By Vijay Phanshikar :
I n Pakistan, something is happening, worthy of attention in India. Though forming a very small minority, some members of Pakistani intelligentsia are asking questions, raising issues, daring authorities, even mocking people in power. They are making right noises, even though in the high-strung Pakistani society, they run the risk of being blamed and banned for blasphemy -- or even treason -- besides risking their lives. No matter the high-risk factors, these people are refusing to stop talking, asking questions about Pakistan’s policies, politics and polemics. They may be in minority, but they are engaged in the uphill task of transforming the national narrative from the current selfdestructive negativism to a self-elevating positivism. They demand that Pakistan gave up its myopic ideology and adopt the farsighted open-mindedness of India.
They refuse to make any compromises on their Pakistani identity, but wish to learn right lessons from India. But, who are these people? They are intellectuals, scholars, researchers, historians, scientists, journalists, former civil servants, former diplomats, former men in uniform, poets, authors, artists, students of institutions of higher learning, men, women and youth! These people have carved out a niche for themselves in mind of the average Pakistani people, though an open social approval and acceptance may still be some distance away for their dogged effort. In Pakistan, what is available for the people is a sham in the name of democracy, and the Army is the big brother. Despite that, this expression of free voice is gaining gravitas and momentum, attracting attention in India and elsewhere in the world. In other words, these people are acting as selfappointed agents of Pakistan’s popular goodwill whose stated and unstated purposes are to make their country and society look inward and get engaged in the process of selfcourse-correction. And as they do this, they cite examples of how India has built itself up -- through thick and thin, through ideological cacophony, through international pulls and pushes, through sharp political divides, through very many social fault-lines. Of course, the Pakistani society had been fed with many lies -- about the military story, about the economy, about history, about politics, and about foreign relations, about science as opposed to Islamic fundamentalism ...!
The Pakistanis were told that the country has won the 1965 war with India, for example. Another massive lie has been about Kashmir -- that India would soon lose Kashmir. But the small band of truthseekers in Pakistan has refused to believe all that crap. Umpteen books now tell the larger society that Pakistan had lost the 1965 war in a big way and allowed itself to be dismembered in 1971. So, these truth-seekers ask a big question: Can Pakistan ever match India’s prowess, India’s progress, and India’s democratic process? If not, why should it spend so much money on defence and war machine? And then, they declare unequivocally that there is no sense in harbouring an unnecessary hostility against India. These truth-seekers of Pakistan keep bringing to fore damning comparisons with India’s achievement -- and exhort their society and Government to give up myopia and pick up right lessons in the neighbourhood. In the process, they get past the national bitterness towards even Bangladesh and cite examples of how that country has gone way ahead of Pakistan on almost all growth indicators and developmental parameters. Their refrain is common -- Pakistan must change its ways and learn the right lessons from anywhere and everywhere. The comparison they seek with India is on several counts -- number of universities, the economy, defence preparedness, industrial development, trade and business, export and import, number of global enterprises, the law and order, social harmony, school education, public healthcare, cinema ...!
These people invite Indian experts on their television channels or social media platforms, and seek to know more about India and how it handles its challenges. They seek to know about India’s temple architecture, ancient science, the Vedas and other ancient knowledge systems ...! They appreciate India’s policy of non-alignment and its ability to expand its circle of international friends through matured diplomacy. And each time they do so, they beseech the Pakistanis to treat India as their big brother. Their common refrain is that understanding why India leads in every sector is the key to selfimprovement and to reducing the sense of hostility. If anybody thinks that these people are proIndia or are acting as India’s agents of propaganda, then that is only a wrong inference. All these truthseekers are absolutely and firmly rooted in the idea of Pakistan, and are committed to making a positive difference to their country. It appears that they are citing India’s examples only to trigger certain competitiveness among the Pakistanis -- beyond the regular and habitual and rhetorical anti-India hype that has become an integral part of the socio-political waywardness that marks Pakistan’s current national discourse. At this stage, it is necessary to bring into the discourse an important point of difference between this new narrative in Pakistan and the politicallymotivated and obstinate naysaying nonsense the political Opposition and some vested interests are driving in India. There also are in India many apolitical intellectuals in India looking for right answers to many issues.
In Pakistan, the truth-seekers do not appear to have a starkly political agenda. They appear to be in such a category to a very large extent. It is quite heartening that this Pakistani exercise is completely a people’s initiative, naturally. They do not mind the international alliances Pakistan has developed over time. But they also insist that Pakistan needs to redefine its self-interest beyond dogmatic politics. These people seem to suggest that India can fit very well in the redefined self-interest, provided Pakistan burns down its uncalled for anti-India stance. It is time to understand the reasons of India’s global importance and learn new lessons in natural, national self-interest, they insist. These Pakistani truth-seekers propose an internal sociopolitical change in their country and the society. They make every possible effort to establish a people-to-people connect with India. In pursuance of that effort, they join intellectual debates on India media, and invite Indians, too, to their channels.
In those debates, some of them are known to take a firm-proPakistan stand. But once back home, they open the truthseeking exercise in full measure. The sense of aplomb in this effort is truly invigorating, to say the least, thanks to its positivism. In a country like India where democracy is matured to its fullness, every such exercise would often be taken for granted, in a way. In a society like the one in Pakistan, such a truth-seeking may carry much ideological blemish and the stamp of blasphemy. For, that country has accepted and adopted a prescriptive thought-process where diktat rules the discourse and debate has only a perfunctory respect. And that makes this truthseeking in Pakistan an important exercise. This small but important trend conceals in its folds seeds of a positive future transformation in the Pakistani society. In the long run, it may prove to have a strong potential to save that country from an implosion, collapse.