The first thing that automatically clicks in our mind is “Muslims versus Hindus” when comparing India and Pakistan.
In the same spirit, Indians’ first thought is terrorism when they hear the name Pakistan. Both mentalities are clear from the media reports across the borders. We have been consistently told by the stalwarts of Pakistani nationalism in complicity with the religious fanatics that Hindus are our worst enemies.
In the same vein Indians are told by their media that Pakistan rears, nourishes and grooms terrorism and militancy. The recent cases of an alleged Indian spy in Pakistan named Sarabjeet Singh whose death and consequent retaliation by elements in India attacking a Pakistani prisoner in gaol are just two examples.
In Pakistan an Indian hand is always pictured behind the unending ills of society whereas Indians are taught that Pakistan is an illegitimate country born out of hatred and religious bias. The Pakistani “right” is always in search of negative news about India and Indians. Similarly the Indian media looks for bad news from Pakistan.
They report Pakistan in a dramatized way which may be called everything but journalism. Even the Indian cinema depicts Pakistanis as people of the medieval ages. In Pakistan, it is often lamented that the society is under the onslaught of “Indian culture,” but at the same time our spurious TV channels run Indian movies’ song in prime time news bulletins and do not lose a moment to make a mockery of the politicians with Bollywood songs playing in the background. There are these any many other paradoxes in Pak-India relations and interactions.
Pakistanis and Indians share the same cultural origin; and they don’t even differ in physique, environment and civilization legacy.
Politically and socially there are plenty of areas where India did better than Pakistan. First and foremost is the process of democracy. India has consistently followed that while Pakistan has lingered between democracy and dictatorship since the partition; and is unfortunately still uncertain about the fate of the incumbent democracy in the country.
Constitutionally Pakistan lags far behind India in fulfilling the international norms. In India any citizen can be the country’s president but in Pakistan the door to this highest position is closed on non-Muslims. Our constitution even plays the role of a puritan declaring its citizens as non-Muslims.
Socially Pakistan is now more radical, and is looking up to past for redemption.
Extremism, fundamentalism and terrorism has festered in Pakistan whereas India’s democracy provides better posterity. One may argue international politics has a role in what has happened in Pakistan owing to the geopolitical position of the country but we shouldn’t forget that many of the ills we have are the logical outcomes of the deeds done by our too short-sighted leaders.
And perhaps the starkest reality is the laxity infused in our blood which has rendered our society too polarized to stand against the atrocities done either by the state actors or the so-called non-state actors. Unfortunately we have a history of violence but of no rightful and peaceful protest. The outrage by the society on human rights violation, even killing of people in Pakistan proves too short and minimal while in India they have a history of peaceful but persevered protest. They have Gandhi behind this way of safeguarding one’s rights while we do have an armed way to that end.
For instance, the recent outrage by the civil society of India against a gang rape in New Delhi has proved how much democracy has empowered and disciplined Indians to secure their civil liberties. In Pakistan polio workers are killed and we see no anger from the society; people adhering to different beliefs are murdered and there is complete silence; and above all political leaders are killed but the society never protests peacefully. Yet when there is outrage nationwide in Pakistan it never ends without violence. The Yaum-e-Ishq’s uncontrolled and criminal outrage last year is just one example.
Pakistan has now to decide whether it has to learn from India or hate it more; and the former has also to think to change the way Pakistan is demonized there. Unless and until there is drastic change in the mindset in both the societies the Aman Ki Asha (urge for peace) will remain a dream.
Zubair Torwali is a researcher, linguist and human rights activist. Born and raised in Bahrain Swat, Pakistan, he heads the Institute for Education and Development, a civil society organization working for the conservation of cultural, lingual and natural heritage among the linguistic communities in north Pakistan. Zubair was recently awarded the Prof. Anita Ghulam Ali Award of Teachers and Education in Emergencies. Read other articles by Zubair.