Sarabjit’s body was brought to India following more than two decades of gentle diplomatic needling by the state and pleas by his family bolstered by campaigns launched by supportive ‘Facebookers’ pleading his non-complicity with espionage or blasts, however, lifeless! News reports of a few of his vital organs missing hit headlines the next day, evidently aimed to stir popular sentiments and even succeeded.
That an autopsy would be done in Pakistan on Sarabjit’s body following his death was a given or so I felt. Just what did we expect? They surely wouldn’t have kept his insides intact in the scheme of “their legal processes” for an Indian autopsy which was, anyway, not on the cards. Now, that didn’t matter to the Great Indian angry lot…the ire spilled over in India creating waves for the next few days.
Oddly, very oddly, almost vindicating Pakistan’s claims of his being an Indian agent, Sarabjit was accorded a state funeral. And, predictably, a host of family members of other Indian ‘prisoners’ who had died in imprisonment in Pakistan earlier went on to demand similar privileges. To an extent, their plea seemed justified. If a ‘farmer’ Sarabjit who had ‘strayed’ into Pakistan’s borders, while being inebriated, could be given a state funeral with full honours and his family compensated with cash and jobs, why weren’t they?
AN ATTACK – AN ACT OF REVENGE
Within days, Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah serving a life sentence for ‘espionage’ was attacked by an inmate in a Kashmir jail. Going by the timing, it seemed like a tit-for-tat. But, India going by her impeccable history of diplomatic correctness, announced that a procedure would ensure that Pakistani prisoners are secured from similar acts. In the absence of a Pakistani proclamation of regret and remedial action, India’s looks democratically vibrant.
Fact remains, given past history, both nations will need to protect their neighbours’ prisoners, lest incidents of such sort snowball into a diplomacy mess or worse still escalate into war in the region. For the record, there are 535 Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails and 272 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails.
This brings us back to the main issue, Sarabjit. Let’s face it: The man was on a death row after being ‘convicted’ of alleged involvement in a string of bomb attacks in Pakistan’s Punjab Province that killed 14 people in 1990. Back in Pakistan, everyone is convinced Sarabjit, plugged as an ‘Indian spy and a RAW agent’, was guilty. After all, it followed a trial and conviction by ‘their’ Supreme Court, just as everyone in India is convinced of Afzal Guru’s complicity in the Parliament attack and has implicit faith in ‘our’ Supreme Court and its ruling.
GAINING POLITICAL MILEAGE
Get real! In the world of diplomacy and strategic bravado, any move that could be interpreted as “giving in”, “acceding position” or “compromising advantage” is a huge downer for any political power. And, Pakistan being on the brink of an election can simply not hazard being generous, surely not now, at the risk of earning the ire of an anti-India voter base. And rightly so! Aren’t we, as Indians peeved to hell when we read of “miles and miles of land” being ‘treacherously stolen’ by our neighbours? Similarly, in Pakistan, the worries of “land” and liberty being usurped by a “bully” India are pivotal poll issues for the parties in power and those vying for public support – particularly on the brink of elections.
In India, the Congress has been firmly maintaining that the one Sarabjit issue simply can’t and shouldn’t rock the Indo-Pak peace process or upset the Asha and all chances of an Aman between the two. BJP, on its part, is baying for Pakistani blood, screaming that it warrants an international platform and an exposure before the world that the Sarabjit killing is an affront to right-minded conventions on prisoners. That it doesn’t really matter in the real world and the Wikileak report on the Collateral Murder proving a case in point or the fact that Pakistan has been charged recently with violating the Geneva Convention following the beheading of the Indian soldier doesn’t make any difference. It provides an opportunity for the Opposition in India to launch an attack, another aimed at a crippled party in power.
Wasn’t the BJP in power in 1999 when the-then Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh freed three terrorists at Kandahar in exchange for passengers of a hijacked Air India plane? In Jaswant Singh’s personal involvement, the BJP was perceived to have given legitimacy to the Taliban. In fact, the three terrorists freed – Maulana Masood Azhar, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Ahmed Omar Sheikh all went on to wreak havoc in the world at different times.
FREED TERRORISTS WREAKED HAVOC
Masood Azhar’s outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed is said to have perpetuated the attacks against Indian targets, including the more daring attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001 which brought India and Pakistan to the brink of a full-scale war. Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, following release, has reportedly renewed the activity of Al-Umar Mujahideen in Muzaffarabad, close to the Indian border. Al-Umar Mujahideen recruits and trains young Muslims to the guerilla war in Indian Kashmir and all with full cooperation with the Pakistani ISI. The third released terrorist Ahmed Omar Shaikh who is a British-born terrorist of Pakistani descent with links to Islamist militant organisations such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, al-Qaeda, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the Taliban, was responsible for the 2002 kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
The odd thing with a democracy is that the freedom of will one enjoys is restricted to the boundaries of one’s legal reach, beyond borders, when encountered with another’s will, the democracy turns into a vicious war for supremacy of will…liberty is convoluted and customised for each democracy in question. But then, this argument won’t hold good here too. Pakistan is a failed nation, where India is concerned, right? And India, for Pakistan, is the perpetrator of terror within its own territories too. A vicious war of will across the border usually meets with damage…that’s collateral in nature.
So, for every Sarabjit being assaulted in Pakistan, there’ll be a Sanaullah meeting a similar fate here. It’s not just a question of tit-for-tat for the life and liberty of a foreign national robbed by force. The damage is collateral to the persistent rift between the two, to an enmity conveniently grown and nurtured both at home and beyond since the very inception and split of the two nations.
AMAN AND ASHA REMAIN INTRANSIENT
Intransient acts of aman will only instill asha which will be equally intransient in nature. Fact remains that, politically speaking, the risk-benefit ratio of strife with Pakistan tilt more in favour of risk rather than the benefit. And till that changes, nothing else will!
Image Source: IANS