Here we are reproducing a feature, written by Habib R. Sulemani, whose three generations, since 1947, have suffered due to wars between the two neighboring countries. It was published in Dawn newspaper on January 11, 2004—during the then Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit to Pakistan.—The Terrorland Team (TTT)
By Habib R. Sulemani
(India-Pakistan wars have created widows on both sides of the border)
As, on both sides, the guns are silent! This has allowed not only the scared human beings to freely go about their business, but it has also given the birds, opportunity to begin their much forgotten chirping. If this continues then the fire-pouring soil will turn into lush-green in the coming spring, as it was originally intended. Signs of life are seemingly replacing death-sirens, which is a good omen not only for some 1.5 billion people of the South Asian region but for the stability of the world as well.
Pakistan and India are two nuclear powers of Asia. The world has been fearful of a nuclear clash between the two archrivals, which would have catastrophic for the entire world. So there was immense pressure on both to come to the negotiation table to resolve their longstanding disputes through peaceful means. But fortunately, they have realized now the sensitivity of the ‘new world’ and are seeking friendship and peace. It is dead sure that the people of both countries are now tired of the traditional war mongering attitudes of their rulers. The growing poverty and unemployment in the region has changed the meaning of the traditional ‘patriotism’ and the rhetorical statements of the governments and politicians have no more any appeal for the common man.
The recent elections in India prove this changing attitude, where out of the four states, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ruling party, BJP, won in three states. It was an endorsement of his government’s policies toward a better relation with neighbouring Pakistan. People think now that their economical conditions can only be better and prosperity can come their way when the two countries finish their enmity and start better mutual relations.
The leadership of both the countries, have to be equally flexible for the success of permanent peace and stability in the region. They have to break the inertia, because this is what the people want. Rationality is the need of the time. The war mongering elements, emotional literature and pieces of arts, rhetoric speeches/statements and bitter events should now be buried in the grave of the past for a better future for the coming generations. Only this way the demands of the ‘Cyber Age’ can be fulfilled. Even those people whose families were directly affected by the long enmity of both countries are also willing to bring peace. They want an end to revenge and destruction of poor families on either side of the border. This is their moral support for their leadership.
Nazir Begum, the 60-year-old widow of Major Muhammad Hanif Malik (Shaheed), Sitara Jur’at (SJ) is one of the hundreds of thousands victims of Pak-Indo wars, who is appealing to both the governments to bring peace. Her husband was martyred during the 1971 war, on December 3, in Hussain Walla border, Kusoor (Punjab), soon after his 41-Baloch regiment of the Pakistan army conquered the famous fort of ‘Qasr-i-Hind’.
“The wars between Pakistan and India have destroyed entire families and generations. There are hundreds of thousand widows and orphans of wars everywhere. War is a curse and it should be avoided. It has given us nothing but snatched everything. Now, if there is a truce and reconciliation it will be better,” Nazir Begum said while talking to Dawn at her residence in Rawalpindi.
Nazir Begum was married to his cousin Major Hanif in 1966. At that time she was barely 19 and his husband was almost 30 years old. Their happily married life lasted, unfortunately, five years latter, when war broke-out. She became a widow at the tender age of 24.
“My daughter was three and half years old then, while my only son was born just one month after the death of his father. There was complete darkness and I was left alone,” she says.
Nazir Begum is a lean and thin soft-spoken, polite and graceful old-lady. Before she could speak, her grey hair and deep dark fearful eyes told her tragic story.“My painful life is worth a novel, not just an article, son” she said with a gloomy voice, she told me. “When my husband was martyred, I was given a piece of land and Rs300,000. I sold the land and bought this house in Rawalpindi. I bought this house and since, I lived a dignified life; never requested anybody for help. My husband’s Rs1100 pension helped me raise my two children. My son got scholarship regularly and that reduced my financial burden. Now he gets Rs7000 from his job, the pension and the rent of a portion of the house is helping us make our ends meet.”
One can just imagine the agony of a young woman in this male dominated society, who is widowed at 24, with two kids and decides not to marry again and raise her kids despite all odds.“After becoming a widow, I never wore good colour clothes. My shirt, trouser and scarf would always make no combination. I wouldn’t comb my hair in months and thus I would look like a beggar. My mother-in-law lost her senses after the death of my husband. She slept on his grave, from morning till night, in hot and cold weather, in the hope to hear his voice. She died 10 years after the death of her son.
“Despite an offer I did not let my only son to join the Army. Because I was too scared. A child who has not seen the face of his father, what will be his state of mind? It is unimaginable. Due to my limited income yet I have not married him (son). My husband’s batch fellows have retired as generals; if he could have lived this long, today we would have had a different lifestyle. Those, whose families and quiet lives were destroyed by wars, what remains for them in life? But as a Shaheed (martyr) we are proud of my husband. That is our religious faith.”
Advocating for peace she said, “Our entire family is in the Army and there are such houses where more then one person lost his life in a war between Pakistan and India. Now there should be peace — no more wars and sufferings. Today our economic problems have increased many times than the past. Even the price of vegetable has run out of the common people’s reach. Joblessness is destroying lives of the youth. The use of narcotics has increased and suicides are on the rise. Incompetent and corrupt successive governments took advantage of the war-like situations — it should all come to an end now. We can hope for peace only. There is no remedy to the sufferings my children and I went through, but if there is a permanent truce between Pakistan and India at least there will be no more people like us,” she said.
It is true that our dreams of peace can come true only when the governments of Pakistan and India are take big initiatives.“President General Pervaiz Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee have the writ and power to bring peace in this region,” says Mrs Saiqa Malik, daughter of Major Hanif (Shaheed).
“Out of our countries and on the Internet I have seen tolerance and respect for each other. Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians all respect each other’s faiths. The hatred is only within the governments and now there should be an end to it.”Saiqa denounced war and said she has just a vivid memory of his father, who died when she was just three-and-half years old.“My younger brother and my life has remained empty of the presence of a father, but our mother did not let us realize it,” she concluded.
Indeed war has given us nothing except miseries. In 1948 my grandfather Mr Snober, in the 1965 my elder uncle Mr Ghulam Akber and in 1971 my younger uncle Mr Amirullah became disabled for life, one after another; while in 1999 my younger brother Ajaz Rehman was martyred in Kargil. No doubt, we are proud of their services to the nation. But today, like millions of other peace-loving people of Pakistan and India, my family and I have also a dream for permanent peace so that happiness and prosperity can touch our lives as well.
President Musharaf as a solder and Prime Minister Vajpayee as a poet/intellectual know better, the importance of peace over war — so let us hope our dreams of peace will come true and the disgusting chapter of hostilities will meet an end.