Where are Our Heroes?
By Adnan Gill
A nation's path to success and maturity can be measured by its performance in the Olympics. More importantly, its character can be judged by how it treats its heroes. However, the nations determined to leave their mark on history turn their ordinary citizens into idols. India seems to have mastered the art of turning their zeros into heroes. Regrettably, in stark contrast, Pakistanis have mastered the art of disowning their genuine heroes. The Loin of Kargil, Capt. Karnal Sher Khan and Pakistan ’s father of nuclear bomb, Dr. A. Q. Khan are examples of Pakistan ’s knack for dishonoring its heroes.
Not too long ago, Pakistani President Musharraf on humanitarian grounds commuted the death sentence of a convicted Indian spy. Ansar Burney, the Pakistani Human Rights minister played a major role in securing Kashmir Singh’s freedom. Minister Burney ensured that Mr. Singh was seen-off to India with huge fanfare. On the other side of the border, the Indians gave Kashmir Singh a heroe’s welcome. The hoopla was topped off by the Punjab (Indian) government’s announcement of a lifetime stipend, a house and job for his son for the jail time Kashmir Singh served for his country. As a token of gratitude to the Pakistanis, the moment Singh stepped into India, he mocked at the Pakistanis and embarrassed Ansar Burney by publicly declaring that he was indeed an Indian spy. Ironically, Kashmir Singh was an incompetent spy who miserably failed in executing his mission by getting caught, but that did not stop the Indians from turning their flop into a hero.
India must be on its way to leave its mark on history, because it has learned how to turn even butchers into heroes. By any definition, Narendra Modi (who sat over the 2002 Gujarati massacre of 2,000 Muslims) and Bal Thackeray (the founder of an extremist Hindu party ‘Shiv Sena’, and a self-professed admirer of Adolf Hitler and Nazism) are racist bigots who openly hate Muslims and call for their elimination. Still they are virtually worshiped by a large number of Indians who reelect them year after year.
It was 2003, barely a year after the 2002 Gujarat massacre, when the Indian cricket fans were granted visas in thousands to watch the cricket matches in Pakistan. In a heartening display of Pakistani hospitality the Indian fans were welcomed with open arms and open hearts into their homes. But how did the Indians return the favor? They blamed Pakistanis for every ill of theirs. Within hours of Bombay train bombings Pakistan was blamed. Within hours of Samjhota Express bombings, in which dozens of Pakistanis were burnt alive, Indian authorities were pointing fingers at Pakistan .
However, the worst example of how Indians reciprocate gestures of kindness and friendship was furnished when they returned the severely mutilated body of a Pakistani cricket fan. Khalid Mahmood, 30 years old, died on Feb 12 but his family in Pakistan was not informed of his death till March 4. His dead body bore visible marks of torture. Just couple of months before Mr. Mahmood’s horrific death, he was visited by his elderly mother and a brother. He told them that he was routinely subjected to inhumane torture; among others: electric shocks, nail-pulling, and dowsing with boiling-water. In a desperate effort to give a ray of hope to his shocked mother, he tried to put a happy face on the situation, by telling his mother that he was innocent, and at the most he would be forced to serve for another couple of years in jail.
It goes to the credit of Aaj TV host Talat Hussain that he raised the issue of Khalid Mahmood’s tragic death at the national level. On March 10, the Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad Sadiq mildly protested, “It is regrettable that India did not inform Pakistan ’s High Commission in New Delhi about the arrest of the deceased as required under international diplomatic norms in such cases.” Obviously such a protest was ‘too little, too late’.
Needless to say, had an Indian met such a fate, their propaganda machinery would have gone into overdrive. The Indian government would have gone to the UN Security Council demanding and apology and restitution for his family. For their part, Indian media would have moved heavens and earth to demonize Pakistan.
Since we carry short memories; this may be a good time to remind ourselves of how, during the Kargil conflict, the Indian government in perfect harmony with their media successfully elevated the sagging moral of their nation. Case in point, upon getting lost dozens of Indian soldiers wandered over to the Pakistani side of LoC. They died when they accidentally fell into deep crevices; frequently found in the inhospitable Himalayas. At the risk to their lives, the brave Pakistani soldiers retrieved their severely lacerated bodies from the dark depths of the crevices. Pakistanis returned their bodies with full military honors to the Indians. But who knew the Indians would launch vicious propaganda over the dead bodies. Almost immediately, the Indian propaganda machine circulated malicious rumors that the bodies of their soldiers were intentionally mutilated and their body parts, like kidneys, were stolen by the Pakistanis! Certainly, such ingenious propaganda played a huge role in changing the world opinion against the Pakistanis. Indeed, it was a humongous public-relations coup against the dumbfounded Pakistanis.
The point is not to follow Indian example of capitalizing on vicious lies, but it's about unanimously standing behind and honoring every single Pakistani citizen who meets an unfortunate fate outside or for Pakistan. This begs the question: where are the Pakistani heroes? Why do we consistently fail to make Capt. Karnal Sher Khans and Khalid Mahmoods our heroes?