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer, saints and symbols of unity built around a humane philosophy.

What a pity that religious tourism was not included in the minor visa reforms signed by the fractious neighbours. That would have driven up demand for travel. After five decades of hammering at the wall that went up after the 1965 war, divided Muslim families have virtually given up on preserving kinship across hostile borders. The emotional and physical cost is too high. But the great dargahs from an undivided past remain a solace to the soul.

Rehman Malik obviously did not come merely to sign the visa document. Bureaucrats would have sufficed for this illusion. Visas have been made easier for those who cannot travel alone, the under-12s, and those who will not travel alone, the over-65s. Both categories, exceptions apart, need the company of an adult still trapped in the humiliation of the present process.

Frankly, it does not seem sensible that Rehman Malik came merely to see the Taj or prove that he can use a fountain pen. I think I have the answer. He came to India to win the next election in Pakistan. His first press conference in Delhi was not addressed to Indians; he was talking to the more vitriolic of his constituencies in Pakistan.

Rehman Malik has admirable clarity, supported by a noticeable absence of sentiment and no sense of embarrassment. Nor is he troubled by doubt. The rules of politics, for him, are far more important than the laws of hospitality. An old maxim of behaviour demands that guests should not be rude to their hosts. Rehman Malik has no such qualms. No visitor has been as deliberately offensive towards Indians as Malik managed to be within hours of landing in Delhi.

Perhaps Malik, and others like him, do not want to understand what the terrorist savagery in Mumbai means to Indians. India watched transfixed as this horror unfolded on television. India heard the interaction between killers and their command centre in Pakistan, run by Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives.

Pakistan’s present high commissioner in Delhi Salman Bashir once dismissed Indian evidence provided by home minister P. Chidambaram as “mere literature”; Malik thinks that additional material is “only information”, possibly because his English is not as good as Bashir’s. But both mean the same thing.

Rehman Malik added that Ajmal Kasab’s evidence against the Lashkar and its leader Hafiz Saeed “needs further corroboration”. Sorry about that, Mr Malik, but all those who could have done so are either dead in Mumbai or alive in Pakistan. The dead can’t talk. The living can.

Rehman Malik says Pakistan courts have exonerated Saeed. But any court can only go as far as the evidence offered by the prosecution. If the police make a thin case, or no case at all, the judgment will reflect it. The Pakistan police report to Rehman Malik.

What puzzles me is India’s unwillingness to question Islamabad about the role of the ISI in the Mumbai havoc. It is not only Kasab who has provided details; David Headley has outlined a whole narrative of how ISI officers helped lead, manage and finance this operation. Headley is not in an Indian prison, but an American one.

Have Dr Manmohan Singh and Mrs Sonia Gandhi decided that it is time India forgot about Mumbai and moved on, as Rehman Malik publicly urged India to do? I imagine that our leaders squirmed a little when Rehman Malik declared Hafiz Saeed innocent, or indeed when he blamed the death of Kargil martyr Saurabh Kalia on the weather rather than enemy atrocity.

Perhaps they think that cricket will wash such tremors away with a great feel-good wave. They have also developed, on a parallel track, a little ploy: all those who want accountability are bloodthirsty hawks; and all those tilting towards obfuscation are little doves full of grace and wisdom.

India is not divided into hawks and doves. A majority of Indians wants peace with Pakistan, but they want peace with justice. Indians know that Mumbai might fade from memory but will never disappear, and that Pakistan can do something to ease the pain. Pakistan can ensure that the Mumbai masterminds do not laugh derisively while Indian hearts burn.

Is that too much to ask, Dr Singh?

The writer is editor of The Sunday Guardian, published from Delhi, India on Sunday, published from London and editorial director, India Today and Headlines Today.


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

Comments (13) Closed

doctor Dec 16, 2012 04:50pm
Incredible is this writer. In my opinion "best in the world'. Read his last write-up on Hashim Amla if you have any doubt.
(Dr.) B.N. Anand Dec 16, 2012 12:34pm
Indeed, Mr. MJ Akbar has truly reflected the sentiments of a common man in this country. It is also a fact that cricket diplomacy can not wash away the pain . Cricket had been played before also between our countries, but that hardly helped in bonding, so it is naive to hope that this fresh initiative in terms of cricket diplomacy will sooth the hurt feelings of this nation. BNA
Anirudh Dec 16, 2012 01:18pm
As a tit-for-tat, India too can send a senior official/minister to Pakistan who talks without thinking.
hope Dec 16, 2012 04:54pm
M J Akbar sir u r true patriotic indian muslim .. we will prefer you as the foreign minister & PM in near future instead of the what we have in MMS , Sonia n Salman Khursheed...great article indeed !
Krishna Dec 16, 2012 04:02pm
Well written article, transends partisan columnists I read often in Dawn. You reflect the minds of most Indians with the secular thoughts.
Dahij Dec 16, 2012 02:57pm
Well said. Mr. Akbar. Thank you.
quraish Dec 16, 2012 08:22pm
very well said
Hindu Dec 16, 2012 03:03pm
M.J. Akbar saahab, hats off to you. You are a great Indian Muslim.
Akhlesh Dec 16, 2012 11:06am
M.J. Akbar has truly captured the sentiments of the Indian common mango.
shivkumar Dec 16, 2012 03:42pm
Rehman Malik has done great damage to the cause of Indo-Pak relations by his cavalier approach. He has been held a liar by the Supreme Court of Pakistan for dual citizenship. It is high time that the Pakistanis realise that it is totally unfair to play with Indian sentiments. Pakistan should stop this silly excuse of no evidence given by India, while the perpetrators are sitting in Pakistan and based on evidence already provided, Pakistan has to conduct enquiry in Pakistan and bring the criminals to book, but the question that arises is, does the Pakistan government have the guts to do so. Three cheers to M.J.Akbar for calling spade a spade.
G.A. Dec 16, 2012 06:51pm
I agree that Pakistan should act on the perpetrators of Mumbai attack. These extremists are also creating havoc in Pakistan. However, Mr. Akbar should also question the Indian government as to the role played by Sarabjit Singh and the two Indian spies recently released by Pakistan in terrorism within Pakistan. Remember, both Indian spies have confessed that they were sent by the Indian intelligence. Indians tend to act too innocent.
Cyrus Howell Dec 16, 2012 06:23pm
Obviously Rehman Malik aspires to a higher post in government. He has inspired the people with a higher level of confidence in him because he is not responsible for any of Pakistan's problems. He is always able to point out the guilty parties.
gir na Dec 16, 2012 07:33am
@M.J Akbar You are a respected journalist in the country and your role after 26/11 attack to bring harmony in the society is commendable and admirable. You talked about religious tourism , it's right, brings chuckles on the face of money lovers like me. But Money can't take first place when security is on agenda.If these blood thirsty religious bodies can use cricket match for their heinous act , then religious tourism is an opportunity for them . And as you mentioned Congress gov shows its uselessness by inviting leaders like the one they have invited now.