Mohammad Ali Jinnah wanted to celebrate the Eid of October 1947 in the palace of Srinagar. If the pain of leaving the mortal world without setting his foot in the Valley were not enough, he would have been turning in his grave at the Mazar-e-Quiad in Karachi listening to paeans for Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi in his own backyard on Friday.
Addressing his country from the stairs of his secretariat in Islamabad during the “Kashmir Hour” on August 30, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan read out a litany of complaints against his Indian counterpart, alleging in uncharitable words that the latter is inspired by the Nazi philosophy of racial superiority and ethnic cleansing.
To underline his point, he lamented that India, once a country inspired by the secular ideals of great men like Nehru and Gandhi — he invoked their memory several times — had now accepted fascism.
In the imaginarium of Pakistan, both Nehru and Gandhi were till recently villains and Jinnah an angel. This compact between Pakistani fantasy and Jinnah was sealed a few decades ago in a film (Jinnah – 1998) that showed the Indian leaders going to hell while the gates of heaven were flung open for the Quiad of Pakistan.
Had Jinnah been alive, he would not have been amused by Khan’s praise of the very ideology he fought by demanding an Islamic Pakistan be carved out of a secular India.
Nehru was completely opposed to the idea of religion being the foundation of a nation. He argued that such a country “means that there is no nation at all but a religious bond; it means that no nation in the modern sense must be allowed to grow; it means that modern civilisation should be discarded and we should go back to the medieval ways; it means either autocratic government or a foreign government; it means, finally, just nothing at all except an emotional state of mind and a conscious or unconscious desire not to face realities, especially economic realities…” (Nehru, Towards the Freedom).
It can be easily argued that had Nehru’s ideology prevailed, there would have been no Partition. And had there be no Partition, there would not have been any heartburn over Kashmir in a place that would not have been called Pakistan. But, we live in interesting times where Nehru, the very man who snatched Kashmir out of Jinnah’s itching palm, is now hailed as a hero in Islamabad.
Khan has his own compulsions. A few days before the general elections in India, the Pakistan premier had opined that Narendra Modi’s victory could lead to a solution to the Kashmir dispute, an idea Khan was disabused of in the first week of August when the Indian government abrogated Article 370. Khan’s problem is that Kashmir’s special status may have gone but the impression that he is soft towards Modi, and, by inference, even softer on Kashmir has lingered on.
Since the Modi government bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir, took away its special status, Khan has been facing a barrage of allegations from within Pakistan of making vacuous noises and doing absolutely nothing. The opposition is claiming that it is Pakistan’s misfortune that Khan is the country’s PM in such challenging times, wistfully arguing the brighter possibilities with the “what-if” question musings around Mian Nawaz Sharif.
In this context, the abuses hurled at Khan by Pakistan Peoples Party chief Bilawal Bhutto are enlightening. “Earlier, Pakistan’s policy used to be how to take Srinagar from India. Now, due to the failure of the Imran Khan government, the position is how we can save Muzaffarabad (capital of PoK),” Bhutto said. He went on to argue that the self-proclaimed Lion of Pakistan is actually a “scared cat.”
So, Imran has no option but to raise the rhetoric on Kashmir, especially when his brethren in the Ummah have refused to interfere in the Kashmir debate and the international community has mostly yawned at his argument that a nuclear war is on the horizon.
Friday’s ‘Kashmir Hour’ was mostly a PR gig aimed at keeping his domestic constituency happy. By asking Pakistanis to bring their own country to a standstill in solidarity with Kashmir at the stroke of noon, Khan tried to mainstream the idea of the Valley’s azaadi, turn it into a mass emotional moment.
Enthused by the flag-waving, cheerleading and singing, Khan reloaded his usual spiel: Modi is fascist, RSS is divisive, India will try a false-flag operation and blame Pakistan and, as one thing would lead to another, the entire world would pay for appeasing India just as it had paid for Hitler’s misadventures in Austria and Czechoslovakia. He forgot to say, read my lips for the implicit nuke threat.
On the side-lines, celebrities like former cricketer Shahid Afridi bombastically claimed his country’s tribals were enough for the Indian threat. Lala, of course, may have been too busy playing cricket to know that large lashkars from the Afridi tribe had indeed tried to take on the Indian army in 1947 by raiding Kashmir but were beaten back by a handful of soldiers.
Be that as it may, the ‘Kashmir Hour’ gave Pakistan’s revolutionaries their Tehrir Square thrills on a warm holiday noon. The singing and the chanting, led by the indigenous band Junoon, was indeed boisterous before life moved on to the pressing issues of a faltering economy and the exigencies occasioned by the country’s inclusion in the FATF blacklist.
Sceptics in his country were, of course, not impressed. While the local TV channels were showing visuals of a country working itself up on Kashmir with slogans, songs of freedom and rousing speeches, an opposition leader punctured the euphoria on Geo TV by comparing the whole hoo-ha with an echo chamber. “It’s like going to the Taj Mahal and screaming out aloud. But, nobody outside is listening,” the leader said.
Let’s hope, for his own peace, Jinnah was certainly not listening.