Pakistan’s humanitarian indignity

By Vidyadharan MP

After the end of the Cold War, there is no region as tense as the India-Pakistan border. The relations between the two neighbours, carved out by the colonial British, continues to be worse even than that of the US and the erstwhile USSR during the Cold War period. There happens to be cross border firings, cross border violations and highly pitched accusations, counter accusations, charges of spying, expulsion of diplomats, etc.

Recently, the relations between the two countries have again reached the low. An operation by the Pakistan army’s BAT battalion killed four four Indian soldiers, including a Major, at the Jammu and Kashmir border. A few days later, a small Indian army’s commando team retaliated. It crossed the border and destroyed a post, killing three Pakistani soldiers.

As this tension continued, there was another high drama unfolding at the diplomatic level. After repeatedly refusing to give consular access to the Indian embassy in Islamabad to meet a prisoner in Pakistani Jail, whom Pakistan claims is an Indian spy, Pakistan suddenly decided to allow a meeting with him with his mother and wife.

Pakistan’s alleged spy in this case is Kulbhushan Jadhav. India says Commander took voluntary retirement from the Navy and has been doing business from Iran. Pakistan claims he is still a military man and was arrested from Balochistan where he was sponsoring terrorist activities. India claimed he was kidnapped from Iran and showed as if he was arrested from Balochistan in March last year. Then he was tried through the military court and was awarded death penalty.

However, India managed to raise international hue and cry and moved the International Court of Justice. The court, in April, stayed the death penalty, pending final order. Following this, Pakistan was forced to change its stand as India argued that the trial was against the international rule of justice because Jadhav was neither allowed consular access nor a defence.

But Pakistan’s move to improve its image boomeranged.

On the Christmas day, when the people all over the world was celebrating the festival, Jadhav’s mother Avanti and wife Chetankul reached Islamabad to meet their dear one, after a gap of 22 months. But their enthusiasm turned into disappointment as he was made to sit across a sealed glass wall, especially built for this purpose. The mother and wife had to use an intercom to communicate with Jadhav.

Not only that the wife and mother were denied an emotional meeting. In the name of security, both were asked to change dress, remove Bindi and Mangalsutra. His mother wears only sari. But she was told to wear Salwar and Kurta. Wife’s chappal was taken away and given another pair of chappals. Pakistan now claim that there was some metal in the chappal worn by the wife and that has been sent for forensic testing. They were also not allowed to speak in their mother tongue, Marathi. The Pakistani lady officer stopped communication whenever they tried to speak in Marathi.

Before the meeting was agreed upon, there was clear understanding that media would not be allowed near the relatives of Jadhav. But, in violation of this, their car to go back was delayed and media was allowed to haunt the wife and mother with provocative questions like, how did you feel when you met your murderer son? He was playing Holi with Pakistani blood, etc.

Many prominent Pakistani journalists have condemned the way the prisoners relatives were treated and the tutored questions asked at them. They asked how can the journalists can such questions to a mother and wife.

Hassan Belal Zaidi lashed out heavily against the journalists after they insulted the women by calling them relatives of a murderer. Tweeting about the incident for which the journalists were congratulated by Pakistani authorities, Zaidi claimed that it displayed the unbecoming of those journalists.

“Reporters shouted taunts and slogans at the two women, said they were related to a killer who has blood on his hands. FO even messaged reporters to thank them for ‘job well done’. Conduct unbecoming of journalists was on display that day…,” he tweeted.

Taha Siddiqui, Bureau Chief of Wion News, too expressed his anguish against the mistreatment and misconduct that was showered at women terming it as shameful. “Somedays we do a story tht disgusts us. Today was one such day. But it wasnt cuz of what I covered. Rather it was cuz of how my fellow journos behaved with mother & wife of #KulbushanJadhav whn they left FO building. They shouted taunts. It was very shameful,” he tweeted.

Another journalist, Benazir Shah also condemned the act by tweeting that she had ‘no words for the Pakistani journalists who think heckling and harassing a 70-year-old woman is the best way to express patriotism.’

The whole episode, which  Pakistan planned to show its generosity, has boomeranged and now it is said to be planning to how to react to this as it is certain to come up before the International Court of Justice as it hears the case before the final order.

For India and Pakistan, the events may not be of much significance, and is only one of those many stories. But think of the poor women – a 70-year-old mother and his daughter-in-law – who were treated this way. What is the need of offering such meetings when no purpose was solved, from their point of view, besides just seeing their dear one across the glass wall. Even for morder convicts in jails across the world, much better treatments were meted out to their relatives.

All these things have happened despite Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to improve relations with Pakistan and develop better trust, which is the basis of a good relationship. Modi had invited then Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif to the swearing-in ceremony in 2014 and they had a good one-to-one meeting after the ceremony. Modi had even flew into Pakistan uninvited, to wish Sharif happy birthday, as a good gesture.

Despite all these, Pakistan continues with its anti-India policies, mainly because of the pressure from the Army, which is called the deep state in Pakistan, influencing its policies. Even though the civilian government many times appears to be willing to improve relations, the army never allows it do so, however is its prime minister.

With Modi being the toughest Indian prime minister, after Indira Gandhi, Pakistan is sure to get back a solid reply for its anti-India activities. He has given freedom to the security forces to give a befitting reply, even if it meant crossing the border. The army had carried out a surgical strike across the border after terrorists, helped by the Pakistan’s spy wing ISI, had tried to attack the  air force station in Pathankot. The recent crossing of the border by the army is another incident. All these give a clear message to Pakistan and its army – behave yourself or we will teach you a lesson – Indira Gandhi had done to Pakistan 1971 when Bangladesh was liberated.

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