Side-effect Harris Khalique Friday, April 01, 2011

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Punjabis understand what a shareeka is. Your first cousin who shares a claim to property and family land. If you happen to be a Muslim, he could become your brother-in-law as well. There is a Sindhi word kaandhi, idiomatically used for kith and kin who you may like or dislike but they are so close that they would be the ones to carry your coffin on their shoulders. If that sounds a bit morose, there is another word in Punjabi, jaanji. Those relatives who will be a part of your wedding procession anyway because the grandmother or the eldest uncle in the family has sent them a sadda (invite) to attend your marriage. It doesn’t matter whatsoever if you are personally at odds with them. Pakistan and India besides other countries in South Asia are each other’s shareekas, kaandhis and jaanjis.

Here, I use the term ‘South Asia’ rather than ‘Indian subcontinent’ because that’s considered politically correct and mutually acceptable to all foreign offices in the region. My preferred term would be the latter one though. Why? Because the word India comes from the river that is the bloodline of Pakistan, the mighty Indus. And the Republic of India is one of successor states of the great civilisations and empires that flourished in this part of the world not the sole successor. The sovereignty of the states is not undermined if we own up to a common civilisation, accepting its variations and choosing to prefer one trend over the other in shaping our social preferences. What is more important is to learn from both the rights and wrongs committed by powers that be in our shared history.

Mohali was a success. The Indian Prime Minister’s generous invitation was graciously accepted by the Pakistani Prime Minister and a deadlock at the highest political plain was broken. Talks had resumed at the foreign office level recently but this show of mutual respect by heads of governments was necessary to realise a rapprochement between the two countries. No harm in repeating here that the premise of partition of British India was to bring peace to the region, not a constant state of war. But yes, there are wounds inflicted on each other by both India and Pakistan over the last 63 years. These wounds have to be healed. Just, equitable and peaceful solutions to all outstanding problems have to be sought and implemented. For this, we need statesmanship, trust and patience. Most periods of our history have seen more than one kingdom or states in the region, both feuding and cooperating. But they traded goods and exchanged knowledge all along. That is where we begin.

Pakistan has to sort out its internal issues surrounding shabby economic performance, unbridled religious extremism, rising political violence and mediocre governance. India must also not retract from its diplomatic overture now. They need to understand well that an unstable South Asia can bring them down as quickly as they are going up. With 400 million living below the poverty line in their country, the Indian leadership has to be more sagacious. The dream of becoming a super power is a little distant still. SAARC countries have to be taken along and the trust deficit that they have with countries other than Pakistan has to be removed as well.

As far as the cricket match is concerned, when you drop Tendulkar four times, convert doubles into boundaries, have both the dodgy Akmal brothers in the side, and let Misbah-ul-Haq bat with a cigar in his mouth, what else would you expect?

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet, author and public policy advisor. Email: harris.

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