Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pakistan, in person: Part II

After discussing about life in Pakistan, Islamic terrorism and Gandhi-Nehru-Jinnah and Benazir Bhutto(which I have posted in part 1 of the interview) we went talking about life of a common man under dictatorship, Osama Bin Laden, Women literacy and IPL. We wrapped up with Koffee with Karan style rapid fire covering topics like Lashkar-e-Toiba.

People in India and rest of the world have an image of Pakistan which is very different from the actual Pakistan. Hope this series of uncensored interviews help in clearing a lot of doubts about Pakistan and Pakistanis. For me it was a revelation of sorts. I am indebted to Muhammad Awais Awan and Ayesha Ilyas for sharing their views on issues which are in the top of our minds but are never discussed. I still remember that time. At about 1:30 am, after a really long and hectic day, you guys had no dearth of enthusiasm and agreed to give the interview. Thanks Ayesha and Awais! You guys rock!

Prashant: Pakistan had democracy until 1999. Then there was dictatorship and now again there is democracy.  As a common citizen of Pakistan what changes did you see in people’s life before dictatorship, during dictatorship and now?
Ayesha:  In the ten years since 1999, Pakistan has regressed to a state which is probably worse than what it was 50 years back. Before 1999 though the government wasn’t good, people were having peaceful life.  In 1999 we gave a warm welcome to Musharraf’s government which was our mistake.  We didn’t realize that democracy can never be worse than dictatorship.  Even if it was bad, the elections would have somehow changed things for better.  The 2001 episode happened. Musharraf gave everything in the hands of America, took a U-Turn on the Taliban issue. The whole region got disturbed only because of  Musharraf.  Countries in this region refused to give help to America. Pakistan could have done the same. We didn’t need America. This one decision of Musharraf destroyed the whole life of ours. The period after '99 is responsible for the state in which a common Pakistani is living today.
Prashant: How are things now when you have democracy?
Ayesha: This democracy is even worse than that dictatorship because this democracy has arrived in the same way in which Musharraf’s dictatorship came. As per the Election Commission’s report, out of 18 crore population, only 90 lakh votes were genuine the rest were fake. So, this government is not chosen by us but by fake votes. So, how can something that that we have not chosen be good for us?
Prashant: Are there any changes in the life?
Ayesha:  Disastrous changes. In 5-6 years, the ‘roti’ that we bought for 2 rupay we buy it for 10 rupay (and that too smaller sized roti). When we wanted to curse someone and didn’t want it to come true, we would say – “may he get killed in a bomb blast or some bomb gets dropped on him” because we thought this is just not possible to happen.  But now if you say this to anyone you are abusing him. Things weren’t as bad before.
Awais: To sum up, I’d say two things: Before 99 there was democracy to a certain extent. At least the people were happy. When the dictatorship came, the people were disturbed. Musharraf took a few decisions which disturbed things. In the follow-up, he did such works that the bomb blasts started. When the bomb blasts started not only did the internal peace got impacted but we started becoming infamous in the world. After this, we got democracy. And as Ayesha said, this is worse than the dictatorship. No one in Pakistan is staying in peace.  The situation is such that if you go to a big city, say Peshawar, then you don’t know whether you would come back home safely. 

The situation is such that if you go to a big city, say Peshawar, then you don’t know whether you would come back home safely. 

Prashant: Let’s talk about Bangladesh. Before ’71, it was East Pakistan now it is Bangladesh. What’s your take on the whole episode?
Ayesha:  In the election of ’71, the majority was that of people of Bangladesh and they were to form their government and have their prime minister. Bhutto may have done a lot of good work but his biggest mistake or rather sin was that he divided Pakistan for his own ego.  He made Mujibur Rahman a culprit – even in our course books say Mujibur Rahman was the culprit and spread that India was supporting the divide and Mujibur Rahman. Even if India was supporting him, the mistake was Bhutto's – the mistake was our own.  Why will a third person interfere in your home? Only if you make a mistake will a third person interfere and take advantage of it. Even if India did anything wrong, we were the reason behind it. He, only for his ego and to come to power, divided Pakistan into two parts. 

Bhutto may have done a lot of good work but his biggest mistake or rather sin was that he divided Pakistan for his own ego.

Prashant: Osama Bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan. As local people what is your take on it?
Ayesha: Osama Bin Laden was not in Pakistan so there is no question of his being caught there. He most definitely didn’t get killed there. America killed Saddam Hussain in the public. Osama was a bigger criminal. ‘Toh use paani mein kyon baha diya?’ America just needed an excuse to get out of Afghanistan because it was badly stuck there. The simplest way for this was – Pakistan is anyway infamous. Do a drama of killing him in Pakistan. ‘Apne logon ko yeh toffee khila do ki’ – Osama is dead so we don’t have any reason to stay in Afghanistan. ‘Apni jaan chhuda lo; sab kuchh inke sar pe dal do’ . Destroy our whole economy and damage all our relations and escape.
Prashant: After that, Taliban’s leader, umm…
Ayesha: Mullah Omar?
Prashant:  Mullah Omar is said to have been killed in Pakistan.
Awais: It is rumour.
Prashant: Rumor?
Awais:  If we talk of Saddam Husain, if America wanted to hang him they could have done it in a closed jail but they showed it – the whole world saw; they showed it even till the rope was pulled. If they have killed Osama, then at least show the body.  How many times will you kill one person? To share a little story – I got an SMS the other day – ‘We heard that Osama got killed in 2005, then in 2008, in 2009, 2011. We’ll hear that he got killed in 2015. How many times will you kill him yaar. Even Start Plus doesn’t kill so many times!’
Ayesha: Mullah Omar may as well be in Pakistan. If he is in Pakistan then CIA must be protecting him.  Who else is protecting? CIA can take an insect out from beneath the earth.  If he was in Pakistan from last 5 years then why didn’t they catch him before? If they came to know in March that he’s there then why did CIA wait till May? For their own benefits. If he was in Pakistan then it’s not because Pakistanis have sheltered him but because CIA would have hidden him there.

 We heard that Osama got killed in 2005, then in 2008, in 2009, 2011. We’ll hear that he got killed in 2015. How many times will you kill him yaar. Even Start Plus doesn’t kill so many times!’

Prashant:  What is the perception of the people of Pakistan about the 26/11 episode? How do people perceive it?
Ayesha:  People are somewhat neutral about it. Even in the Talibanization of Pakistan, they have involved Pakistani nationals. Anyone can be ‘spoiled’ in exchange of money.  We don’t support any terrorist activity whether in India or in Pakistan, whether committed by Indian or Pakistani. If Ajmal Kasab was a major culprit, it doesn’t matter whether he was a Pakistani national; what matters is what he has done. He should be punished according to his deed.
Awais: Situation in Mumbai is similar to that in Karachi. You can pay anyone to kill. As Ayesha said, Ajmal Kasab could have been used. Another thing that we see is that if there is a bomblast here, it is said that it is done by Pakistan. If there is a bomb blast in Pakistan it is said that it is done by India. These are possibilities. I personally feel that if there shouldn’t be any bomb blast in India because of Pakistan. Similarly, maybe you also feel the same. If Ajmal Kasab has done what he’s claimed to have done then he should be punished.
Ayesha: The problem is – a lot of times things don’t reach the aam admi. What reaches people is what they want, what they can cash. They are playing with emotions of the people and twisting facts accordingly.  Maybe he is a Pakistani. Maybe he did what is said he did. If he’s done then he should get punished accordingly, regardless of whether he an Indian national, Pakistani national or American national. Raymond David wasn’t spared for what he did in Pakistan. Similarly, if Ajmal Kasab did the miscreant then he shouldn’t be spared.
Prashant: The bottom line is that people of both the countries want ‘aman’.
Ayesha: Exactly.
Prashant:  No one wants bomb blast anywhere.
Ayesha: And who dies in it? An ordinary Indian. What is his mistake? He is also human like us, eats-drinks like us.  He also has aims like we have.  If he’s loyal to his country then it’s good. If he thinks well about India, then he should – it’s logical. If someone staying in Pakistan and thinks against Pakistan then he is mad, he will be bad for us. We cannot consider someone (Indian) as our enemy because he thinks well about India.
Prashant: If someone can think ill for his country then he can think ill for other country as well.
Ayesha: Exactly. 

 We don’t support any terrorist activity whether in India or in Pakistan, whether committed by Indian or Pakistani.

Prashant: Coming to women literacy. About 25% of the women are literate. Even lesser women enter work force.
Ayesha:  The problem of illiteracy is not limited to women. Everyone in Pakistan – men or women - should be provided education. Employment opportunity should also be available to all. However,  I would support for employment opportunity for men. In our society, men are supposed to earn the money for the house. The women earns money for jewelries, bags, parties, etc.  Instead of giving the 10,000 rupay to a women, if you give it a man, he would run the whole ‘khandaan’. So, I wouldn’t support women getting more employment. If a woman really needs to take care of her family financially then it makes sense. For women who do it ‘shaukiya’, I don’t think they should get the opportunity. Instead, if that opportunity is given to a man, then he can run the whole ‘khandaan’.           
Prashant: What about ambition of women?
Ayesha: I don’t think that if you are sitting at home and raising the family you are doing anything less than anyone. You are doing more than the man. You are preparing the next generation and taking care of the whole house. Yours is the biggest contribution. Because, no man can do that. No man can do that. No matter what a man does, he cannot run a house like a woman. If you leave the house on a man, he messes up everything. Instead of leaving the house to some third person, if a woman is taking care of her family then she is doing nothing lesser than anyone. Allah Miya – God – Bhagwan, who has created things that way, knows more than us.
Awais: From mainstreaming perspective, we have some plans and we will see literacy rates higher in a few years in Pakistan.
Ayesha: Education should be for everyone. It is not necessary that if someone is educated then he/she should do job.

Prashant: Finally a question on cricket. In IPL, no Pakistani players were selected. There was a lot of media reaction around it.
Awais: There should be some reaction. If you look at that time, the Pakistani team was very strong.
Prashant: But in IPL it’s all divided
Awais: Yes. It does get divided. But why the celebrities didn’t select them? I have this question from you.
Prashant: In the media it was told that they were invited.
Awais:  Is it that IPL had some problem with ‘Lahore Badshah’?
Prashant: There are two views on this. One is that the selectors didn’t select them for their own reasons. The other thing that was floating around was that it was the same year that 26/11 happened and because of which they were not selected.
Awais: I’d like to quote something from the Indian media. The celebrities were bounded to not select Pakistanis.  What about it?
Prashant:  As Shah Rukh Khan said in his media bite…
Awais: Main Shoab Akhtar ko lena chah raha tha but due to some reasons couldn’t take him
Prashant: So, everyone had their own answers for not selecting any Pakistani player. But another view was also that it was the year of 26/11.
Awais: As far as IPL is concerned, despite there is no Pakistani, but people in Pakistan do see IPL. Right now as the finals are going on, there are people who would have closed their shops or left their offices to see IPL. So, there should be some Pakistanis. Now, how is it possible? I think the factor is – ‘Indian Premiere League’. So, why have ‘Lahore Badshah’ in it.
Ayesha: I think IPL is not an issue. Those playing in IPL played for money – neither for India nor for Pakistan. It is up to the selectors to choose you. They don’t select you based on your passport. They select based on your skills. Instead, if Inda or ICC forbids Pakistani players in India, then it would be a matter of provocation. If someone is not getting selected in IPL, then there is no need of creating an India-Pakistan issue out of it because the person is playing for money and not for India/Pakistan.

If someone is not getting selected in IPL, then there is no need of creating an India-Pakistan issue out of it because the person is playing for money and not for India/Pakistan.

Prashant: We’ve come to the last leg of our interview. This is on the lines of ‘Rapid Fire Round’ in Koffee with Karan. You need to say whatever comes first to your mind (Apparently, they were familiar with Koffee with Karan and the Rapud Fire!)

Prashant: India
Ayesha: Incredible
Awais: Same as Pakistan

Prashant: China
Ayesha: Friend
Awais: Next super power

Prashant: US
Awais: Bull shit
Ayesha: A true rival

Prashant: Taliban
Ayesha: Nothing
Awais: Not Muslims

Prashant: Al Qaeda
Ayesha: Another name for CIA
Awais: Agreed

Prashant: Shah Rukh Khan
Ayesha:  A good actor
Awais: Celebrity

Prashant: Sachin Tendulkar
Ayesha: He’s a celebrity
Awais: Celebrity

Prashant: Mohammad Ali Jinnah
Awais: Great Leader
Ayesha: Mohammad Ali Jinnah… was a… great leader

Prashant: Madrasas
Awais: Some religious schools
Ayesha: Wrongly implemented.
Madrasa basically means school. Even ‘Talib’ means someone who’s struggling for knowledge. Even Madrasas were a good place whose term has been wrongly used. It’s our mis-interpretation
Prashant: So, we are misinterpreting the term, Madrasa
Ayesha: Yes we are misinterpreting the term and we have started implementing it in a wrong way. In Pakistan I have seen Madrasas which teaches religion as well as computer. I’d call it the right madrasa. Madrasa is not where you are taught Talibanization. That is not madrasa

Prashant: Lashkar-e-toiba
Awais: No Comments
Ayesha: Lashkar-e-taiyyaba… It was initiated as a group who would work for human rights in a way which they thought was correct. Maybe, the one who started it, started it with right intentions and maybe who are taking it forward are doing it in a wrong way. Basically, the concept was pertaining to human rights. If people running it are wrong then the blame shouldn’t go to people who started it. If a few people of a religion does something wrong, the blame goes to the person and not the whole religion.

Thanks, once again, Awais and Ayesha for speaking to the people of India and through the Internet to the people of the world. I am also thankful to SAYC for giving us the platform where such candid, people-to-people discussion could happen. Hope a lot of misconceptions about Pakistan has been cleared in this!


VikramAdith June 8, 2011 at 1:52 AM  

Insightful series mate! How come no questions on Kashmir? :P

Alpesh June 11, 2011 at 4:41 PM  


How did you manage to ask such controversial questions?

Prashant Mehta June 14, 2011 at 1:28 AM  

VikramAdith ji

Thanks! I was anticipating this question. unfortunately Kashmir is the biggest issue between India and Pakistan. I specifically resisted from asking about Kashmir is because i think Kashmir is a political issue. People of India and Pakistan (excluding the Kashmirirs) are not directly impacted by it. I am sure if someone asks us about the Kashmir issue we would be clueless. Hence i didn't ask my Pakistani friends about the Kashmir issue. God willing, I'll get to know about how an ethnic Kashmiri staying in kashmir feels when i'll meet them first hand.

Alpesh ji
I would give full credit to Awais and Ayesha for handling the question with such maturity. Also, SAYC provided a platform which encouraged such candid, political incorrect and 'real' discussions. I remember, when I asked Awais and Ayesha whether they would be okay if I asked such controversial questions, they said, "Agar bade ki niyat saaf ho to koi problem nahi hai". I even told them to feel free to not answer any question they were uncomfortable with, but they answered all the questions asked with utmost maturity!

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