Mohammad Sohail Ahmed
WHY it has taken seventy-two years to open the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh visitors from India? the answer lies in cricket diplomacy. Indian bowler Sidhu while interacting with Pakistani counterparts, manages to convince the team member Imran Khan that Kartarpur is a sacred place for him and that it is as sacred to them as Makkah Mukarama or Madina Munawara for Muslims. As a simple person, the Pakistani cricketer registers the demand and includes in his new Pakistan vision. But there is a problem with the Indian side of fascist leadership which is holding the Kashmiri Muslims besieged under house arrest in violation of all sorts of international norms for humanity. This is part of the vision of New India under Modi rule of BJP, a political wing of RSS, well-known for its extreme vision of Hindutva.
One of the components of this doctrine is that any citizen of India, irrespective of its cast, creed or religion, must believe and announce that its homeland India is the dearest place to him on this planet. Implying that if the person is a Muslim and he wants to live in new India, he must have more respect for homeland India than Makkah and Madinah. From the same corollary, all Sikhs must change or amend the belief that India is more sacred and respectable than Nankana or Kartarpur. How non-Hindus in India will negotiate with their new India remains to be seen? However, as a Muslim, Makkah and Medina are known holy lands and no Muslim in his senses would consider any other place on this planet as more sacred even if it is his/her motherland.
What is the relevance of Kartarpur to a common citizen of Pakistan? Some flimsy thoughts have erupted stating boost in economy or income to the government. Land rates in the area near Kartarpur have soared in anticipation of hotel or tourism industry. However, in Hasan Abdal area, or Gurdwara near Lahore Fort, the Sikh Yatris have been visiting without any substantial economic benefit to Pakistan. It will be another opening for Sikh Yatris that will alienate them from new India under Hindutva mythology. The timing of this opening is suitable for the Indian government as they are facing diplomatic pressure of UN Charter and human rights violations in India-occupied Kashmir. the Modi Government will try to project to the world community that things are coming to normal with Pakistan except for one odd issue of Kashmir.
What is the strategy of our government? is there a plan to advocate Kashmir cause on the opening day of the Kartarpur Corridor. What handbills or pamphlets are required to be distributed to the Sikhs? How the government plans to convince Sikhs that Indian government hegemonic designs are and will continue to destroy peace in the region and that without Kashmir Pakistan is incomplete and there will be serious instability if India fails to resolve Kashmir under UN resolution. Even Kartarpur, Hasan Abdal or Lahore religious sites of Sikhs will not and cannot remain open due to instability of relation between two countries. Only those visitors are allowed to enter Pakistan who denounce atrocities on the Muslims of Kashmir. There must be a wide media coverage to this so that the Indian government should amend its policies of suppression of minorities particularly the Muslims of Kashmir.
Previously, there used to be a closed national holiday which was deleted from the list of gazette holidays. Opening the Corridor would make the nation forget the actual hero of Pakistan and Kartar Singh would emerge in the new Pakistan. The government should consider making a comprehensive opening ceremony, remember Allama Iqbal, emphasis two-nation concept and offer thanksgiving prayers. It is time to introduce the Nazaria-e-Pakistan to the new generation of Sikhs and let them feel the difference between new Pakistan and new India.
Opening Kartarpur without visa and passport may offer India a chance to send its spies under the garb of Sikh Yatris. India has a bleak history in the affairs of Pakistan. In 1971, Indian aircraft Ganga was hijacked and brought to Pakistan. Later it was revealed that it was a false flag operation to disconnect air connection between East and West Pakistan. Therefore, military supplies could not be taken from West to East wing and the debacle of Dacca occurred leaving a blot on the history of Pakistan. Since then Indian efforts have not halted. Indian spy Kulbhushan Yadev, a proven case of espionage is awarded death sentence awaits execution. Pakistan should immediately hang him to death to deter Indian government from sending spies in Pakistan. Kartarpur should not be handled like the recent visit of Kate Madilton and Prince William, who was received at Nur Khan airbase, husked away from media and during the entire trip, failed to meet political leaders. During their meetings with the President and Prime Minister, no press information came to light where the Kashmir issue was raised or apprehensions on UN Charter violation mentioned. The Royal couple should have been gifted with a Kashmiri Shawl by the state of Pakistan at any suitable opportunity. In case the British High Commissioner did not agree, this job could have been done by the rickshaw driver who took the Royal couple to Pakistan Monument in Islamabad. In case of Kartarpur opening, the program needs to be well thought out and media utilization be well organized.
Diplomacy is about conveying one’s point of view to others in a convincing manner and convince the other rather than getting convinced irrationally. It is about spreading the message of Islam to the non-believers. Cricket diplomacy started with the journey of President Zia to India to convey the nuclear brinkmanship message apparently on a trip to see a cricket match in India. On his return, he had convinced the opponent of nuclear war if India attacked Pakistan. Let us pray and see how Prime Minister who picked up the idea of opening Kartarpur corridor while playing3 cricket gets the Kashmiri Muslims cause propelled till Kashmir becomes part of Pakistan.
—The author is a freelance writer and Retired commodore of Pakistan Navy.