Visiting Pakistan

The only Kashmiri leader direly and urgently deserving to visit Pakistan is Syed Ali Shah Geelani, but this is a blessing denied to Kashmir, and the subcontinent, sometimes by New Delhi and sometimes by the Hurriyat (G) chief’s own cold feet.  It would require great courage on Mr Geelani’s part to come face to face with the neighbouring country’s present-day truth, and greater integrity to acknowledge it openly and honestly without purveying drivel about “Pakistan being caught in a web of international intrigue because of being the bastion and base (!) of the Muslim world’s identity, aspirations, dignity” and so forth. Without prejudice to Pakistan’s matchless and unbeatable contributions to the glory of Islam, as enshrined partly in the lashkars, sipahs and tehreeks, or in the global tentacles of a phenomenon better left un-spelt in these columns, and partly in rampant suicide bombings and blood-letting, there is another Pakistan that Mr. Geelani needs badly not only to see but also sound out – a silent Pakistan enamoured less of delusions of Islamic (or pan-Islamic) grandeur, and concerned more about pedestrian and prosaic issues like the country’s survival. In the unlikely event of Mr Geelani someday paying Pakistan a visit, he should take pity on the country by stepping out of the warm welcomes and rapturous receptions he is undoubtedly to be accorded by the state as well as legions of the champions of cloistered thinking, and hear out the unheard.  If the Kashmiri leader’s acclaimed siyasi baseerat is not merely so much hype, he will not fail to see the change struggling to born in the country, and the silent explosion and groundswell against being shackled to the shibboleths of Islamisms and Kashmir.

But then, New Delhi has provided the leader a handy excuse to wriggle out of visiting Pakistan by denying him a passport, and Mr Geelani himself has come out with a far-fetched explanation of not taking up Islamabad’s invitation to the Hurriyat. Certainly, the Hurriyat (G) chairman has an inflated opinion about the Kashmir issue’s potential to influence elections in Pakistan in any significant way. Opposition parties in the country would have been the first to cry foul on the first sign of the Zardari regime’s plans to summon (for that is what the “invitation” is) the Kashmiri leaders if it had the slightest chance to disturb a level playing field. And despite Mr Geelani and his soul-mate Shabir Ahmad Shah going to town about the electoral implications of Pakistan visit, no players in that country have bothered to take up the cry. There has been no echo of this view from anyone in the Pakistan opposition, despite the duo doing its best to put words into their mouths.  The intelligentsia across the border (does anyone remember Dr. Shireen Mazari and Naseem Zehra?), which might have lent some credence to Mr Geelani’s argument, too has been almost contemptuous in its silence. The forthcoming visit is not a faint and faded blink even on the country’s media. And still if Mr Geelani thinks that it can tip the scales in favour of the present rulers, or any other way, he grossly underestimates the life-and-death issues facing Pakistan.  

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