President Geo TV Network
It is wonderful to be in Delhi among friends, amongst fellow dreamers who dream with their eyes wide open. It is also poignant for the Jang Group to be here after 70 years in a city where its journey began.
Whenever Indians and Pakistanis of our generation visit each other, they go in search of their fractured past. Looking for some fragment of memory, an abandoned house, a lane that once was, an ink-stained mutilated desk carved with the initials of a face once loved, now forgotten, some half remembered fragrance, the source of a lullaby, a chalk-marked blackboard now wiped clean by a new class monitor or a letter that was written, was folded, was inserted in an envelope, was addressed, but never posted. It is a relationship drenched in nostalgia and patched with pain. All very romantic! All very poetic! All very tragic!
I think it is time we visited each other searching not for our fleeting past, but for our future. This is easier said than done. We have not yet unpacked the excess baggage we cart around at tremendous cost to our people. And we keep filling our luggage with unnecessary trinkets and souvenirs of prejudices, superstitions, stereotypes, induced hatreds, lies parading as history, aggressive intent and ticking time bombs poised to unsettle the delicate balance we achieve from time to time. It is a toxic relationship, where love and hate alternate with alarming regularity. A sensitive relationship where hurt refuses to subside and scars are amplified in the retelling. Only with truth will come reconciliation. And the truth continues to be inconvenient. But it needs to be spoken even if it is contrary to the national narratives we have been held hostage to.
If we are to create the enabling environment for a meaningful relationship, we need to take the debate to the people and out of these halls where very polite discourse amongst the like-minded and converted can lull us into a false sense of success. We have to engage with the passions, atavistic, irrational and vile as they can be.
We have fashioned the vessels that can take us into the heart of darkness. We need the will to navigate this vessel towards fairer shores. Plying our vessels only in the back channels without moving into the mainstream will not do.
I am alluding here to the media, the much hyped, much maligned media as the critical navigator. It is only the media that has the power, both constructive and destructive, that can set an agenda, disseminate new ideas, test the soundness of these concepts and reach the critical mass that has eluded us. It is this media only that can change mindsets and bring forth narratives of commonality and reconciliation, and it can also bring division and war. Unless we get our two people talking to each other, having an animated, sustained conversation with each other, sharing our fears, anxieties and apprehensions about our intentions, progress on the path to peace will continue to falter. Speech will be reduced to a stutter.
Ten years ago the satellites orbiting over Mother India had been a wakeup call for Pakistan. After decades of information and entertainment draught, it was as if prohibition had been lifted. We took to the exotic brew that was suddenly available and we drained the glass with the zeal of a born again drunkard. We killed the bottle and enjoyed the high of celestial freedom from terrestrial tyranny. But when we came to our senses, our head was throbbing with a hegemonistic hangover.
We were under a footprint of some satellite by default. It was the footprint of an abominable showman out to crush our identity, our carefully crafted values and our insularity. We were frightened. We now looked at our neighbours whom we had demonised for years and years and we were confronted with an image of our better selves. By some tele-visual surgery India had airbrushed away all its pock marks. There were no slums, no poverty, no dhotis, no chotis, no caste, no communalism, no rural hinterland, no hunger India had affected a makeover and was stepping out like a debutant. Twenty-four hours a day we were attacked by Madhuri Dixitís navel bombardments. We decided to go the same route but we sobered up fast, realising that life was not about the endless battles of sasses with bahus.
Sadly, India did not come to our party. Pakistan has disappeared from the Indian media in a very uni-dimensional way. Doctor (Kiran Singh) sahib was just talking about Indian artists coming and not coming to Pakistan. I hosted Zakir Hussain myself when he was in Pakistan. Sonu Nigam, Alka Yagnik are the artists that you can talk about, have visited us. There was a time when we started out with Geo Television and what was the first thing we did was to organise a very interesting competition hosted by Anu Kapoor, done in Dubai named after a song by Noor Jahan and this was a competition between Indians and Pakistanis about songs and we paid tribute to Mukesh, Talat Mehmood, Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle and so on and so forth. We did this in a very exciting manner because artists from India came and sang, artists from Pakistan came and sang each otherís songs and we created possibly the first glimmer of this Aman ki Asha.
It is time that some corrective measures are taken. We have to connect. We have to create more empathy for each others. There's a lot of talk these days about 26/11. Obviously we were traumatised by what happened, but over the last year, Pakistan for instance, suffered 26,000 deaths through terrorism. This is not a small figure. When I look at the awards that were given out this year, I saw names mainly of Colonels, Brigadiers and Captains who laid down their lives fighting against terrorism. We donít find that kind of empathy in the Indian media.
We have not talked about not having any access to periodicals. The same applies there. But what has happened is that India is present in our homes, it's there illegally, through the cable networks, the cinemas are full of Indian movies. My eight-year-old son said to me yesterday that he wanted to go Badmash Company and I said what? But he went all the same and I think he enjoyed it terribly. We need to celebrate our successes rather than gloat at each other's defeats.
And this can only happen if the media takes us into the lives of the people in a holistic manner through cinema, through theatre, serials, talk shows, music, art, seminars, trade, investment and literature. I believe that the presence of the Pakistani media in India and the Indian media in Pakistan can help moderate some of the intolerance that passes as opinion in both countries.
Bans will only lead to contraband information. Powerful and meaningful people-to-people interactions can only take place on a platform or a media that gives space to a peace process and refuses to give in to the cynicism that untoward incidents induce. Shoaib and Sania had happened.
We must clear the mines planted by narrow interests to allow open cross-border flows of information.
It cannot be a monologue any more. It has to be not only a dialogue but a chorus of voices. And we must listen to these marginalised voices ñ very carefully. Ultimately the politicians will have to frame policy. We can give them the space by trying to build an enabling environment where bolder initiatives can be taken without looking over their shoulders.
The joint editorial that appeared in the Times of India, The News and Jang on the first of January this year started with the words that peace between India and Pakistan has been stubbornly elusive and yet tantalisingly inevitable. I hope that in the interest of this great Subcontinent the elusiveness can morph into the inevitable in our lifetime.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
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Page 137 of 175
The News on Sunday Special Report: India Pakistan prisoners more editions
We probably didn't need to do this Special Report. Newspaper stories don't matter when it comes to Indians in Pakistani jails and vice versa. In fact, 'vice versa' sums it up. We do to them what they do to us.
Except when the two countries decide to begin talking, yet again! This time a little before the foreign secretary level talks, some Pakistani prisoners were released by India (and vice versa must have happened) and some more were release....read more
For the past 2 years the Jang Group and Geo have been working on a project of great national interest; one that we hope will help usher in an era of peace and prosperity in the country and indeed, in the region. And one that hopefully all Pakistanis can be proud of. more
The Jang Group has entered into an agreement with the Times of India Group, the largest media group of India, to campaign for peace betw