July 16, 2001


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The Rediff Interview/Professor Naveed Hasan

'It is a lose-lose situation if India-Pakistan do not resolve their disputes'

Naveed Hasan's grandfather, Dr Khalifa Abdul Hakeem, was a poet in Hyderabad where he taught philosophy at Osmania University. Herself a professor of business strategy at the Lahore College of Business Administration and Economics, Dr Hasan feels liberals on both sides should see the dividends of peace.

In a conversation with Ramesh Menon, she says the common person in Pakistan wants peace and a better life. Politicians, she says, have used the conflict to divert the attention of the people from real issues.

Why has peace not happened all these years?

It is obviously political. It is just Kashmir. There is no other issue.

What does the man on the street feel about Kashmir and Indo-Pak relations?

The man on the street is concerned about their day to day lives, not Kashmir. Their day to day problems is so immense. They would welcome improvement to their lives. And that is why peace with India matters.

Are they so exercised about Kashmir as the political leadership?

The man on the street in India and Pakistan thinks the same. They are not concerned. No matter what their religion. It is economic problems that dictate the mindset of the masses. They are driven by economics more than anything else. It is another thing that religious fundamentalism rakes up feelings.

But those who are carried away by religious fundamentalism are marginal.

If the clergy decides it should not be marginal, then it does not remain marginal. They have a high nuisance value. It is for the government to ignore them. The more coverage they get in the media, the more they feel they are a voice to reckon with.

What do the young people in Pakistan feel? You deal with them every day.

'The youth in Pakistan -- just like the youth anywhere in the world -- want a stable society. They want good jobs.'
The youth in Pakistan -- just like the youth anywhere in the world -- want a stable society. They want good jobs. They want to be rewarded for their talent. They want an atmosphere where their careers can take off. They want safety and security.

So they are not affected by fundamental issues.

The majority is not really affected. The minority is only affected. However, the threat or fear of fundamentalism has affected everybody.

What are the young planning to do?

The young go abroad for higher levels of incomes and talent is rewarded in their working environment. If these two criteria are met, a lot of brain drain could be stopped. The educated class is leaving to go abroad for recognition and economic gain. The working class is also leaving for the same reason.

It is a grim situation.

It has always been grim. It is getting grimmer. If there is peace in the region, both countries will prosper. Peace helps neighbours.

But if there is peace, what will the army do? It has no role.

Already with nuclear capability, the army's role has already been compromised. In the bfuture, there are not going to be traditional ground wars. The nuclear deterrent should work. Hopefully, there should be no more wars. (US President) Clinton said borders cannot be drawn with blood. With us, it is relevant because we have gone to war and it has not achieved anything.

Did the creation of Bangladesh hurt Pakistanis even now?

There were far too many differences. Cultures, traditions, religion. We really were two countries. Nowhere in the world were a country divided by thousands of kilometres.

This summit should sow the seeds of hope and a process for future direction. Initially, there might still be mistrust even if declarations are made. However, if they stick to their resolve, they will be able to work on peace.

Will President Musharraf have support in his country even if he wants to work at peace?

The common man wants peace. They are the ones who suffer. The politicians do not suffer. Politicians have benefited from this conflict as it diverts people's attention from the real problems. It also extends their tenure. Even this agenda could benefit the political leadership by resolving it.

Now they are not going to benefit by not resolving it. In the past, the political leadership benefited by not resolving issues between India and Pakistan as they had support from the people. But now the tables have been turned. There is so much poverty because of this. If they resolve it, they will earn brownie points with the masses in both countries.

What about the arms stockpile in Pakistan in the hands of commoners?

'The common man wants peace. Politicians have benefited from this conflict as it diverts attention from the real problems.'
Pakistan has recently started doing a good thing, in the right direction. They have started disarming society. All the arms that the Afghan wars brought into the country are lying around. A lot of it was in the hands of religious groups. We have many internal problems because of this, as it led to ethnic violence and killings. Pakistan's interior ministry had advertised demanding a surrender of illegal arms.

They say that in two weeks they have recovered around 80,000 unlicensed guns. I think it is not much. But at least they are doing it. They have also got some rocket launchers. If they can disarm society, violence will decrease.

Will the political leadership have the courage to move ahead with peace?

When you are sitting in high positions, it is difficult to separate the trees from the woods. They have their own agendas, which may not be the agenda that is in the harmony of the region. There are so many wheels within wheels in politics. But it is a lose-lose situation if both countries do not resolve their disputes.

There will be elements in both countries that will oppose peace, but if it is seen to be working, it will speak for itself and gain support.

Indo-Pak summit: The complete coverage
The Bus to Pakistan: The complete coverage

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