Battle cries

India and Pakistan ‘celebrated’ the fiftieth anniversary of the 1965 war last week. The celebrations on both sides of the border were at such large scale that it was nauseating to say the least. Those who questioned these celebrations were called ‘unpatriotic’, ‘traitors’, etc., when in fact they were the only sane voices out there. What are we trying to show by celebrating a war that resulted in thousands of casualties on both sides and put a dent in our economies?

Apart from the loss of lives, wars cause destruction, make people homeless, leave scars on the minds of those affected by wars, and push back countries for decades economically. No wonder civilised countries do not celebrate wars; they may celebrate the end of wars but they do not behave in a callous manner by ‘celebrating’ wars.

As Dawn editorial (‘Fifty years on’, September 6, 2015) notes: “A jingoistic Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to revel in India’s supposed military prowess. Meanwhile, a military stretched and under threat in Pakistan appears more interested in giving a befitting verbal and visual response to India than focusing on the domestic security challenge. It is a familiar, if distressing, cycle.”

My friend and fellow columnist, Smita Prakash, wrote a thought-provoking piece (‘War or peace: 50 years on’) earlier this week on the same issue in this paper. India and Pakistan have not learnt anything from history. The people of the Indian subcontinent do not need more jingoism in their lives — what they need is redress of real issues that they face every day. Instead of spending billions of rupees on these war celebrations, this money could have been better utilised had it been spent on education, healthcare, infrastructure, clean drinking water, public toilets and other such public service sectors. India and Pakistan also need to end this deadlock and start talking to each other. If government level talks are a problem right now, they should at least revive back channel diplomacy.

At former Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri’s book launch ceremony in Lahore recently, Mani Shankar Aiyar — who was a keynote speaker at the event — said that in a war, nobody is defeated and nobody is a victor. He said that it is necessary for dialogue between the two South Asian neighbours to be uninterruptible as it is the only way forward. One should really adhere to voices like Mr Aiyar’s and others who do not have any vested interest and only want peace in the region.

On another note, Pakistan is beginning to go through yet another period of censorship. The Lahore High Court (LHC) has directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to ban the broadcast of images and speeches of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain across all electronic and print media. While one may not agree with the speeches of Mr Hussain, to put a blanket ban on his photographs or statements altogether from the media is wrong at many levels. Today it is Mr Hussain, tomorrow it will be somebody else. Censorship does no good to anyone. All it does is mislead people. We have been misled enough. It is time to put a stop to such steps.

(Originally published in Mid-Day)


Anonymous said…
Mehmal, Hello.
Kya aap email id share kar sakti hain?
Dadoji said…
Few voices from this side of the border - all by Indian ex-diplomats.

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