1261India Today... from Pakistani eyes!!
- Jun 19, 2003I hate posting full articles, but this one is worth reading...DAWN, Karachi, Pakistan
08 June 2003 Sunday
By M. P. Bhandara
[The writer is a member of the National Assembly]
There are a multitude of similarities, yet significant differences, in common occurrences between Pakistan and North India. On differences,
for example, it is nice to see women riding cycles, mopeds and motorcycles in sleeveless blouses in Amritsar, 50 miles away from Lahore but many more miles away psychologically.
The "billion bulge" of India is quite visible in the teeming bazaars, parks and almost everywhere. Even though India's per capita income at
$ 500 is about twenty or thirty dollar per capita higher than ours (We used to be per capita about a $120 higher than India in the late 1980s. This alone is a measure of how much India has gained over us economically in the past decade), yet, I think I saw more people without shoes in Delhi than in Lahore.
One of the nicest things to observe in India is that the ruling classes are far less ostentatious and pretentious than here. Simplicity is a way of life. The upper crust competes in homespun
furnishings, decorations and local artefacts; many of the best houses in New Delhi have simple tiled brick floors. By contrast, the same class in Pakistan would be glorying in lodes of Bohemian glass,
Chinese landscape and mother of pearl-looking white marble floors. Not surprisingly, the saving rate in India is said to be between three to
four times ours.
Islamabad has more sparkle and polish than New Delhi; the magnificent British structures there - a cross between Roman, British and Mughal
imperial styles - have not crumbled; they still look magnificent. The builders of Islamabad have created their own genre of imperial architectural style.
Take for example our parliamentary lodges, the Punjab House in Islamabad and the prime minister's secretariat on Constitution Avenue.
The sheer waste of space, opulence of fixtures, furniture, fabric and wholesale use of rarest marble suggest that the architect(s) must have specialized in building palaces for Saudi Arabian princes. If Pakistan was a failed state in the 'democratic' 90s, here is the proof in concrete. The percentage of people living below the poverty line almost doubled between 1988 and 1999 just when these structures - eyesores on the landscape - were being built. A bird's eye view of the members' car parks outside the Lok Sabha and our National Assembly
shows up the difference even more starkly.
Churchill once famously remarked, "We make our buildings and then our buildings make us." It appears our lawmakers in Islamabad consider it
their birthright to live beyond their means and that too on a foreign overdraft.
In marked contrast to us, Indian bookshops are stacked with quality books written, and printed in India, print quality being comparable to UK standards. The best English language newspapers such as the The Statesman, Hindu and The Telegraph are sold, believe it or not, at prices between two to three rupees.
Indian software export, now in the region of ten billion dollars per annum, is the well-known success story of the past decade. But I think
an even a greater success story is the Indian pharmaceutical industry, which is based largely on indigenous basic research and generic descriptions. The cost of most medicines is between 40-60 per cent of our retail chemist store price equivalents. The normalization of our trade relations under the Saarc agreements may bring down the cost of
medicines and perhaps even newspapers. If the Chandigarh 'Tribune' be available in Lahore early morning at three rupees (sold in Amritsar at two rupees), a number of our readers of English newspapers might consider switching their newspaper allegiances.
Mahatma Gandhi is virtually forgotten in India. Forgotten in the sense that his philosophy of non-violence and truth is regarded as irrelevant to present times. He is an icon in much the same way as the Quaid and his parliamentary address of Aug. 11, 1947, are in Pakistan. The ruling BJP, which allies with radical right-wing parties such as
the Shiv Sena and Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the RSS, have a strong aversion to Gandhi's legacy. They hold him responsible for the creation of Pakistan. The Mahatama has not been forgiven for his last fast-unto-death to force the Nehru government to hand over 550 million rupees of Pakistan's share of cash assets at the time of partition, which it was holding back.
It may be recalled that Nathu Ram Godse, Gandhi's assassin, was a committed RSS man. India has turned right-wing. Khushwant Singh says
it is India's fascist face; I think it will remain this way for the foreseeable future. The BJP relates to the Mahatma's legacy in much the same way as the Jamaat-i-Islami relates to the Quaid. The respective Fathers of the Nation are the skeletons in their cupboards - best consigned to benign neglect. No history book in Pakistan mentions Mahatma Gandhi's sacrifice for Pakistan after its creation
which cost him his life and perhaps the same may also be true in India; such is the fate of men of peace.
In New Delhi, the Pakistani parliamentary delegation, which recently visited India, had the honour of being invited to dinner by Mr Inder
Kumar Gujral, 84-year-old (but looking more like 70), former Prime Minister of India. Born in Jhelum, he graduated from my old college:
the Hailey College of Commerce in Lahore. His father was a member of Pakistan's first Constituent Assembly (as was my father). Mr Gujral,
spry with his trademark Trotsky beard, looks and talks like an academic. I don't suppose any politician in India can remain in business if he does not accept the 'non-negotiable' status of at least
that part of Jammu and Kashmir which is in Indian possession. Pakistan's support for terrorists in the last decade has alienated people like Gujral, who might otherwise be more comfortable as part of
a pro-Pakistan lobby.
The delegation was also privileged to meet the Grand Old Man of Indian politics - Mr Jyoti Basu, the Marxist legendary chief minister of Bengal - in Kolkata. Said to be 90, he looked at least a decade
younger. Very much in command of the situation in this state, one gained the impression that nothing of substance happens in Bengal without his nod. In reply to a question, he said that land distribution to the landless was his greatest contribution to Bengal. On Marxism "it is a science which will develop further in time."
Mr Basu complained of ISI infiltration in Bangladesh, reaching West Bengal. On the surface of things, Kolkata is a drab, run-down city
with poor roads, yet its vibrant culture seeps through. It has been billed as the 'City of Joy', but I saw little joy, but may be, the teeming poor have a slightly better deal in Kolkata than elsewhere.
Shikarpur (Sindh)-born Ram Jeth Malani, 80, chairman of the unofficial Kashmir committee is one of India's top-drawer lawyers that our
delegation had the honour of meeting. Jeth Malani, a pre-partition law partner of the late A.K Brohi, is a public-spirited person who reaches out to Kashmiri dissidents (APHC) and even terrorists in search of a modus vivendi in Kashmir. Unlike Brohi who tended to be cold, philosophical and pro-establishment, RJM is warm, avuncular and a
defender of public interest. He was active in confronting the authoritarianism of Indira Gandhi and busting corruption in high places (Bofors scandal).
RJM expressed a desire to visit Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. We gained the impression that here was a committed person of high standing, integrity and independence ideally suited to play the role of a
high-level mediator or conciliator.
Top-level interlocutors enjoying the confidence of the powers that be are better positioned to grapple with problem solving in the subcontinent than bureaucrats dotting this and crossing that's.
To sum up: the 1990s were kind to India whereas for Pakistan it was a lost decade. India's rate of GDP growth of about six per cent was almost double ours. In 1990s Pakistan's per capita income was $500 versus $390 for India. Today India is around $500 and Pakistan around $470. Hard-core poverty (under a dollar a day) was said to be 17 per
cent in Pakistan in 1988 and by 1999 it was around 33 per cent. So much for the conventional wisdom of our 'intelligent' think tanks that jihadism would 'bleed' India in Kashmir. Apparently, it has only bled us. India today has a middle class which is more than twice the population of Pakistan. It is poised to join the global economy. It has a critical mass in the basic sciences. It has huge shortages of
energy which can only be met from Central Asia passing through the continental shelf of Pakistan or its land mass.
Both China and India are poised for mega growth and wealth based largely on domestic savings and basic infrastructure. What should we do? Obviously join this club. But can we with our Taliban-type attitude? Certainly not. Take the case of Saudi Arabia sitting on the world's largest reserve of oil. It had a per capita income of $
20,000-plus in the early 1980, it is down to $ 5,000 today. Why? Because its basic attitudes are Taliban-like. Here is living proof that it is not oil and gold that makes a people prosperous but the
skill, science and 'beauties of the mind'. There is simply no way that Saudi Arabia (or even our NWFP) can move towards prosperity if half
the population - women - are treated as despised unequal citizens.
Lastly, I draw attention to an Indian success story - story that has an immediacy for us. All public transport in Delhi - buses, taxis, scooters, etc., - operate compulsorily on CNG fuel. This has
dramatically reduced vehicle pollution, which in turn has a bearing on the health of millions of people.
This great bonus for the citizenry was brought about by judicial activism of the Supreme Court of India. The moral of the story is that judicial activism in Pakistan too can better protect civil society than the legislature. Women are slaughtered in the name of so-called 'honour killings', labour bondage in the brick kiln business is widespread. Our public hospitals, jails, lunatic asylums are cesspools of corruption and filth. Let us learn from the Indian experience in judicial activism."
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