A tale of two letters

Published : Jun 09, 2001 00:00 IST

IF the invitation from India itself came as a major surprise, the wait for the actual letter was filled with tension. If the military establishment was anxious, the common Pakistani was at best cynical. Here are two letters, one savvy, the other sincere; one tactful, the other frank; one diplomatic, the other amusingly honest.

The following letter was published in The News, a leading Pakistani daily, on May 28, three days after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's high-profile invite was delivered to General Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad, and one day before the latter actually sent his reply. Written by Barrister Baachaa, a seasoned letter writer and political activist from Peshawar, it is an imagined response of Musharraf. It elicited a tornado of reader response - one of them, in Baachaa's own tongue-in-cheek manner, telling the newspaper to ban his letter in "wider national interest". Over to Baachaa:

'Musharraf's Reply'Barrister Baachaa,

I read your undated letter in The News. It doesn't say whom it is addressed to, but from the salutation of the letter, "Excellency", I presumed that it was addressed to me because there is no, and cannot be, another "Excellency" in Pakistan. I will, however, not detain you and myself on these trivia and come straight to the contents of your letter.

You say in your letter that India through dialogue wishes a relation of durable peace with Pakistan.

Noble thoughts indeed! But the booming Indian guns, the harsh rattle of their rifle fire nearby in Kashmir and the grief-stricken wailing of Kashmiris, the din will make it difficult to hear what you and I have to say. Unless the noise of guns and the mourning of Kashmiris stop, you and I will be only talking - not listening - we will talk much but say and hear less.

I agree with you that our common enemy is poverty. I'll go a step further and say that the greatest enemy of both Pakistan and India is ignorance. The people of the two countries will realise one day that it is the warlords on both sides of the border who spread fear and inflame hatred between the two peoples, and feeding on that fear and hatred the war chest becomes richer and richer, leaving the masses poorer and poorer.

"Building trust and confidence for the welfare of our people," I agree that in trust and confidence is the greatest welfare of our people. But confidence is a plant of slow growth, which blooms only in an environment of silence - the silence of the Indian guns. As for trust, I will "walk the high road" with you only if there is trust all in all - or not at all.

In your letter you have made a reference to the Lahore visit in February 1999. I hope our meeting does not lead to the same end for me as the Lahore meeting did for Nawaz Sharif.

Sincerely,Gen Pervez Musharraf, CE.Peshawar

Once again a sense of humour, nay satire, that is often the survival kit in highly controlled societies, came in as a mode of expressing the actuality.

On May 29, Musharraf sent the official reply to Vajpayee, accepting the invitation. The letter was delivered by the Pakistan High Commissioner to the Indian Foreign Secretary in New Delhi. As expected, it read:

"Excellency, Thank you for your letter of 24 May 2001. I accept your invitation to me and my wife to visit India, with great pleasure.

Pakistan has always sought to establish tension-free and cooperative relations with India, so that our two peoples may be able to devote their resources and energies to the task of economic and social development. We wish to see a stable and prosperous India at peace with its neighbours.

At the beginning of the new century, our two countries must do their utmost to overcome the legacy of distrust and hostility, in order to build a brighter future for our peoples.

The root cause of tension between our two countries is the unresolved Jammu and Kashmir dispute. I, therefore, look forward to sincere and candid discussions with you to resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. We are ready to discuss all other outstanding issues between our two countries as well.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

General Pervez Musharraf".

Still wanna gauge the mood in Pakistan about the forthcoming high-profile Delhi visit? n

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