The Speech Musharraf Won’t Make

President Musharraf has made many speeches. This is the speech that (were he to make it) would change the course of Indo-Pakistan relations. Unfortunately, it would take a greater leader than Musharraf to make this speech. Here it is, with the hope that it may still get some Pakistani ears

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I begin in the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful.

Pakistani Brothers and Sisters!

After a lot of thought, I’m now clear about the two paths that lie ahead of us. One path leads to continued poverty, strife (internal and external), and ultimately to annihilation. Choosing the other path can allow us to work on the long-deferred task of actually building our nation.

To choose between these two paths, we have to take a decision regarding two critical issues: our relationship with India, and our stand on Kashmir. I shall speak about each here.

It should be clear to all rational people that our nation can never fully progress until we make peace with India. They say that we can choose our friends, but not our family. It is the same with the geographical neighbors of a country. Whether we like it or not, we are stuck with India as a neighbor. Whether we like it or not, India is also a major power in the region. We our have a choice regarding the kind of relationship we have with it. A relationship of peace can harbinger a new era of trade and prosperity for both nations. We have many common interests and problems. Together, we can be strong representatives of group of developing nations. Together, we can make SAARC, which has been hobbled by our conflict, into an effective entity. Peace would allow us to divert our crucial resources towards building our infrastructure and for the welfare of our people. Or, we can choose to continue on the path of strife, which on the one hand, serves to keep the masses in poverty and on the other hand, serves to fill the pockets of a few.

During all the fifty years of our independence, we have chosen the path of strife. Certainly the choice was not ours alone — India contributed to it as much as we did. Nonetheless, we played our part in keeping the pot boiling. The time has now come to rethink this policy. Do we want the next fifty years to be better, the same, or worse than the last fifty? Certainly we would like India to change and agree to everything that we say, but that is unlikely to happen. So the choice we have is to consider whether there is any change that we can make in our attitudes to make a significant difference.

The first is for us to genuinely desire peace. I know that the number of people in Pakistan who genuinely desire peace outnumber those that would wish for the conflict to continue or increase. There are, of course, plenty of naysayers. There are those that oppose peace for religious reasons — those that would much rather fight till death. There are those, including some senior people in the army, who would like to continue with the status quo since it serves to fill their pockets. And there are those that favor conflict as they still have bruised egos from past encounters.

I’d ask the first group to choose better occupations for their sons than to be cannon fodder for martyrdom. To the second, I say, your time has come, and no longer will the country exist simply to serve a few, but to serve the many. And the resulting economic prosperity will open more doors towards wealth than it will close. And to the third, who would carry on fighting simply for repairing a bruised ego, I relate to your sentiments, but the path of conflict is no assurance that our egos can be repaired. Neither India, nor Pakistan, is a pushover. Holding on to false pride does not befit the wise. The best path to rebuild our pride as a nation is through peace and prosperity and not through enmity with India. To do this we have to discard our old paradigms and create new ones.

What are the paradigms that we have to discard? Let us first talk about Kashmir. There will be many who are wondering how we can talk about peace with India without first talking about Kashmir. As I have repeatedly said, Kashmir runs in our blood. For years we have supported the Kashmir struggle. In the last two decades, this has been a very violent struggle. Of course, the Indian forces have committed many atrocities upon the people of Kashmir, but I am sad to say that the Jihadis have committed atrocities that are no less. Our support in favour of the violent struggle in Kashmir has served the purpose of keeping India bleeding and keeping the issue of Kashmir alive. However, if we were to be honest with ourselves, it is the Kashmiris who have suffered the most in this violent struggle. The people of Kashmir are fed up of violence. It has robbed them of their lives, their liberties and their peace, and has resulted in an even harsher crackdown from the Indian authorities. Do we want Kashmir or do we want the welfare of Kashmiris? If we want the latter, it is time to bring the violent jihad to an end.

Of course, ultimately we have to concern ourselves with the welfare of Pakistan above all other things. Our policy of supporting violence in Kashmir and India has served us well in inflicting a huge damage to India at very little cost to us. There are many who would want to continue this support. As Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, this is indeed a great temptation for me as well. But as the President of Pakistan, I can see that this support has not come without a cost to our nation. Supporting the jihadis has allowed them great liberties inside the country and has resulted in our society becoming considerably more violent. Our actions in Kashmir are no longer hidden from the international community, and we continue to erode trust of the international community by repeating contentions which they and we know are false. The global attitude towards covert support of violent actions against civilians has changed. And equally importantly, we cannot hope for genuinely peaceful relations with India as long as we continue fostering terrorism within it.

The first step towards genuine change is confession of wrongdoing. And I say to India, I admit that Pakistan has directly supported the violent struggle in Kashmir and I hereby declare that we will cease to do so. This will allow me to look any world leader in the eye and state that we only provide moral support to the struggle of Kashmir. Our moral support is of value only once we choose a path of morality. Covertly encouraging terrorism in our neighboring country is immoral, not to mention unwise in the current circumstances. By making this confession, I have a message for the people of India. It is with great peril that I have done this and I have done so because I genuinely desire peace. I am not repeating the same time-worn phrases. I am admitting there is something in our existing policy to be changed and am taking the steps to genuinely chart a new course in our relationship.

We talk of peace, not out of weakness, but out of a common desire to better our people. And we fear that if we make peace, Kashmir may become peaceful. And if Kashmir becomes peaceful, the people on the Indian side of Kashmir may well be quite satisfied with where they are. And this we are afraid of. But, my Pakistani brothers and sisters, while the cause of Kashmir runs in our blood, let us make sure that it does not become a cancer that destroys us. The cause of Kashmir is not greater than the cause of Pakistan. It is a myth that we need Kashmir to define our nationhood. We are willing to walk the talk with Kashmir, but at the same time I say to India that there will not be peace in our hearts till the saga of Kashmir comes to a just conclusion. If Kashmir becomes peaceful, so be it. If the people of Kashmir are satisfied with their situation, so be it. If our cause is the Kashmiri people and not a piece of land, we should be willing to face our fears and give peace a chance.

As I extend a hand of true friendship to India, I wish for a different future for our children than what we have together given them for the last fifty years. Together, we can curtail the violence that affects our societies. Let us stop teaching our children hatred towards one another. A nation living on hate is a nation that is sick. We need to heal ourselves. Let us build a Pakistan that is strong and prosperous and at peace with all its neighbors.

Pakistan Paindabad!

© Sankrant Sanu., all rights reserved.

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