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Monday 26 January 2015
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Unveiling truth

B G Verghese

It is time Pakistan acted more firmly to amend its textbooks to portray as objectively as possible all sides of contentious issues.

Days before the Pakistan interior minister, Rehman Malik’s proposed visit to India to sign the liberalised visa agreement between the two countries, it appears that the country’s CID has told the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi trying those charged with the 26/11 attack on Mumbai in 2008, that Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, the mastermind and his accomplices were trained by the LeT in Karachi, Muzaffarabad and other places. But there is no reference to official involvement of which India has sufficient proof.

This information, carried by Dawn, confirms what India has been saying from the start, based on independent information and intercepts of conversations between the suspects and their handlers. This development marks a step forward in the tortuous progress of the Lakhvi trial and comes just before details of the proposed visit of the Indian national investigation agency to Rawalpindi to confront Lakhvi and his associates directly. Hopefully, all this is indicative of the 26/11 perpetrators being soon brought to justice four years after committing their dastardly crime.

Rehman Malik, who recently met the Indian counterpart, Sushil Kumar Shinde, on the sidelines of a Rome Interpol conference, has also promised his counterpart of acting to curb infiltration and cross-border terrorism in J&K that has brazenly gone on for decades. Action on all of these matters is important if a climate is to be created for the prime minister to visit Islamabad and if Pakistan desires movement towards a Kashmir settlement that eluded conclusion in 2006-08 with Musharraf running aground politically.

The idea of a soft border along the LOC with freer movement, trade and exchange across it, leading to structures of joint management of this relationship and possibly even joint management of Indus waters, that was formulated in talks with Manmohan Singh was a practical and honourable way of leaving nobody with a sense of loss, let alone defeat. Nehru and Shiekh Abdullah had suggested this in 1964 but it was scorned by Ayub then while the PPP government has yet to come to terms with it now.  

Gen Kayani was shocked and shaken by the avalanche that took 168 of his soldiers’ lives below the Saltoro ridge, west of Siachen, last March and proclaimed that a settlement with India was essential as defence without development was not a credible option.
Other hardliners too have echoed this view with dawning realisation that Islamabad’s Kashmir-terror-jihadi-fundamentalist crusade has not yielded dividends but has, on the contrary, almost brought Pakistan to its knees.  

If reconciliation with India through trade and investments, a liberalised visa regime and a sincere conflict resolution process is to be Pakistan’s new strategic doctrine, then justice for those involved in 26/11, and an end to infiltration and cross border terror constitute obvious elements. Certified terrorists like Hafeez Saeed keep spouting venom while Syed Salahuddin, sitting in Muzaffarabad, has threatened harm to all the panches and sarpanches recently elected in J&K unless they resign.

Stop inculcating hatred

If Pakistan truly wishes to build a climate of peace it must stop inculcating hatred for India and Hindus in young minds and extolling jihad through its officially produced school text books. The Social Policy and Development Centre brought out a study by leading educationists in 2004 titled “The subtle subversion” which painted a grim picture of what was being taught in schools in the history and social study texts. Improvements were promised but few were made. A fresh report by the Jinnah Institute last April deplores what it still describes as a ‘curriculum of hate’ with unfortunate omissions and assertions.

India too has some horrid texts, privately produced, but these have been stoutly opposed and efforts at rewriting history have been confronted. It is time Pakistan acted more swiftly and firmly to amend its textbooks to portray as objectively as possible all sides of contentious issues and build amity and understanding. This writer has often commended the idea that a group of historians from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh be commissioned to write a non-official primer on South Asian history for children. That could mark a wonderful beginning.   

Meanwhile, the political parties are readying to fight all the wrong battles in Parliament with the Left leading the charge by giving notice of a motion on the FDI issue which many in the Opposition argue the Government has brought in duplicitously by reneging on its earlier promise of wide consultation and seeking to operationalize it by executive order.
Public debate has raged and nothing has been done clandestinely. The FDI order is an enabling measure and not coercive and it has been left to the states to go ahead or hold their hand. A debate on the issue does not required to be voted on and if any party is dissatisfied it is for them to move a vote of no-confidence.

This none has so far been willing to do. Dr Manmohan Singh is in a stronger position than before with none in the Congress prepared or able to challenge him before the polls, when he will retire. The Opposition parties and UPA partners are not ready for elections, being divided and unwilling to be held responsible for the possible fall of the government, though this is not on the cards. All the talk about the UPA being in a “minority” after the Trinamool’s withdrawal is mistaken. The Constitution does not require a government to have a majority but to demonstrate that it enjoys “the confidence of the (lower) House”. India has experienced powerful and long-lasting ‘minority’ governments which won issue-based support from various quarters as the occasion demanded. The same could happen again, with some abstaining or choosing not to vote against the government on a particular motion.


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