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Indo - Pakistan relations: Politics even in the tragedy of death

by Rajindar Sachar, 8 May 2013

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Many great men sickened by the way the contemporary society behaves have been exasperated to give vent to their harshest feelings, Author Samuel Johnson remarked "Patriotism is the last refuge of a Scoundrel".

I had thought that Johnson was unfair to over whelming number of ordinary citizens who were in true sense patriots. I was willing to concede that if he had used the word "Politics" instead, I might have gone along with him, especially when I read what V Lenin said "There are no morals in politics there is only expediency. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel". Colloquially scoundrel conjures up a ruffian type of a person, but scoundrel is defined in Oxford dictionary to mean an "a dishonest or immoral person" which could apply at any level of hierarchy in the society. The crises however arises for us in India (and especially for the older generation) who have lived with Gandhiji’s teaching "that politics without morality is a sin".

The ugly manifest of this thinking is the way how Sarabjit’s death in Pakistan has been so cynically used by politicians ignoring completely the damage that has been done to future Indo-Pakistan relations.

The undoubted facts are Sarabjit, who, according to his family, while inebriated strayed into Pakistan Border in 1991 but was arrested in Pakistan as being Indian spy. He was tried by courts in Pakistan and Supreme Court rejected his appeal. He was sentenced to death, but before it could be executed relations between India and Pakistan eased somewhat, and efforts were being made to persuade Pakistan authorities to commute his sentence with the welcome especially the indefatigable effort made by Pakistani lawyer Awais Sheikh and Pakistan’s human rights activists. And then this sudden tragedy happened - his being beaten by co-prisoners resulting in his death. It was natural to expect that this would cause anger and disappointment in India and lead to some protests. But vested interest or small time politicians thought that it was a fertile moment to spread anti Pakistan hatred. So some TV, newspapers and politicians with vested interest went amuck shouting treachery by Pakistan, and even suggesting India should break off diplomatic relations with Pakistan. The result has been a near crazy sentiment being fuelled up against Pakistan. Some reckless politicians even provokingly spread the reckless news that Sarabjit had been deliberately beaten at the instance of Pakistan authorities.

And then started the cavalcade of big circus, Prime Minister of India described him as a brave son of India obviously accepting that he was a Indian spy (what more delicious news could Pakistan have hoped than that India admits it sends spies to Pakistan.)

The Punjab government to score a point against Central government and to claim that it was more patriotic announced a reward of Rs. 1 crore for Sarabjit. He was also given a state funeral - a rare honour reserved normally for army men who die in battle field, further giving material to Pakistan to blame India for sending spies. But so much was reckless thinking that Punjab irrespective of party affiliation competed the farce - when Punjab legislature unanimously passed a resolution terming Sarabjit as a national martyr.

Such was the atmosphere that Congress flew Rahul Gandhi specially to attend the funeral in the purported belief that not to do so would be electorally damaging. Alas! what small thinking. Please do not misunderstand. Full sympathy to Sarabjit’s family at his unfortunate death in the circumstances is natural. But what is worrying me is that behind this was the jingoist political symbolism against Pakistan being highlighted as if patriotism in the country has to be judged by the extent of how anti Pakistan you project yourself. What an ill-fated policy and lack of sense of reality.

And then when the political parties were bathing in this short-lived limelight nature struck a blow. We had the unfortunate incident of a Pakistani prisoner Sanaullah in Jammu in jail being seriously injured by an Indian co-prisoner - his condition being such that he had to be flown to Chandigarh PGI for further treatment. This exposed our hollow chant which Indian politicians were making that in Lahore jail Sarabjit could not have been beaten by Pak co-prisoners on their own but must be at the instance of Pak officials. Would the Indian politicians apply the same logic at what has happened at Jammu and blame Indian officials. If not, why the double standards. It is puerile and politically dishonest to ignore the loud condemnation of Pakistan government of Sarabjit case by Human Rights Commission and other intellectuals of Pakistan.

Rajasthan Congress Chief Minister facing State elections has carried jingoism to the limit by publically forbidding Pakistan pilgrims to visit the holy shrine of Ajmer Sharif, as he expresses his inability to maintain law and order in the aftermath of Sarabjit case. If this is his mind, nothing but his resignation is called for.

Both the Central and Punjab government by their shortsighted partisan manner of handling Sarabjit case have done immeasurable harm to the intelligence agency of India. The extraordinary blow up of Sarabjit case by the government has led to large number of Indian spies who had come back to India after having spent 20 to 25 years in Pakistan Jail, go public and complain as to how they have been neglected all these years and they have not been given their dues which were promised to them when they were recruited. I hope their public cry will now at least reach the ears of central government.

There are in both countries large number of prisoners who continue to be in respective jails even after their sentence has been completed. Can one hope that in the sober sequel to Sarabjit and Sanaullahs case, both the countries will take immediate steps to send back these prisoners to their respective countries. This is not only a humanitarian but a legal demand.

India and Pakistan are like Siamese twins. The pain and tribulation of each will get reflected in the other. Accept that bleeding of either will bleed the other too. In this approach only the welfare and prosperity of both countries lie.

(The author is Chief Justice (Retd.), High Court of Delhi and Chairperson Prime Minister’s High Level Committee. He can be contacted at: E- Mail: rsachar1@ vsnl.net)