Shrill voice from sober scribe

By K.N. Pandita

Najam Sethi, the well-known editor of Friday Times of Pakistan is an astute journalist, one among much liked fraternity members in the sub-continent. He has cultivated the art of fair and unbiased journalism by presenting delectable analysis of political events in his country.  His timely caution to the civil society and ruling paraphernalia on events in-making has been a positive contribution to high level of journalism. 

In particular, Najam Sethi has been discreetly unemotional in reflecting on matters pertaining to relations between India and Pakistan, something which many among the fraternity are not able to do with poise. Budding generation of journalists of the sub-continent draws inspiration from his example, and rightly so.

This notwithstanding, I was surprised, rather disappointed by his latest piece of editorial titled ‘Don’t derail Indo-Pak relations’ (18-24 Jan). I found his effort of balancing the argument was only feeble and almost dismissive. Serious reading of the piece made me believe that his analysis is not grounded in historical facts. He has taken the statements of some Indian writers or journalists to support his flawed contention. A senior and veteran journalist seldom gives unreserved credence to the statement of a journalist/writer whose contentious political assessments are mostly questioned rather than accepted. Such journalists have surfaced on both sides of the Indo-Pak border particularly after Kashmir insurgency.

I am also surprised that contrary to his control of English idiom, he has discursively used terms that hardly fit the tenor of the text of his editorial. For example, on recent flare up, he calls it a “military encounter on LoC”. But to be objective and precise, it was “jihadi intrusion into Indian side of LoC” and not “encounter”. That is the right phraseology for the particular event.

The jihadis had covered their faces with black headgear, a standard practice of terrorists. Forty-eight hours prior to the event, Hafiz Saeed, the chief of a banned jihadi organization was seen in PoK. “Crush India” is the slogan of this jihadi supremo whom the State of Pakistan calls “non-state actor”.

Najam Sethi should have raised the question why Pakistani army deploys jihadis, the “non-state actors” on a state mission, viz. retaliating to so-called Indian attack? Has Pakistani army become imbecile as to seek support of the banned jihadi actors? This would have helped the people of his country understand better how Pakistan army is gradually surrendering its personality to al-jihad.
The story of Indian forces building bunkers in Charand village of Haji Pir Sector is a concoction. Firing by Pakistani troops on LoC is not incidental: Pak army provides cover to infiltrators.  Haji Pir is not the lone example, and India has been drawing Pakistan’s attention to it though without any positive results.
To say that 161 Brigade ordered attack on Pakistani position in retaliation to Pak firing for Charand bunker story, is to betray total ignorance of the code of discipline for Indian troops in peace and in war. Najam Sethi has evaluated the situation on the basis of what Pakistan Army fed him with. He should have asked why according to the Indian reporters so far 870 Pakistani jihadis had to die on the LoC while trying to infiltrate into Indian side. Who is responsible for this loss of human life and to what purpose?

He is mistaken in saying that initially Indian army reacted with caution and that the situation was reversed under pressure from media or BJP. Let it be reminded that just after being informed of beheading of one soldier and castration of another, the Indian Army Chief reacted swiftly and said India reserved the right of reprisal.

Najam Sethi is aware that Indian democracy and for that matter any real democracy is highly sensitive to people’s reaction on national issues of much consequence. So are the people in Pakistan. But the difference is that, more often than not, Pakistan army has thrust its will on the people, bundled up elected civilian governments and established military rule in contravention of her constitution. This has formulated Pakistan army’s mindset over the decades and that is why the action of its troops along the LoC is neither guided nor controlled by her policy planners in Islamabad but by the propagators of Theo-fascist ideology in GHQ.

Very amusingly, Najam Sethi has attributed recent happening on LoC as “Indian Army’s original sin.” Well, if history supports his memory, he will recall that the original sin was committed by those who armed, abetted, sponsored and then shamelessly denied the invasion of Kashmir way back in 1947. Maybe he will think it a past event not worthy of re-visitation. But return of strategically vital Hajji Pir to Pakistan as a result of Tashkent Agreement is not too old a story to be forgotten. Yes the “original sin” remains the source of hostility between the two countries.

Equally surprising is that Najam Sethi has tried to rationalize the beheading of the Indian soldier by the Pakistani Army sponsored jihadis inside the Indian territory  and within the Indian side of LoC by citing similar examples from such Indian sources as are notorious for abusing the profession of fair journalism. Najam Sethi knows which side of their toast is buttered and by whom. An astute journalist will condemn this abominable act of barbarism and demand enquiry into it.  If barbarism is something to be proud of, India could have kept a dozen heads of Pakistani soldiers as souvenirs of 1962 war in the war museum. She respected and fulfilled even the smallest rule of Geneva Convention on prisoners of war, a convention which Pakistani proxy army of jihadis violate so brazenly.

Neither Indian media nor India political opposition can be accused of derailing Indo-Pak détente. Benazir was removed within days after her meeting with Rajiv Gandhi in Islamabad. If Najam is able to find out the hand behind the curtain, he will surely withdraw the fragile argument and even apologize for distorting history. The killing of Benazir has much to do with hate-India campaign among Theo-fascist organizations of Pakistan.

Who scuttled Prime Minister Vajpayee’s desire of handshake with Pakistan? Did he not say while on the soil of Pakistan that India recognized for all times the independent personality and identity of Pakistan? Didn’t BJP stalwart L.K. Advani say that Jinnah was a secularist while many among Pakistani intelligentsia question the concept of Pakistan as a separate state for Muslims? How does Najam Sethi say that the rightists in India always tried to scuttle Indo-Pak détente?

Lastly the dynamic new consensus in Pakistani civil society, media and political parties to normalize relations with India, as inferred by Najam Sethi, is encouraging. Our concern is that the prime factor in this dynamics is conspicuous by its absence. It is Pakistan Army, the chapter that has mattered and shall matter at the end of the day.

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