Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Rare Musharraf gesture: temple visit and talk of unity
Posted: Saturday , Nov 25, 2006 at 2330 hrs
Last Tuesday, Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf did something, and also said something, which is rare in the political history of this Islamic Republic. He visited a Hindu temple in Karachi and said, “Places of worship of all religions, including Hinduism, were an integral part of the culture of Pakistan and its geographical history. Maintaining such properties in good condition is a government priority in order to turn them into sites of bonding between religions.”
When is the last time you heard of a Pakistani head of government visiting a Hindu temple and making such benign statements about Hinduism? Not during the time of Zia-ul-Haq, who set Pakistan firmly on the path of Islamisation and blessed cross-border terrorism against India as a state policy. Nor during the time of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who had a Hindu mother, or the military rulers who preceded him. Yes, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, did state, in his historic Constituent Assembly speech on August 11, 1947, that Hindus and Muslims would be treated equally in the newly carved out nation. But he did not live long enough to build a durable secular foundation for his country. Indeed, Hindus became invisible in West Pakistan as well as in East Pakistan (which became Bangladesh in 1971).
Therefore, what Musharraf did by affirming Hinduism’s integral place in Pakistan’s history is both unprecedented and significant. We in India nurse many legitimate complaints against Musharraf, chiefly the Kargil intrusion.
But those who seek to find solutions to problems must always be objective in their analysis of situations and individuals. And facts often do not support assessment of a personality in clear black-and-white or good-and-bad terms. Therefore, Musharraf’s positive gesture to the Hindus in Pakistan, however small it may seem, deserves to be welcomed.