Atithi tum kab jaaoge

“Sabotage”, he claimed. Rehman Malik was convinced that there was a grand design to sabotage his India visit from the word go. As soon as he landed at Delhi, the vile Indian media posed questions about events in the past. How dare they? Didn’t they know that Pakistan has advised India to forget the past? How dare they insult a guest by asking him vulgar questions about the Pakistan Army mutilating the body parts of Indian soldiers? “That was 15 years ago.” he protested.

Feigning ignorance: Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik 

No Mr Senator, that was 13 years ago. And each year has been an agonising one for Captain Saurabh Kalia’s parents, as they have watched everyone forget that shameful incident. “Why bring it up now?”, Malik asked with mock innocence. Didn’t he know before landing in India that Kalia’s father had approached the United Nations? For a man who has been a Federal Investigation Intelligence officer, Interior minister of Pakistan and is currently advisor on Interior Affairs to the President, to feign ignorance about war crimes and equate chopping of body parts to weather-related injuries is audacious behaviour. The media in his country, rendered supine due to state pressure, might swallow that but not in India.

With no sense of embarrassment, he spoke about the Babri demolition in the same breath as the Mumbai terror attacks. There is no connection between what happened in an Indian town 20 years ago and Pakistan, except that some Hindu temples were destroyed in Pakistan to avenge (how?) the demolition of the Babri masjid. He let that simmer for a good 15 hours before saying that he was misquoted. Err… the nasty Indian media had it all on video. No error there. And no mistaking the aim of that comment either. Malik wanted it to be heard from Karachi to Khyber, but here, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, the disgust over his remark was palpable. He had violated the norm of a guest, though he accused India of violating the norm of a host. “I was given disrespect, set up question was asked as soon as I landed to dislodge the talks. I responded despite that,” he huffed and puffed with exaggerated facial expressions of outrage.

The ‘TRP hungry Indian media’ asked him “to apologise on behalf of the Pakistani Army.” The incredulity on Rehman Malik’s face was genuine. He couldn’t believe that anybody would be naïve enough to ask a Pakistani politician to be apologetic about his or her army’s brutal actions. That they violated the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war is lost on the Pakistan army and the politicians it controls.

This is the same army that raped and tortured 4.5 lakh women in 1971 in what was its own country, the then East Pakistan. Shahriyar Kabir writes “Between March 25, 1971 and December 16, 1971, Pakistani occupation army and their local collaborators killed 3 million innocent, unarmed people, violated more than a quarter million women; destroyed most of the factories, roads, bridges and culverts, burned houses, engaged in indiscriminate arson and plundering and created such an unbearable situation that 10 million people were forced to leave their country.”

As India yesterday celebrated Vijay Diwas to mark its role in the liberation of Bangladesh, Rehman Malik addressed Indian experts on international relations at a think tank in New Delhi. No apology for his army’s role. How could he? No head of state or government in Pakistan has ever apologised for the genocide in East Pakistan. And the ingenuous Indian media expects an apology for torture of six Indian soldiers. Meanwhile, somewhere on the western front, a Sultan in the making rolled up his sleeves and raised his war cry over Sir Creek. Flustered, the ruling party spokesperson said, “not one inch”.

The 18 Indians and 12 Pakistanis (I made up that figure) who gather in salubrious climes of Chaho-kuch-bhi-Priya in Thailand (I know it is Chaophraya) can sip their single malts and smoke their peace pipes ‘solving’ Sir Creek and Siachen. But the fact remains that the government of India has to see whether the people of India find Pakistan trustworthy enough to make any deals with. The well-heeled and well-meaning Pakistanis must realise that their Indian counterparts aren’t the only ones who influence policy.

The game has changed. Despite all that appears wrong about India, international writers write articles titled thus: “Egypt: The Next India or the Next Pakistan?” The answer is implicit in the question.¬†

Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash

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