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Wednesday, October 20, 2010
An Indian doctor from Chicago, born in Tando Adam, helps with Pakistan flood relief and finds himself at home
By Rabia Ali
My DNA is in the dust of Pakistan
trates the desire of the people of India and Pakistan to live and work together in peace and harmony. Dr M. Murtaza Arain, one of the American-Pakistani doctors, explains that barely two weeks earlier, he and Dr Jethani didn’t know each other although they practice at some of the same hospitals in Chicago. “We’re quite thick now,” interjects Dr Jethani, smiling. Dr Arain had visited Pakistan thrice after the 2005 earthquake and helped around 1,400 amputees. Now active with flood relief work, he heard about a fundraiser being organised by Indians for Pakistan flood relief in Chicago on Sep 25. “I nearly didn’t go, as there was another fundraiser by Pakistani students that same evening. But I thought this was such a great gesture on the part of our Indian friends, and at the last minute I went there,” he says. Spearheading the fundraiser he found Dr Jethani, an ER (emergency response) doctor and his younger brother, a businessman, who had initiated the Indo-US Consortium, later renamed as the US-Global Consortium in order to include colleagues from Pakistan and other countries. The theme song at the fundraiser was John Lennon’s
ears welled up in the eyes of Dr. Manohar Jethani as he entered his grandfather’s house in Tando Adam, Sindh, for the first time in forty-eight years. He stayed there for just under an hour, visiting every nook and cranny, recalling happy childhood memories -- his father and grandfather sitting on a charpoy, and him playing in his bedroom. “I feel extremely lucky that I was able to visit the house where I was born. Its condition has deteriorated a little since I was there last in 1962, but I was happy to see that the beautiful flooring tiles were still the same,” he told Aman ki Asha. Tando Adam too is almost unrecognisable now. “My hometown is more crowded and dirty, and the camels and donkey carts of the old days have been replaced by cars and rickshaws,” said Dr Jethani. The bungalow, built in 1936, also still bears the nameplate Hemumal Maumal Jethani. His immediate family had left Pakistan soon after Partition in 1947, but his grandfather still lived there in 1962 when Manohar Jethani last visited along with his father. He wasn’t sure whether the people living there now, the Junejo family, would allow him in, but they were extremely warm and welcoming. Some relatives are still in Tando Adam, whom Dr Jethani met on this visit, undertaken with two other Pakistani doctors, like him now based in the United States. Together, they visited medical camps and distributed medicines for eye, skin infections and other diseases worth $50,000. The story of how he came to Pakistan for flood relief and in the process also visited his birthplace is one that illus-
United for a cause: Pakistani Dr M. M. Akram and Indian Dr Manohar Jethani talk to Aman ki Asha. Below: Dr Jethani with Dr Jaffar Gulzar (left) in Tando Adam immortal peace anthem ‘Imagine’. The event was a huge success with the participation of Indian businessmen and dignitaries, who raised $60,000 for Pakistan’s flood victims that evening. When he learnt that Dr Arain was coming to Pakistan in two weeks for flood relief work, Dr Jethani volunteered to join him. Normally, it is difficult for an American of Indian origin to obtain a visa at such short notice. But because this was for flood relief, and because the Pakistani Consul General was seated at the same table, things worked out. “Whatever bitterness there is between the two countries at the government level, I can assure you that people from India and Pakistan living in the United States are very close to one another,” said Dr Arain, a former president of APPNA (Association of Physicians of Pakistani descent of North America). APPNA has collected over $ 1.3 million for the flood-affected people of Pakistan and is ‘adopting’ a government hospital in Jatti near Sehwan. Dr Jethani, a trained singer, often uses his voice to help people. He started a charity organisation called Ribbon Foundation that has worked in various countries, including Cambodia and Peru. At one event, an Indian businessman
The costs of conflict between India and Pakistan are far greater than the obvious direct financial costs related to militarisation...
Must. G Change. Trajectory.
Family renunion: Dr Manohar Jethani in Tando Adam
gave him $5000 for a ghazal he sang, which he promptly handed over to Dr Irfan Sufi of Hamdard in Pakistan. The devastation they encountered in Pakistan was “unbelievable”, says Dr Jethani, who along with Dr Arain visited affected areas in Sehwan, Thatta, Badin and Sujawal. “We met the people living in the relief camps and saw many going back to their homes crammed into trucks and tractors,” says Dr Jethani. “In Sehwan, there is a new industry – boating. And the people are so ingenious - they had improvised engines using generators. It was amazing, and inspiring to see schools and clinics and hygiene classes being conducted in the relief camps and how people from the non-governmental organisations and government were helping the people get back on their feet again.” A fluent Sindhi and Urdu speaker, Dr Jethani felt completely at home in Pakistan. “My DNA is in the dust here, and I consider myself as a part of Pakistan. Besides, I have more Pakistani friends than Indian,” he says. Dr Arain strongly believes that both the country should resolve their outstanding differences while the Kashmir issue should be left for the Kashmiris to decide their own fate. “It is not a real estate issue. There are 15 million Kashmiris. It’s a human issue.” “Pakistan and India are like two brothers who live in separate households. War, especially nuclear war, is not an option for us, peace is the only option,” adds Dr Jethani. As they start to leave, Dr Arain pushes him to sing something. Standing in the doorway, Dr Manohar Jethani closes his eyes and treats us to a Hemanth Kumar song in his melodious, mesmerizing baritone: “Naam koi boli koi, lakhon roop aur chehray, Khol ke dekh pyar ki ankeiN, sab terey sab merey” (Different names, different languages, millions of faces Open eyes of love; they are all your’s, all mine).
By Semu Bhatt
iven the deep rooted cultural ties between India and Pakistan, it would only be logical to expect the two countries to enjoy good neighbourly relations. However, IndiaPakistan relations are governed less by logic and more by emotions –rooted in history, and running on extremes. During times of emotional surge – when the two countries are taking steps toward peace -- bonhomie is at peak. People talk of the inevitability of peace and a sense of proximity given the shared culture and history. But when there is an ebb in ties, the same people instantaneously discount possibility of reconciliation. The bottom line is that cultural and historical commonalities between India and Pakistan are marred by a deepseated distrust, and these contradictory emotional undercurrents make it difficult to have a sustained and balanced dialogue, let alone conflict resolution. It is obvious that India and Pakistan’s continued hostility draws a huge cost from both. Certain segments of society and government believe that these costs are not only manageable, but also necessary. To counter this sense of inevitability, it is important to have a comprehensive understanding of past, present and future costs of conflict and the benefits of peace and reconciliation. We also need to examine the co-existence of need for peace with the compulsion of hostility in India-Pakistan equation. When the general population of both countries comes to understand that the costs emanating from the India-Pakistan conflict are insurmountable and have far wider ramifications beyond military and economic costs, and that there are vested interests in continuation of the conflict, only then there will be a demand for peace. Conflict has many direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include military costs, human costs, trade opportunity costs and diplomatic costs. It is possible to put numbers to these costs and they are extensively written about. Indirect costs, however, include overlooking social development and internal security, negative transformation of the society and government institutions, and the creation of a conflict economy. These indirect costs, in the long term, are more detrimental to the nation than the immediate military and economic costs. India and Pakistan are home to onefifth of the world’s population. Out of a combined population of 1.37 billion,
nearly 411million live below the poverty line (one-third of world’s poor), 486 million are illiterate (more than one-half of world’s illiterate), while 140 million people are unemployed (nearly one-fourth of world’s unemployed) and millions of others are only marginally employed. Both countries jointly account for 5% of world GDP , 3% of total military spending of the world and 10% of world’s conventional weapons imports. It is a no brainer that the India-Pakistan conflict diverts funds to defence at the cost of development, and that peace between the two countries could reverse this flow. Even a small cut in defence
to nearly 25,000 casualties. Compare this to the 80,000 lives lost in Kashmir since the insurgency began. And the cost of this conflict in Kashmir extends far beyond these human lives lost. An entire generation of Kashmiris has grown up in the culture of violence. The streets of Kashmir are now witnessing this very youth venting their frustration at the hopelessness of the situation by pelting stones. Both countries have failed miserably in securing their respective internal security situations, due to their obsession with each other -- to the extent that areas of both countries are beyond State
There is a need for India and Pakistan to recognise that their future lies together, and not at the expense of the other. Aman ki Asha is a good initiative in this direction.
outlay could release funds that can make major difference in social development. For example, if both countries end localised conflicts like Siachen, or stop their race to modernise their defence forces, they can benefit greatly in monetary terms. By demilitarising Siachen alone, India could build 1,500 schools and Pakistan 400 schools every year (at a cost of Rs. 10 million per small school). For the price of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, they can provide mid-day meals to 100,000 schoolchildren for a year. The indirect costs of military conflict are innumerable. In Pakistan, the conflict with India, along with Pakistan’s involvement in the Afghan conflict, has resulted in the creation of a massive conflict economy. The elements of this economy include: the income of jihadi and separatist outfits feeding off this conflict on both sides of Kashmir, a multi-million dollar arms race (aided by the very countries that pay lip service to Indo-Pak peace), excessive expenditure on intelligence networks, and last but not least, the Pakistani military – for which the conflict with India serves as a raison d’être to justify its size and need for money. It is in the interest of these elements that the India-Pakistan hostility continues. In India, peace in Kashmir remains elusive. The total human cost of four wars between India and Pakistan comes writ. Pakistan has its hands full on the western flank, while India is struggling to rein in the ‘red terror’. These uprisings are not related to the Indo-Pak conflict – discounting the habitual allegations about ISI-RAW involvement – but unless there is peace at the border, neither India nor Pakistan can
deploy enough security and monetary resources to deal with these internal insurgencies and conflicts. The most important indirect cost of the India-Pakistan conflict is the weakening of social fabric and erosion of human values. Within India, the conflict has taken a communal connotation, severely undermining the secular fabric of the na-
tion, and encouraging political hardliners. The Gujarat communal riots of 2002 are a grim reminder of this. Pakistani society, on the other hand, increasingly has to battle extremist religious forces. The same terrorist groups who were involved in Kashmir are now polarising Pakistani society along religious, ethnic and sectarian lines. Of course, Pakistan’s ability to loosen the grip of religious extremist elements also depends on the situation in Afghanistan, equation with Iran, ShiaSunni dynamics within the country and relations with India. Although India is only one of the many factors in determining the future of religious extremism in Pakistan, because of its interdependence with other factors, it contributes to Pakistan’s social costs. Given that the high costs of conflict, why don’t we say enough is enough? First, there is a lack of awareness amongst people about the high costs related to the conflict. Second, they have been fed on the belief that such costs are necessary to protect the national territory and that the costs are manageable. Third, protracted conflict has created groups of vested interests who benefit from the continuation of conflict. Fourth, there is no understanding that a continuation on this trajectory is not sustainable. In the changed geopolitical landscape, it would be folly to think that what happens across the border will have no repercussions on our own country. There is a need for India and Pakistan to recognise that their future lies together, and not at the expense of the other. Aman ki Asha is a good initiative in this direction. However, sustained efforts are needed to create awareness about the serious future costs that both countries will have to bear if we do not change our trajectory. The deteriorating ground realities of both countries, especially Pakistan, may not give us another chance at peace if we miss this opportunity. The writer is an independent analyst on security and governance issues and co-author of Cost of Conflict between India and Pakistan (International Centre for Peace Initiatives, Mumbai, 2004)
The article “Art and Global Conflict” published in Aman ki Asha on Oct 13 inadvertently referred to the curator of the show Mapping Global Conflicts in Cochin, India, Sahar Zaman as a Pakistani. Sahar Zaman is an Indian citizen based in Delhi. We regret the error. Ed. A peace initiative whose time has come...
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